© 2016 by AC Cooper
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Overcome evil with Good. Who is good? Only God…
Table of Contents
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The golden haired woman walked towards the door, towards the confines of what the world calls reality.
She was leaving the true reality.
Staring up at the massive red door, encompassed by towering, ivy covered marble pillars, Janie paused, unsure of herself, but when she looked to her right she saw Him standing next to her.
She knew everything would be alright. She was confident in what she had been given…her birthright…and her faith in what the Master had shown her would serve her well in her assignment as she went forth into the camps of the Enemy.
The time spent in the Kingdom had been more than she ever dreamed it would be. Love and not surprisingly power flowed around, in and through her.
His strength, His Grace.
She was leaving home.
But, only for a while. Once she completed her assignment against the Darkness, using those weapons He foreordained the Saints would have, then maybe it would be time to come home.
As she stepped through the doorway, Janie’s eyes took a moment to adjust themselves to the dark light that blanketed the Earth.
She had never noticed how dim the natural world is, even in full sunlight as it was now.
The door disappeared behind her and as she stood there for a moment, unsure of where to go next she heard a familiar voice.
“Outta my way, lass…can’t you see I’m busy here?”
The barmaid winked at Janie as she pushed past her, large wooden serving trays crammed full of mugs of ale and fragrant bowls of stew.
Janie recognized the tavern…she’d spent countless hours tucked away in a corner, warm glass of milk in her hand as she sat, mesmerized by her father. She watched as he spun fantastic tales of his pursuits in the world before, captivating his listeners with every word.
His tales were true, however he didn’t tell them everything. Some parts – the bad parts – he would leave out or gloss over. But he told Janie what really happened before the First Wave, after she’d grown old enough to understand.
Thinking about what her father had seen made her shiver.
She was facing the same Darkness that he and the Remnant had fought against. She would wage war just as her father had.
Not alone, no, but with His Grace she would complete her task.
The Enemy is not stupid, nor should they be ignored. To do so simply gives them more power and allows them to keep those without the Truth blinded.
Janie smiled at the short, plump waitress as she finished serving Mr. Petroni and his companion Jackson Lake.
Pulling Janie into a tight hug, Maude said, “Lassie…where in heaven’s name did you come from? I swear I didn’t see ya come through the doors!”
Janie hugged Maude back. “It’s good to see you, Maude. Have you seen Jacob?”
Maude bit her lip. “Your father’s been here nearly every night, Janie. Stick around and I’m sure he’ll be in shortly.”
“Maude? Is there something you need to tell me?”
Maude looked Janie in the eye. She looked like she’d been crying. “Not here, Janie…let’s go outside.
Moving towards the door Maude said, “Betty…I’m on ma break!”
The young serving girl standing next to the bar turned around.
“Take your time, Maude…I’ve got ya covered.”
Looking around her, Maude motioned for Janie to follow her outside. The crisp Autumn air felt refreshing after the stuffy tavern.
Looking around her, Janie was reminded just how beautiful His creation is. Brilliant oranges and reds surrounded the small village, the trees lit on fire by the setting sun.
“So what’s with all the subterfuge, Maude? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Janie…it’s just that I don’t want all of those muddleheads nosing into our discussion. I noticed Mr. Petroni casting a few glances our way. I didn’t want to take a chance on him hearing what I’ve got to tell ya.”
“What could be so…”
“It’s about Jacob, love. He told me just last week that he was on assignment and that it might be some time before I saw him again.”
Janie’s mouth flew open. “What? But I thought he…”
Maude smiled, “No worries…Aaron’s gone with him.”
A small chuckle slipped past Janie’s lips.
“No, no worries…what could possibly go wrong when two old men go witch hunting. That is his assignment, right?”
“I don’t know Janie, but your father’s done this a long…
“That was years ago, Maude. Now…well…I don’t know if either of them have the strength to go toe-to-toe with a witch…much less its coven.”
Janie noticed Maude’s red eyes.
“There’s more, isn’t there? What else…”
Thrusting her chin in the air, Maude said, “No, now don’t you worry, Janie, Jacob and Aaron might be older, but God has given them the Grace to fight more battles than..”
Maude froze, her eyes focusing on something behind Janie’s back.
Spinning around Janie turned to see her father and Aaron…right on cue.
“Dad!” Janie ran towards Jacob and jumped into his arms, nearly knocking the breath out of him.
“Well, Praise God, here’s my sweet girl. How was your trip?” Jacob glanced towards Aaron, giving him a wink.
Janie laughed and hugged Jacob even tighter. “You know what it was like…it was….”
Planting a kiss on her forehead, Jacob smiled and cupped Janie’s face. “Aye, my love, I do.”
“Glad to see you too, Janie,” teased Aaron, his face split wide in a grin. You wouldn’t believe what your dad’s been up to.”
Janie looked at Aaron. “What mischief have you two been up to?”
“Janie,” said Jacob. “We may be old men, but by God and with His Grace we can do great things…and for His glory!”
“I know, Dad…it’s just that..well, listen, I’m famished. Can we step into the pub for a quick bite?”
Jacob smiled. “Yes, let’s eat!”
Maude, who seemed to enjoy the warm reunion gave Jacob and Aaron a quick hug and said, “Come in and have something before you’re off again. It’s past time I got back to work anyway. I’ll find you a warm seat, close to the fireplace, alright?”
“Maude, you’re too good to us.” said Aaron, clapping her on the shoulder.
Maude smiled. “Now don’t you forget that, when I’m on my deathbed, eh?”
Aaron chuckled, his deep laugh filling up the cavernous pub as they walked inside. Everyone turned to glance at them, but soon went back to their conversations.
“My dear Maude…I remember your kindness each and every day in my prayers!”
