Deep in the heart of the forest stands a lonely, dark castle, few would ever find inviting. Although, in and of itself, it would be beautiful, the darkness that surrounds it and the seclusion, make this structure feel as if it were evil. The darkness has turned its once bright colors to a solemn gray and the ivy and other foliage has overgrown the parapets and are climbing to the top of the tallest towers.
The fields are overgrown around it and any structure outside of its walls that still stand are in a final stage of decay and ruin. Charred remains of buildings dot the landscape and dead trees adorned the outermost tree line as you draw close to the castle.
The boys gasped at the sight, as they had never been this far into the forest. There were no stories of a castle, or village, that they could recall and they couldn’t believe that this structure could be within half a day’s journey through the forest. They were just amazed at the sight and the state of its condition.
“Where are we, Tan?” Garndin asked, the fear of the place evident in his voice, “I’ve not heard of a place in the forest like this before.”
“Hush, Garn, let me think.” He whispered, almost afraid to speak any louder. “We don’t know every story of every place, little brother. Maybe they just forgot about this place in the histories.” With that, Tandon cautiously started to walk forward, towards the castles ruined main gate.
Garndin followed, quietly, as Tandon started to gain confidence. They walked right up to the main gates and pushed through the brush to step inside. The atmosphere completely changed as did the scenery.
A beautiful fountain with a dragon’s head sat halfway between the gate and the castle itself. The water looked pure and ran from the dragons mouth as if it was cleaned and cared for daily. The path looked well used and there was no sign of overgrowth or any type of decay. It looked as if the place had been well taken care of on a daily basis.
Both boys just stood and stared in amazement, not able to understand why the drastic change in appearance. As one, they began to walk towards the fountain, looking around and staring at how clean and beautiful everything was.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be here, Tan. Something just doesn’t feel right.” Garndin whispered. “This isn’t natural, not one bit.”
“If you’re so afraid, leave.” Tandon snapped back. “I’ve waited for a long time to find some adventure, I’m not about to leave it now.” He laughed quietly. “Don’t you remember how you couldn’t wait to go on an adventure? How you begged me to come along?”
I remember, I just thought we would find a cave, maybe some long lost weapons.” Garn said, getting a little mad at the reminder. Suddenly, he picked up his pace and veered towards the castles main door. “You want adventure so bad, let’s just see what is inside.” By this point, Garndin was speaking in a normal, yet agitated voice.
Tandon smiled, then picked up his own pace, “That’s the spirit, little brother. You’re going to make a fine adventuring partner one day.”
As they reached the door, they noticed a key hanging next to it. Tandon grabbed it and inserted it into the key hole and turned. The sound of the lock mechanism was all they heard as he unlocked the door and pushed it open. The hinges were silent, as was the interior of the castle.
As the entered, they noticed that it was quite bright and clean. No dust lay on anything, as one would expect in an abandoned castle. Candles were lit, but no wax was dripping. The mirrors, strategically placed throughout the foyer, reflected the light and made the room much brighter than the few candles should have been.
Both boys stared at different parts of the room, amazed at the intricate details, the paintings, the wood carvings. They were so intent on the beauty of the room, they never heard the old man step into it from a side door, until the door slammed shut.
Both boys jumped as they turned to face the new commotion. In an effort to draw their weapons at the same time, Garndin tripped and fell into Tandon. Both swords clanged to the floor as they tried to catch themselves in mid fall. They looked up at the man as they heard him snicker.
“I’m sorry boys, but, that was quite humorous.” The man said, regaining his composure. “It’s not often I get visitors and a show.”
The boys stood and put their swords away, flushing from embarrassment. Each fumbled around to straighten themselves up, but never once looked the man in the face.
“No one comes here by accident, so, let me tell you why you are here.” The man spoke softly, but with a very deep voice the boys couldn’t help, but to listen to.
“Tandon, you are a natural born leader, a bit irresponsible, but, a leader none the less.” He smiled at Tandon as he spoke.
