Welcome to The Soul Journey Series

Welcome to my Sample Story Page. Here, I'm sharing a new experimental story I'm posting online called, The Soul Journey Series.

This is a story of mystery, fantasy and spirit, a journey through many worlds to find a truth that has been hidden from a young man who walks a lonely path. Along the way he will meet many souls, learn many lessons, and slowly discover the truth of what his journey is all about. His constant companion on this journey is a woman more beautiful than any vision he has ever seen. She holds the answers and will be his guide along his way. With her love to comfort him, he will discover the answers he is seeking and find his way home!

So far in the series there are four mini-novels. Each 4-chapter book contains another world in the journey of traveler. Each journey leads the reader one step closer to the truth of where he is and what is happening to him as he moves from world to world!

Below is a sample from the series. I hope you enjoy it!

The Soul Journey Series, Book 1: The Awakening

Chapter 1: The Seeking

There was a sound...or was it just a vibration? It was rhythmical...steady, like a beacon in the darkness before me. Leading me forward? Or calling me back? I did not know which, or even why for that matter. Like the slow, steady beat of a drummer's call, it spoke to me in my inner self, and I felt compelled to answer, though I knew not where it would take me. I only knew I wanted to escape from the suffocating silence around me.

Slowly, the darkness gave way to shades of things past and things to come. There was movement all around me - or was it I who was moving? Though fearful, I gave in to the swirling of life as it swept past me, taking notice of my own rapid breathing as I journeyed forward into something new. It felt like a new birth of sorts, and carried with it the peril of leaving the safety of the womb and the promise of something more to come. And as I spilled out into this reality, I felt both the pain of searing loss and the release of gripping fear.

At last I could see my surroundings. All around me were the mists of morning in a forest that seemed as old as time itself. I rose from the ground - for it was then I realized that I had been face down on a wooded path at the edge of a clearing that led to a winding road. Putting one foot in front of the other, I ventured forth, taking in the sights and sounds and scents around me. The air was full of the twittering of birds in the trees, the ground alive with the scurrying of creatures rushing to remain hidden from this odd stranger moving through their domain.

After a while, I picked up the scent of wood smoke in the distance and heard the sound of men singing. It was both a harmony of voices and a singularity of resonance. After a moment, I recognized it as the hymn of men raising their voices to God in heaven. I moved further down the path until I could see a large stone structure that stood like monolith at the summit of a very large hill by the edge of the sea. The songs grew louder and carried on in a joyful harmony, and for a time it seemed to carry me along on the wind. I drank in their chorus of praise and let it wash over me in waves of peace and renewing strength.

At last the singing ended and I saw the men emerge from the building and take up tools to begin their labors for the day in the fields and stables and kitchen and scriptorium. I came to the pinnacle of the hill that at last revealed a tall and rugged wall that surrounded a group of buildings that made up the holy monastery. The monks were going about their daily work in silence now, and yet, in my heart, I knew that the praise being lifted up to the heights of heaven was as robust and resounding as my ears had already heard. It was a joyful sight and all that was within me longed to know more of these saintly servants in this sanctuary of hope.

I approached the gate to the monastery and saw a long, thick pull chord to one side. I took hold of it and tugged it, the peal of the small bell echoing with a music sweet to my soul. After a few moments, a small window within the gate slid open and I saw the face of an old monk who appeared as ancient as the great monument itself. He smiled and spoke: "Good morrow, young traveler. You are welcomed here. Come and rest within these walls. Have you come seeking?"

I paused, letting his question settle within me for a long moment. As I searched for an answer, I suddenly became aware that I knew nothing of where I had been or where I was going. I had no real sense of who I was or how I had even come to be where I now stood. Still, there was both a familiarity and a refreshing newness to all that was before my senses. And so I answered: "Yes, kind Sir - I have come seeking, but what I do not know! I only know that your music and holy prayers have called me - yea, carried me across an ocean of doubt to the safety of this shore!"

The old monk smiled and closed the small window. I heard the lifting of the heavy latch as the door was slowly pulled open. There, the old man stood, leaning upon his staff, with a younger man at his side. "I am Brother Bartholomew," He said. "And this is Brother Earnest. He will escort you to the Abbot, so that you may begin to find the answers you seek. May God go with you."

He placed his sturdy hand upon my shoulder in a gesture of blessing and bid me enter. Brother Earnest said nothing but bowed and turned to lead me to the Abbot. I followed in silence, my heart beating joyfully in anticipation of what awaited. As I walked into the largest of the buildings, I felt as though the arms of heaven itself were taking me into its embrace. As I passed a large dining hall, I could make out the aroma of freshly baked bread and bitter herbs from the meal that had just been served. It was then that I became aware of a deep hunger within me, an aching emptiness in the core of my being that longed to be filled.