Her eyes brimming with tears, Maude nodded. “Aye, and your prayers are sorely needed my friend.”
Before Aaron had a chance to reply, Maude guided them towards a small table, already cluttered with used plates and mugs and urged them to sit down. Waiving towards a young man she ordered him to clear off the table.
Aaron knew she would talk when she was ready.
“Now what’ll you have?”
Janie nodded towards a man sitting at the table next to theirs. He was eating what looked like a large bowl of stew with a chunk of crusty bread. “How about some of that delicious looking stew?”
“Yes, stew all around,” said Jacob. It should warm us all up.”
“Alright, stew then. And to drink?”
“Whatever you have, Maude would be fine,” Jacob said.
“Coffee it is, then.” said Maude with a wink. “You don’t want any of that ale, trust me.”
Jacob laughed. “Sounds perfect, Maude, thank you.”
Shaking her head, Maude said, “No, thank you Jacob. The Truth you’ve shared with me, with those of us who would listen, well, He’s worth more than any measly thing I can do.”
“No, Maude. He sees your heart and He rewards you accordingly.”
Giving Jacob a quick hug, Maude turned and walked quickly towards the kitchen, speaking over her shoulder. “I’ll be right back.”
Jacob watched Maude as she walked back towards the kitchen, worry lines creasing his face.
Turning his attention back to the table, he looked first at Janie and then Aaron. “Well, then. I suppose we’ve got a lot to talk about, eh?”
Janie grasped her father’s hand. “Dad, when did you receive your assignment? Was it before I left?”
Looking over at Aaron, Jacob said. “Janie, let’s wait until we’ve eaten, then we’ll talk business, alright?”
“Okay, then tell me what you’ve…”
As Jacob laughed, the wrinkles creasing his eyes deepened. “Janie, we want to hear about your visit. Was it just as I told you?”
“Sorry Dad, but it was better than you said. I guess it’s because words are just too…”
“Yes, words can’t quite convey how wonderful it is, I know.”
Janie smiled, thinking about her time in Heaven.
“One thing is for sure, Dad…I see the need to complete my assignment more than ever before. There’s a need…a need for haste. I hadn’t really understood that before.”
Jacob glanced over at Aaron. “Yeah, that’s one of the reasons why we stopped back by before traveling to Lagoth,” said Aaron.
Janie stared at the two men sitting across from her. Her father was tall…a giant of a man, although there were many men taller. Unlike the others, however, Jacob was completely human.
Aaron was nearly as tall as her father, with strong shoulders, a quick laugh and always a kind word for everyone…even his enemies.
“Lagoth? Isn’t that where the covens hold their sacred ritual…during the time of the killing?”
Jacob nodded. “Yes, and it’s where we’ve been asked to go fight.”
“Is there a particular witch you’re seeking, then?” Maude asked, setting their food in front of them.
Jacob seemed surprised at her question.
“Yes, yes there is. Of course we’re also to destroy the power of the coven. But how would you know…”
Her face grim, Maude explained.
“Crissie was captured by the one they call Maven. They…there was nothing I could do to stop them.”
Janie looked at Jacob. His face was grim.
“When did that happen, Maude?” asked Aaron.
“Twas a fortnight, now. We searched for her, but the witches seemed to disappear into thin air. There was no trace. Frank is beside himself, and I…well…”
Jacob reached for Maude’s hand. “Why didn’t you tell us, Maude?”
Maude’s chest began to heave. Letting go of Jacob’s hand, she wiped her eyes with her sleeve before taking a seat.
“Girls have been stolen before, Jacob. They’re never found and they never come home. We’ve got to accept it – it’s the fates.
“There’s no such thing as fates, Maude. There’s only God’s will, Satan’s will and the free will of men to choose sides.
Jacob’s eyes narrowed.
“The witches have chosen Satan. They will regret it…and by God’s Grace, Aaron and I will make them regret it!”
Nodding, Maude stood up, serving tray resting against her side. She looked tired.
Jacob tried to soothe her. “We’ll find Crissie, of that you can be sure. I’ve an idea they needed her for the blood moon. That gives us four days to reach Lagoth.”
“Oh Jacob, I pray to God that you’re right…that..”
“Too many have been taken, Maude. It’s time…let’s just say that the battle lines are forming right now.”
Reaching for her, Jacob wrapped both of his hands around hers and looked her in the eye. “By all that is Holy, Maude, I swear I will do my utmost to rescue Crissie. If it is within my power, it shall be done.”
Maude’s eyes lit up. “Thank you Jacob, oh thank God for you and Aaron.”
Giving each of them a hug, Maude said. “I’ve got to get back to work. May God preserve each of you on your journey.”
“And you as well, Maude.” said Aaron, his jaw set. “We’ll find her, of that you can be sure.”
Nodding quickly, Maude turned and walked back towards the kitchen.
Janie looked first at her father, and then Aaron.
“So then, when do we leave?”
Jacob’s eyes grew wide. “Who said…”
Janie laughed. “Dad. His will, not ours, remember? My assignment, at least at this point in time, seems to align with yours.”
A small sigh escaped his lips. “First light, Janie. We’ve no time to waste.”
The small village of Silverden still lay sleeping behind them as they crossed the Fjord River. Pulling her cape tighter against the early morning chill, Janie was thinking about what lay ahead for them.
It was no easy ride to Lagoth; much of their journey would take them through vast wastelands, but the Klyn were known for breeding exceptional horses, and her father had spared no expense in obtaining their best.
Janie loved her horse. Blossom was sweet-natured and calm, but the owner had assured her father that the bay was both fast and hardy.
Reaching down to stroke the mare’s neck, she thought about their assignment. They would be facing Maven and her coven – no easy task – but with His Grace, the evil grip the witches had on Silverden and all of Glasswick would be loosed.