“How, how did you know my name?” Tandon asked, confusion on his face.
“We’ll get to that another time. For now, you must listen and take heed.” The man seemed to grow in the boys minds as his voice rose in volume, his demeanor seemed to grow more serious. “You need to be made aware, so you will not fall to the evil one. I am here to help you, to share with you and to give each of you a gift.”
The foyer seemed to grow brighter, the temperature rose slightly, just enough to make both boys warm and the atmosphere took on a more serious feel.
“This time, we went too far, Tandon. I am not sure I like this.” Garndin said, his voice shaking.
Before Tandon could respond, the man was directly in front of Garndin. “Young man, you have definitely went too far, if you want safety and security, with no adventure.” His voice became softer and eased the young man’s nerves.
“Your desire to find adventure is incredible, but your reasoning, your logic is considerably faulty.” He smiled for the first time as he spoke, “You follow your brother without question, you seek thrills without concern and you are always searching for something new, yet, when you are in the thick of the adventure, you begin to wonder if this, or that, was a good idea after all and you begin to let fear sink in.”
“Yeah, that pretty much sums me up.” Garndin said, sheepishly, Tension and nervousness seemed to fall off of him “Hey, wait, how do you know so much about me?” He looked back at the man with a look of confusion.
“Why Garndin, I have always known you and you have always known me, you just didn’t understand it.” The old man said with a smile, “I have known you, as well, Tandon, I have seen your strengths and your weaknesses, both of you, and I have decided to give you your purpose, personally.”
Tandon looked over at Garndin in disbelief. Looking back at the old man, he asked,” How is it you know us, but we have never met you? Or, that you know our strengths and weaknesses, but we have never shown you?”
“My boy, you are my child. I am your Father. I am the one who knew you before you were knit in your mother’s womb and I had a purpose for you, planned at the beginning of the world.” He spoke as if he were growing larger, “You are my creation, I have always known you and I will always love you. You have chosen to follow me and I have chosen you to be my champions.”
Suddenly, a flash of light made it so bright that the boys had to shut their eyes. When they were able to open them again, they were in a small clearing, no castle or outlying village were present, no old man, no great foyer, only trees and grass.
Tandon looked to Garndin, “What just happened?” He asked, a look of utter confusion on his face, “Did we just see God?”
“You saw what I chose for you to see, so you could hear and understand.” A voice sounded, “You have witnessed Me in a way that allowed you to retain your understanding, so that you would know that I am.”
“Why us, God?” Garndin asked, not sure he even understood what was really going on. “We are nothing but young men, who get in trouble over our desire to have adventures more than anything. We are not worthy to be your champions.”
“You have chosen to follow my Son, who gave His life for you, therefore, I only see Him in you. I chose you because I know who you really are.” The voice said, “You will find that this is not going to be done by anything you can do, but through the power I have placed in you.”
With that, armor and swords appeared before each boy. The armor was a mixture of plate and leather, the sword sheath was leather with a silver tip and end and the shields it all laid on was made of dull metal. The gauntlets were also leather with chain mail laid around and the boots were leather with metal wrapped around the toe and heel.
“Take up your armor, put it on in the morning and you will be protected by My power. Use the shield to bring forth truth and justice, use the shield to defend yourselves and those who are in need. Learn my words and your swords will remain sharp and strong. Proclaim the news My Son brought to this world and share with all you meet. In this, you will be my champions, fighting for justice, righteousness and truth. Do not forget the poor or the widowed or the little children. See the people through My eyes and judge not their hearts, for that is only for Me. Resist the devil and he will flee, be a peacemaker as much as it is dependent on you. Allow me to guide your footsteps and you will find the Holy Spirit’s power available to you as you need.”
Both boys, now stunned at the gift and what was said, spoke in unison, “Yes Lord, we shall do this.”
“Good, now go and make disciples of all the nations.”