Jacob was in the lead, followed by Janie and Aaron. They had brought along another horse – Whiskey. He was to be Crissie’s ride once they rescued her from the coven.
Silverden lie along the main trading route between Llaborth and Silveroake, two of the largest cities in Glasswick. Its proximity to the massive Fjord River and the Blue Mountains drew trappers, hunters and all manner of rugged folk to its borders.
The city had just passed from view when Janie realized they hadn’t seen a soul as they traveled towards Lagoth.
“Dad, where are all the traders?”
Jacob’s grey eyes darkened. “I’m not sure, Janie, but if the coven is to blame…”
“They will die.” Aaron growled.
Nodding, Janie saw that they were coming to the crossroads at Serius. Turn right and they would find themselves in Silveroake, which lay near the coast.
Left would lead them to Lagoth…and to the coven.
“It will be dark in an hour,” said Jacob, “let’s find a place to camp for the night.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Aaron, looking around.
Spotting a large outcropping of boulders about 100 feet from the roadside Aaron pointed. “How about there?”
Janie looked where he was pointing. “The huge boulders will be a good hiding place,” said Jacob.
“For us or for anyone else,” Janie thought to herself.
The campsite seemed perfect. Scraggly bushes and tall pine trees thrust out from between the perfect circle of rocks, each smooth and nearly identical in both size and color.
Upon closer inspection, Janie noticed that the rocks weren’t a single circle, but many. The largest circle, which was the one they were camping in, was the outer circle. Three other circles lay within it, each successively smaller than the one before.
A small stream of water, just enough for drinking, flowed past the outer ring, not far from their campsite.
“What kind of structure is this Dad? This isn’t natural…”
Nodding, Jacob looked at Janie. “You’re right, Janie, it’s not. It used to be a temple.”
Shocked, Janie looked at Aaron. His look confirmed what Jacob had said.
“But, then we shouldn’t stay here…”
Smiling, Jacob said, “Don’t worry, Janie. Its power was destroyed long ago. This is where Maven’s predecessor, the Warlock Ashtor met his fate.”
“It’s been blessed by God’s angels…tainted ground to those who serve Satan,” Aaron said, slapping Jacob on his shoulder. “Remember that last battle? It was a good thing you did fall asleep…”
Jacob laughed. “Yeah…I don’t know what I would have done if I’d seen them.”
Janie smiled. “Well, then…maybe you could share some of your war stories with me?”
Aaron winked at Jacob. “Aye, we could, but it’s getting late and we’ve got to get some rest. I’ll take first watch.”
Jacob nodded. “He’s right, Janie. Let’s get some sleep, we’ve still got a long way to go.”
The dull gray sky was a perfect match to Janie’s somber mood.
“Everyone had enough to eat?”, asked Aaron.
Janie couldn’t imagine how her father and Aaron could have such an appetite. They could be fighting for their lives in the next two days, maybe even before then if the coven sent out their patrols, but here they were, laughing and joking and devouring the rabbit stew as if nothing were wrong.
“Janie”, said Jacob, “you’ve barely touched your food.”
Janie stared at them both, hands on her hips. “I don’t know how you two can be so hungry…you could be injured…or worse, when we face the coven!”
Jacob stood up from packing his gear and watched as Aaron walked towards Janie.
Placing his hand on her shoulder, Aaron chided, “Lass, did you forget what you learned in Heaven so soon?”
Her brows furrowed, Janie looked from Aaron to her father. “No, you’re right…we can do this…but what if I forget what to say…or worse, what if I can’t speak at all?”
Reaching out, Aaron pulled her close, giving her a tight squeeze. “Ah, my dear girl, we’ll be right there with you – ready for anything.”
Janie laughed. “That’s what I’m afraid of..”
Aaron roared, his laughter booming all around them.
Suddenly, Janie’s hair stood on end. She felt something near them, just outside the perimeter of the stones.
The men stopped laughing. Lunging towards the horses, Aaron and Jacob reached for their swords.
Janie froze, her heart pounding. Whatever was coming was coming fast.
A loud scream pierced the air.
Jacob waved Janie over to his side, motioning her to be silent.
“Is that what I think it is?” asked Janie.
Jacob and Aaron exchanged glances.
“I’m not sure. There’s something just outside the stone boundary, but I can only feel it. I need to see it to strike.”
Loud sobs followed by pleading and begging assaulted Janie’s ears. “We’ve got to help, Dad. Maybe it’s Crissie.”
“Yes, and maybe it’s a trick. We’re safe here for the moment.” Turning to Aaron, Jacob said, “We’ve got to come up with a battle plan. I’m surprised they chose to attack so quickly. If it were me I would have waited until we’d left the temple.”
“What if it is her? Or worse…what if it’s another girl?”
“Janie, I know you’re feeling compassion right now as well you should, but you’ve got to think like a warrior. We’ve got to consider our options.”
“I could draw them out, leave the temple and start towards Lagoth.”
“No, they’d see through that, Janie,” said Jacob. “They’d wait until we couldn’t see you then they would strike both you and us. No, we’ve got to stay together…a three fold strand is hard to break.”
“What do you think the coven will do? Will they kill this child, or will they torture her?”
His face grim, Aaron pointed towards the woods, near the small stream where they’d watered the horses.
“There…near the water. Their spells are more powerful near water.”
Janie’s heart jumped in her chest. Of course! “Then we will strike them with the Living Water,” shouted Janie, as she started walking towards the woods.
“Yes, and the Blood of Christ,” said Jacob, his voice loud and clear behind her.
“Aye, and the Mighty Wind of the Holy Spirit,” shouted Aaron, “Beware, spawn of hell…the Living God strike you down and all his Heavenly Host come against you!”
Shrieking voices and cries of pain grew louder as the coven felt the power behind the Word.
As the witch killers marched closer to their enemy, speaking the Word, powered by Faith, the early morning darkness began to fade. In its place was a shimmering light that cast out all shade.
Looking around her, Janie noticed some friends she’d made while in Heaven. In her excitement she forgot about the coven.
“Raphea…Celine!” said Janie, “It’s wonderful to see you again!”
The angels laughed. “We told you we’d see you again,” said Celine.
Janie smiled. “Yes, you did, and now you’ve come to do His will, right?”
The two mighty warriors spoke in union. “Always and forever!”
Then, giving the three a quick nod, Celine and Raphea drew their swords, rushing towards the coven who had created a circle on the banks of the stream.
In the middle of the circle lay a small girl. Her feet and hands were bound, but she wasn’t moving.
Janie feared the worst.
“For His glory!” the witch killers shouted as they rushed in behind the angels, swords drawn.
The chanting grew louder as the small army marched forward, but just as they reached the clearing the group vanished, leaving nothing behind.
“It’s as if they were never here!” said Janie as she dropped to the ground where the girl had been.
“Oh, they were here,” said Raphea, “They’ve just slipped into another realm.”
“Yes,” said Celine, “They’re still here…in a way…but they want us to go chasing after them.”
“But, why?” asked Janie.
“Because they want to lead us away from their stronghold, that’s why.” said Jacob, his face grim.
“Aye,” said Aaron. “But we won’t be falling for that again, now will we my old friend?”
His jaw set, Jacob said. “No, we won’t.”
Janie stared. “Are you kidding me? We’ve got to get Crissie…we don’t know how long she can…”
Jacob pulled Janie to him, wrapping his strong arms around her.
“Janie, she’s stronger than you think. God is walking through this with her. We will rescue her, but we’ve got to listen to the Spirit to do it. He knows what needs done.”
“And when it needs done,” said Aaron, turning to walk back to camp.
Looking around, Janie saw Celine and Raphea with their heads together, deep in conversation.
Noticing her watching them, Raphea nudged Celine with his right wing.
Celine turned and walked towards Janie.
“We’ll be back, I’m certain of it,” she said. “But you’ve got to continue towards Lagoth without us.”
Sad to see her friends leave, Janie nodded. “I hope so. We can use your help.”
Raphea laughed, the sound echoing off the temple rocks.
“I’ll put in a special request that we receive that assignment again! No promises, but perhaps…!”
Janie nodded and smiled. “Godspeed, then.”
“And God be with you, dear Janie.” said Celine as she and Raphea disappeared.
When Janie and Jacob got back to camp, Aaron had packed up all of their gear and was sitting around a campfire, waiting for the coffee to brew.
“No need in rushing off just yet…not until we’ve warmed ourselves up,” said Aaron, winking at them both.
Jacob laughed. “Yes, you’re right. A quick breakfast and we’re off. It’s still a ways to Lagoth. If we ride hard today we should make it by tomorrow morn.”
Janie wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry. It had all been so exhausting…she had been certain they had found Crissie, but when the coven vanished it broke her heart. They were so close.
Janie offered up a quick prayer before joining them. “Dear Father…please protect Crissie…comfort her and protect her by the blood of Christ.”
She joined the men. “Those cowards…they couldn’t face us.”
“Janie…they’re using Crissie to get to us. That’s probably what’s saving her life,” said Aaron.
Walking over to the horses, Janie reached out and rubbed Blossom’s soft nose. The mare’s whiskers tickled as she nudged Janie’s neck.
“I hope you’re right, Aaron. Crissie didn’t deserve…”
“None of these innocents – both those now in their clutches and those who lost their lives long ago – deserved their fates, yet because the church failed her mission…”
Jacob interrupted. “Aaron…”
Looking over at his friend, Aaron nodded. “We’ll rescue her, and destroy the coven’s power. Of that you can be sure.”
“Well, is it time to eat yet? I’m starving!” said Jacob, rubbing his stomach.
Aaron snorted. “Here it is, man. Janie, come over here and have a bite. We’ve a long way to go, yet.”
Janie whispered into the horse’s ear. “Dear Blossom, we’ll be there soon, and when we get there I’ll make sure you get a fine ration of oats…all to yourself!”
Her promise was met with a soft whinny and a gentle push towards the campfire.
Janie was famished. She hadn’t realized she was so hungry.
A quick wash at the stream, which still showed no signs of the coven’s presence, and they were on the road to Lagoth.
The early morning fog had long since lifted, revealing a winding, crumbling road – one of many that led to the witches’ haven.
Lagoth was an ancient city. Nestled underneath a large range of young mountains, it had escaped a good deal of destruction during the First Wave and only a small section of the city had been destroyed in the Second Wave.
The Third Wave never touched them – the infrared scanners revealed no sign of life so the drones moved on.
It was among a small handful of cities that housed any information about the former world…before the Last War, however that information was missing from the drone commander’s data set so the city was left mostly intact.
What the drones didn’t know…what their instruments couldn’t pick up…was the presence of a portal. Lagoth’s inhabitants made a covenant with the witch Maven that if she were to protect them from the drone waves, they would give her and her coven shelter.
Maven was true to her word, but it was only for the sake of survival, not from any nobility of character. She had lost all of her humanity after submitting to the demon Bashir as a child.
Once the drones moved on, Maven and her coven sacrificed the townspeople to their Goddess Isis, however one escaped with his life…Aaron. He was ten years old when he stumbled into Jacob, who had been hunting turkey in the Whiteoake Forest.
Jacob’s family adopted Aaron as their own, hiding him from the coven and teaching him the ways of God. The Corgain family were simple, peaceful folk until the coven began stealing girls to sate their lust for blood.
Then they became witch killers.
Although he loved Jacob and his family, Aaron never forgot his kinsfolk. He trained hard to prepare himself for what he knew was his calling.
To destroy the power of the coven and if possible, bring them to repentance.
Of course if he were being honest with himself, he’d admit that he secretly hoped they wouldn’t repent. In his heart he wanted them to suffer all of the things they had put his family and friends through.
Janie rubbed Blossom’s mane as the three made their way toward Lagoth. “Dad…tell me the story again about how you and Aaron met.”
Nodding at Aaron, Jacob said, “It’s mostly your story, you want to…?
“No, brother…you’ve always been a grand storyteller, go ahead. Of course don’t forget to include my bravery in your story, Jake,” said Aaron, turning towards Janie and giving her a wink.
“Well, let me see…we’re such old men now…”
Aaron rubbed his shaved head. “Speak for yourself Jacob…I’m eight years your junior,”
Laughing, Jacob waved in surrender. “Okay, then…the story.”
“That summer had been a lean one…the game was spooked by something, but nobody knew what. My father had asked me to try to get a turkey…deer….whatever I could find.
I had spotted a fine looking tom, still young enough to be tender, but…
“Dad,” Janie interrupted. “What about Aaron?”
“Patience, Janie, I’m getting there…”
Aaron was half listening…he’d heard the tale many times, and it never grew old, but there was something really odd about the road far ahead.
It was shimmering.
“Move…now!” Aaron whispered as he urged his horse off the road.
Jacob and Janie saw where he was pointing. They were off the road and into the surrounding forest in a matter of seconds.
The portal was small, but it consumed the entire width of the road, sucking every bit of light and matter within its path into its maw.
On the ground before the portal lay a girl, her long, dark hair dirty and matted, her pink dress stained with blood – a vivid contrast to the black night of the portal behind her.
“It’s a trap,” whispered Jacob, “Wait until the portal closes…we could grab her before they…”
Aaron had dismounted, pacing back and forth, stealing glances of the girl and the portal.
“I know that, but…she could be hurt, Jake.”
“Or dead,” whispered Janie to herself.
“Aaron’s right, Dad,” said Janie. “We’ve got to…”
A loud whoosh interrupted Jacob. “Look,” he said, pointing towards the portal. “It’s closing.”
The girl sat up, her eyes wide, looking around her. She watched the portal close but she didn’t move. She didn’t seem to realize that she’d been set free.
Or appeared to have been set free.
Aaron, Jacob and Janie cautiously moved towards the road,
praying with each step closer to the girl.
The girl jumped as she watched them emerge from the trees.
“Shh, it’s gone now. Are you okay? Crissie…is that you?” said Janie, the excitement of finding the girl eclipsing her training.
The girl shook her head.
Jacob and Aaron exchanged glances.
“Janie, she’s in no condition…”
“Right, you’re right Dad, what’s wrong with me, I…”
Janie shivered. The girl’s voice sounded wrong, somehow. It sounded hollow, almost as if it were coming from the bottom of a deep hole.
She hadn’t opened her mouth, but Janie heard her just the same. It seemed as if the others hadn’t.
Aaron and Jacob approached the girl, kneeling down beside her, while Janie watched for any sign of the coven. Nothing.
Suddenly, the air began to shimmer again, only this time Janie knew it wasn’t the witches’ portal – light, not darkness was pouring from it.
Celine and Raphea, dressed in full battle gear appeared before her, the portal fading behind them.
The angels looked over at the girl, watching her as she looked up at Aaron and Jacob. The girl seemed oblivious to Janie and the angels, her gaze only for the men.
Pointing to the waif , Raphea looked at Janie. “Her name is Ruth,” said Raphea. “She was captured by the witches three years ago.”
“Captured? But why…”
“I’ll tell you why,” said Jacob who had heard the angel’s report.
“To slip into our villages and slit our throats at night of course. They’ve bewitched her no doubt.”
Aaron seemed to be taken with the girl, rising up in defense of her. “No, Jacob…she’s just a child, she’s…”
“Yes,” said Celine, “she is a child, however she’s more than a child. Do not be deceived, Aaron…you know full well that appearances are not always what they seem.”
Aaron stopped his pacing long enough to glare at her. “What are you saying, angel?”
The warrior moved quickly, pulling Ruth to her feet, sword at her throat. The girl’s eyes grew wide as the sword began to glow.
“Father, please open the eyes of your servants, let them see beyond this fleshly realm.”
Before the men could stop her, Celine struck the girl, slashing her nearly in two.
Aaron lunged for the angel, but she was too quick, moving out of his grasp and up into the air, beyond his reach.
Janie couldn’t believe her eyes. “Raphea!”
Celine’s companion didn’t move. He was watching Jacob and Aaron closely.
The men were looking at the girl, eyes wide. Jacob stood over the girl’s limp body, his breath ragged and fists clenched tightly.
Looking up at Celine Jacob finally spoke.
“Dad…Aaron,” said Janie. “I know why.”
Jacob looked at his daughter.
“When I was in Heaven I was told something like this might happen. “
Janie heard a grunt. Looking at Aaron she saw his lip curl. “What do you mean? Angels are killing children now? When did that start? Who’s side are they on anyway?”
Raphea touched Janie’s shoulder.
“Janie. They’re not able to see the truth right now. Help them understand. We’ll be back…soon.”
He bent down to pick up the girl’s body, cradling her in his arms. Her long black hair swung back and forth with the angel’s big strides. She looked asleep, not dead.
Spreading his wings, Raphea joined Celine in the air, pausing for a moment to look at the three mortals staring up at him before disappearing behind Celine through the portal.
Watching the angels depart through red rimmed eyes Jacob sighed and motioned for Aaron and Janie to follow him back to their horses.
“Let’s go. The sooner we’ve done with this coven, the better,” said Jacob, his voice tight.
Aaron raised his hand. “Not now, Janie. Please…she looked so much like my young Jennie. I can’t bear…”
They rode for what seemed like days, but it had only been five hours since they’d continued their journey.
The silence was unbearable, but Janie didn’t believe her father and Aaron were ready to hear the truth yet, they were too absorbed in the fact that they had seen a young child cut down right in front of them.
And they’d been unable to stop it from happening.
Janie knew that’s how they felt because she had felt the same despair until Raphea reminded her of what she’d learned while in Heaven.
She’d been given a glimpse of her assignment, however much of it was still shrouded in mystery. It wasn’t until Raphea spoke to her that she remembered the vision.
“I must follow the Spirit each and every step of the way,” thought Janie.
“Don’t try to see too far ahead, little one,” Raphea had told her. “The Spirit will guide you if you keep your heart open to Him. Just believe, and you’ll do fine.”
“You only see through a glass dimly, when you’re on the Earth” he’d said. “You won’t see as well as you can here…that’s why it’s so important to stay close to Him.”
She knew in her heart that the angel had done what was right, but for the life of her she didn’t know how she was going to get the others to believe it.
Jacob interrupted her thoughts. “Let’s take a break for lunch.”
They discovered a small grove of birch tucked away behind the large oak trees scattered along the road on either side.
“Good,” said Aaron, his voice ragged. “Maybe we can have a bit of a rest, too, eh?”
Jacob appeared to hesitate, but he nodded. “Yes, for a bit. Lagoth isn’t going anywhere.”
Aaron winced at the mention of the city’s name, but he didn’t say anything.
Janie was tired. She had hoped they would stop for the night, but evening was still a few hours away.
“I’ll put something together, okay?”
Jacob pulled her to him. “Thanks, honey. Look, I’m sorry about…”
Squeezing him hard, Janie planted a kiss on his stubbly cheek. “I love you, Dad.”
Turning to open her pack, Janie felt a big pair of hands grab her shoulders and spin her around.
Aaron’s eyes were filled with tears. “Janie…oh God, please tell me there’s a reason…”
“Aaron…you…and I think Dad too…were the target of that little girl.”
The big man frowned. “What…I don’t understand!”
Now that she had their attention Janie started to explain what she’d learned and how the little girl’s death was more than what it looked like.
“While I was in heaven I was told to be prepared for deception in the form of innocence. Of course, if I’d paid attention to my training I wouldn’t have fallen for the witches’ tricks.”
“What do you mean? We haven’t seen them since the temple,” said Jacob.
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Look, I know it’s hard…I didn’t want to see that girl cut down anymore than you did, but there’s something about her that I think you both should know.”
Aaron shook his head. “All I know is, an innocent child was needlessly…”
“No…that’s just it. You heard the angels…her name was Ruth and she had been captured by the witches three years ago..”
“Yes,” said Jacob, “But what does…”
“It means,” said Janie, “that she was dead already…before Celine struck her down.”
Aaron sighed, “Janie…she was looking right at us. Right Jacob?”
Jacob slapped his thigh. “Of course! The witch, probably Maven, animated her corpse.”
Aaron’s eyes widened. “No!”
Janie nodded. “Yes, and the fact that she didn’t even look my direction – at least until Celine grabbed hold of her – tells me that she was after you and Dad.”
“But…she was in the form of a girl, wouldn’t her powers have been reduced because of the vessel she was using?” asked Aaron.
Jacob rubbed his jaw. “She may not have been able to kill us, but she could have done some damage. All it takes is a well placed curse to delay our arrival, and then Crissie would be lost to us.”
“If Celine and Raphea hadn’t been there, who knows what could have happened. We could have taken her with us and then…well, any child can use a knife…praise God they arrived when they did,” said Janie.
Aaron hung his head. “To think…I was angry with Celine…”
Janie chuckled, “Don’t spare a thought, Aaron. She wasn’t hurt, trust me. Celine understands, I think better than some other angels, the frailty of our human vision.”
Jacob’s eyes crinkled. “Walk by faith, not by sight, eh?”
Aaron smiled. “Still…if I see her again, I’ll apologize.”
Nodding, Janie said, “Now…who’s hungry?”
Despite the coven’s trickery the warriors had made good time. They would reach the city gates by mid morning tomorrow.
The night was surprisingly calm, no beasts calling to each other, no sounds of padded feet walking among the tall grass. They all agreed it was too quiet…unnerving.
Janie had last watch but she saw and heard nothing. She prayed for wisdom, for God’s grace to complete her assignment and for protection against the deception of the coven and their god, Lucifer.
The horizon was just beginning to glow with the sunrise when she left her post by the road.
As she headed back to camp Janie began to think about the battle that lay ahead. She had thought she would be afraid, but all she felt was anger.
For too long the people of Silverden…all of Glasswick really…had failed to protect their young. They had turned a blind eye to the coven’s evil deeds. The kidnappings were horrid enough, but their youth running off to join the growing coven…why?
“Sloth and apathy make the perfect bedfellows,” thought Janie.
Sure, Lagoth played a part in it for giving the witches shelter, which allowed them to increase in number, but there was plenty of blame to go around.
Rather than pointing fingers, however, she decided she was better off fine tuning their strategy. She would speak with her father and Aaron about their plan of attack.
It was no small thing to go against a coven as powerful as Maven’s, but she knew that nobody could stand against Christ…she just hoped she didn’t panic and that she remembered to use both her physical and her spiritual weapons.
When she got back to camp her father and Aaron were already awake and starting to pack up. The night had been cold but they didn’t want to risk discovery by building a fire so they would have to wait for the sun to warm them on the road to Lagoth.
Janie peeled the burgundy tunic from her shoulders. It was hot…too hot for Autumn. To the untrained eye her smooth brown riding pants and ivory peasant blouse appeared to be made of silk.
They were much more than that.
They were light, yet strong enough to withstand several strikes; a product of 23rd century technology which had been passed down through generations of witch killers.
Her father and Aaron were similarly equipped.
As Blossom carried her closer to her assignment, Janie thought about what Lagoth looked like. Nobody from Silverden had ever traveled there, but there were old maps that showed its original design.
They’d studied them closely the night before looking for potential weak spots as they discussed their battle plan.
Her father and Aaron had decided that she would be left out of it…at least partially.
Janie shook her head. “No…I’m going in first.”
“It’s not that we doubt your abilities,” said Aaron, “It’s just that the coven’s spies are probably on the lookout for two men and a young lady, not two men.”
“Every advantage we can gain, the better our options,” Jacob said. “We don’t know what we’re going to face…what kind of traps they might have. We need someone to…”
“Now wait a minute, Dad. Let me go in first. A young woman travelling alone might provoke some curious stares, but I don’t look threatening…especially since I’ll have my sword hidden in my bedroll.”
“If you two ride in, swords drawn…”
Aaron put his hand on Jacob’s shoulder. “You know, she’s right, Jake. God’s with us, she’ll be alright.”
Jacob’s brows furrowed. “Okay, but remember…we won’t be far behind, Janie.”
She nodded. “I know.” Pointing towards the sky, Janie shouted, “To God be the glory!”
The City of Lagoth lay before her, spread as far as the eye could see.
“Our maps are probably going to be pretty useless,” Janie thought.
The heat of the afternoon sun was tempered by cool water breezes playfully teasing her hair and tugging at her blouse.
She’d forgotten how close they were to the lakes.
The sweet smell of flowers met her nose. Looking around her she saw a field of lavender, their purple blooms waiving in greeting as she rode by.
Lagoth was nothing like she had imagined it would be.
It wasn’t dark or forboding. No, it was bright and cheerful, the sunlight bouncing off the metal roofs of the homes, aligned like toy soldiers preparing for battle.
She was still a good 500 yards from the outer perimeter when she stopped to consider her next move. “How are we going to find her?”
She had left the men behind, camped at the edge of the ancient forest that surrounded the city. They planned to enter the town under the cover of night.
How they would get past the city gates, she had no idea, but she trusted they would know what to do. After all, they’d been killing witches long before she was born.
She heard the rushing of wings. Raphea appeared before her, quickly folding his wings behind him and dimming the radiance of his garments. Blossom neighed softly. The angel pet her nose softly.
“Do you know where she’s at?”
He nodded, his brown eyes solemn. “Yes, she’s under the great oak, in the center of the city.”
Nodding, Janie began to pray.
“Father, I plead the blood of Christ over our mission today…keep the eyes of our enemy blinded to our position and may we bring Glory to Your name this day!”
The forest that surrounded Lagoth was ancient. Tall poplars, sinewy elms and large oaks, their gnarled and twisted branches swaying in the soft breeze offered relief from the hot afternoon sun.
They had moved far enough into the trees to be hidden from travelers along the road, but close enough to the fields that surrounded Lagoth to watch Janie as she rode into town. They watched until she disappeared from view, descending into the valley.
Despite its closeness to the city of witches, the forest remained untouched by evil…possessing a wisdom deeper than the shallow, grasping knowledge the witches sought.
“Aaron…I can’t believe you talked me into letting her…”
“Now Jake…she’ll be fine. Maven won’t have any idea who she is…she’ll think that she’s just some lost soul who wants to be a part of something…to feel wanted. That’s the plan and I think it’s a good one, actually.”
Jacob grimaced. “I know, I know…but…the witch has so many spies. What if they saw her travelling with us?”
“Well, soon enough it’ll be dark and if Janie’s done her part; and we both know she will…she’s a natural…then things will move pretty quickly once we’re discovered.”
Aaron winked. “After all…we’ve got a bit of a reputation, you know.”
Jacob snorted. “Yeah…we do.”
Do you have the oil…the water?”
Aaron grinned. “Yes, and sage as well, although the blood of Christ, and the Living Water will finish ‘em off…one way or another, right?”
“Yeah, but the more ammo the better, eh?”
Aaron sat down in the mossy grass at the base of a large oak. Its two main trunks reached high overhead, their branches disappearing into a brilliant canopy of red, gold and orange.
“Right. So now we just sit around and wait, huh?”
Jacob began walking deeper into the trees. “You can, if you want to. I’m going to do some exploring before it gets too dark to see.”
Janie stared at the large iron gates. They lay open, as it was not yet evening. To the left of the entrance a small wooden shack served as the guardhouse; a relic of pre Third Wave days.
Two women, dressed in bright pink uniforms casually approached her, their long silver swords hanging loosely at their sides.
The taller guard approached. “Well hello my sweet. Who are you and what is your business here?”
“Thank you Father for blinding the eyes of my enemy,” thought Janie.
“I’ve come a long way…my family…they hate who I am. They don’t understand…”
The women laughed. “Now don’t you worry your pretty little head about your family. We’re your family now. And you’ll have the chance…maybe soon…to get even with ‘em for the grief they’ve caused you my deliciousness.”
Janie’s skin crawled. She was beginning to wonder how long she’d be able to keep up the ruse, but Raphea nudged her mind. “You can do this, Janie. Don’t worry about these women…they can do nothing. Remember Who is with you.”
Feeling her confidence return Janie said, “Thank you…may I enter?”
The coven had no fears of an attack. The only ones who remembered the time of the Witch Killers were Maven and her partner Jezrael. The others which escaped the purge had long since died…or were consumed.
The guard leaned forward, licking her lips. “Sure. I’ll tell Maven you’re here. In the meantime, why don’t you go to the city square? There’s some lovely entertainment going on right now as we speak. If it weren’t for guard duty I’d take you there myself.” She rubbed her breasts. “Who knows what kind of fun we might have?”
Janie pushed the bile back down her throat and nodded. “Thank you…I’ll go look.”
As they entered the square Blossom whinnied softly. Janie reached down, rubbing her neck. “It’s okay girl, we’ll be fine.”
“She senses the evil in this place,” said Raphea.
Janie nodded slightly. “She’s a good horse…and steady. I have no fears that she’ll bolt.”
A young girl, her long, blonde hair in a ponytail sat on the dirt in the middle of the square. Her wrists were bound and her eyes stared into space. Her once pretty white dress was covered in stains, nearly shredded in two.
Blossom whinnied. The girl caught Janie’s eye then looked back towards the ground.
Janie recognized her. It was Crissie, there could be no doubt. Breathing a sigh of relief followed by a pang of heartache at the girl’s condition Janie started to reach for her sword, but Raphea put his hand on hers.
“Wait, Janie. There are many witches here…we need to strike all of them at once…we don’t want any to escape.”
“You’re right, but…”
“She wont’ kill her yet…she needs her for the ritual tonight,” said Raphea. “Right now she’s soaking up the fear from Crissie and the other captives who can hear what’s happening. Don’t worry…you’ll get your chance soon enough.”
The short, mean faced woman standing near Crissie turned to look at Janie. It was Maven. The witch glared. Pointing her long, bony finger she said,“Over there. Stay put…I’ll come over there when I’m done.”
Janie nodded, then urged Blossom towards the bench under the large willow tree at the edge of the square. She dismounted, then sat down to see what would happen next.
Raphea stood next to Janie.
“Steady…you won’t like what you see, but we’ll get her – and the others – out of here.”
The girl’s screams died down to moans and then to grunts as the witch continued her slow torture.
As the hours passed more and more witches showed up, cheering Maven, their screams of approval growing with each blow, each slice of the razor held in her gnarled hands.
Janie prayed silently under her breath, trying hard not to flinch or show any indication of disapproval. She didn’t want to call any more attention to herself than she already had.
The witches looked at her, some with lust, others with disapproval, but their attention was mostly on the young child in Maven’s grip.
As the sun began to sink Maven turned her attention from the young girl. She ordered two other witches to take Crissie, clean her up and take her to the temple. A soft moan escaped the child’s lips as the witches lifted her off the ground.
Janie whispered to Raphea, her blood beginning to boil.
“Peace, Janie. Celine and the others…including Aaron and your father…will be here soon.”
“To God be the glory,” Janie whispered back.
The witch turned to Janie.
“Now…what is your name…and why are you here?” Janie felt Maven’s cruel black eyes boring into her mind…grasping, gnawing.
Janie threw up the defenses she’d learned from her Teacher.
The witch stiffened. “Obviously she’s not used to being refused entry,” Raphea whispered.
Janie smirked. “Obviously.”
“My name is Janie. I’ve come to see if what I’ve heard is true.”
Maven’s small lips tightened, nearly disappearing underneath her bulbous nose.
She raised her eyebrow. “And what have you heard, girl…speak quickly, I’ve too much to do to waste time on stupid girls.”
The coven stopped their chattering to watch what Maven would do.
“Now?” thought Janie.
“Now.” said Raphea as he drew his sword.
“I’ve heard that you’re ready to answer for your crimes,” said Janie as she jumped back onto the mare’s back. The metallic ring of her claymore echoed in the quiet square as she pulled it from its sheath.
The witch was slow to react. Her eyes grew wide as Raphea stood before her. A league of angels surrounded the entire coven.
Janie pointed her sword towards Maven. “You are defeated, witch. By the power of the Living Water and the Blood of Christ, I command you to obey. Release the children you have captured…now!”
A loud, piercing shriek escaped Maven’s lips as she fled, her eyes wide in terror. When she reached the perimeter of angels and warriors that had encircled the square she tried to force her way through, but she was stopped short.
Jacob and Aaron blocked her path. “Maven…will you repent?”
“No…I’ve done nothing…”
“Enough!” shouted Aaron. “Maven, daughter of Rebekah and Matthias, will you repent of the evil you’ve done, turn from your wicked ways and embrace Jesus Christ?”
The shriveled hag glared at the host surrounding her.
“Again, witch, do you…?” Aaron shouted.
Maven rushed toward Aaron, but he was ready for her. He thrust his sword deep in her side. As she lay on the ground, writhing in pain and screaming for mercy, Aaron finished her with one strike.
He felt no pity as he watched her head roll in the dirt.
A large angel walked towards the witch killers, smiling. “Follow Celine and Raphea, they’ll help you find all of the children and reunite them with their parents.”
“Thank you, Michael” said Janie. She turned to look at the remainder of the coven. “But what about the others?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll deal with each of them. Those who are willing to be redeemed will be. As for the others…well, let’s just say they’ll be sent to the front of the judgment line.”
Janie smiled. “See you next time then?”
Michael laughed. “Always, dear child of God. Always. For God and for His glory!”
“To God be all Glory given!” the witch killers shouted in reply.
About the Author
Thanks for reading! I really hope you enjoyed Children of Wrath in the Witch Killer Series. Should you have a moment, honest reviews are always greatly appreciated.
A.C. Cooper lives with her family in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin. When she’s not writing fiction you’ll find her walking in the woods with her dogs, tucked up in the corner knitting a new project or nose buried in a book.
You can keep track of her escapades at .
Other books by this author
Please visit your favorite ebook retailer to discover other books by AC Cooper:
Murder in Blue Lake
Weird Tales: A Collection of Strange Stories
The America her father remembers is nothing compared to the one Janie lives in now. Few things survived the destruction, but witchcraft remains...something the world can do without.