We ascended a winding stone staircase and moved down a long, empty hallway to a large wooden door where another monk sat at a small table, entering notes into a small manuscript. He was a large man, perhaps ten years the senior to this younger man, with a full beard and a round face that was kind and eyes that sparkled with laughter. Brother Earnest bowed to his fellow monk and then again to me. I nodded my thanks and the young man left to return to the side of his elder. The monk at the door lifted the knocker and let it fall three times upon the heavy door. "Enter!" A voice called from inside.

The bearded monk pushed open the heavy door and smiled as I went inside. The Abbot nodded in recognition. "Thank you, Brother Clement. That will be all." Brother Clement bowed to the Abbot and then closed the door, leaving me to stand before a towering figure of a man, clean-shaven with finely chiseled features that showed both the discipline of his calling and the wisdom of his position. He looked at me with both kindness and strength. "Welcome,young traveler," he said with kindness and grace.  "I heard the bell at the gates of our sanctuary, Come...come and sit so that we may talk."

I moved forward and the Abbot gestured for me to take a seat at a large oak table upon which laid a heavy, richly-ornamented Bible. The Abbot looked at me for a moment, as if searching into the deepest recesses of my heart. "I am Brother Peter," he said at last. "And what is your name?"

I hesitated. I realized that I did not even know my own name. I turned my head in shame, wishing I could reach into the void within my soul to discover my own identity. "It does not matter," the Abbot said at last. "God knows your name, and perhaps you are a messenger sent from Our Lord to test our hospitality. For I am convinced that we have entertained many an angel within these walls during my time here."

"I am no angel," I replied. "Nor am I a man deserving of such kindness. It pains me deeply but I do not know my own name, nor what has brought me here. It may be that I come bearing sins that are so great as to drive my memory from me. So perhaps Brother Bartholomew was correct. I am truly a seeker in this sacred place."

"Whether you are dearest saint or darkest sinner is for God to decide," Brother Peter remarked. "I will not judge, lest I myself be found unworthy. But it is certain that God has led you here. Let us together invoke His blessing for the journey you are about to begin."

I bowed my head in sadness. "I have no money, no name and nothing to offer. How will I repay you for the kindness you are showing to me?"

"You honor us by giving us the opportunity to serve you in His name," Brother Peter answered. "And a man with a strong back, a teachable mind and a willing heart has much to offer. There is work to do here - much good and hard work. You will find a place among us and you will learn the discipline of our order. In this, God will show you your true worth and identity."

"And what am I to be called, Brother Peter?" I asked.

Brother Peter was thoughtful for a moment before he spoke. "Like God's faithful traveler, you shall be known as Brother Paul. God has blinded you to your old way of life and brought you to a place where the scales have fallen from your eyes so that He may lead you to your chosen path."

"Brother Paul," I repeated. "I shall try to live up to the name you have given me." Though I did not know who I was, I knew who the Good Saint Paul was. I saw that the road before me was set and I knew I would follow to wherever it led. I could feel a deep sense of awe and wonder come upon me. It took hold of my fear and uncertainty and held it firmly within the hope that I had been given. I still felt a sense of emptiness and loss, a hunger for reconciliation and rest and a deep desire to know the truth, but I accepted this new course and, like Paul himself, would set sail upon the lonely sea of my faith until I reached the shore of the vision that was beginning to form in the deepest part of my soul.

   

Chapter 2: The Works of Men, The Sacrifice of Love

The days moved quickly by, though they seemed to blend into one another in a way that hastened the passage of time. One moment I was immersed in the music of Vespers and the next I was tilling the fertile soil and harvesting the crops for the upcoming winter. An evening meal spent in fellowship with my brothers gave way to a lengthy discussion on theology with the Abbot. The days came and the days went, and yet all of it was but a fleeting moment in eternity. Brother Peter had assigned me to work in the gardens and the carpentry shop by day and in the scriptorium in the evenings. I was learning the discipline of the monastery through work and study that was challenging and meaningful, but all this could not speak to the emptiness inside me and I longed for something more.

For the most part I was happy in my new surroundings, yet there was an aching within my heart that I could not explain. Each day during our times of prayer when the monks would sing the hallowed hymns, I became more and more aware of another, barely audible voice beneath the music, calling out to the lost and lonely part of my inner being. It was innocent and full of life, like the laughter of a child, and it seemed to weave in and out of my conscious mind like a bird darting across the sky; and yet these were but fleeting phantoms from another world, wispy voices from a spirit realm that haunted my troubled mind.

I found myself in the fields harvesting wheat one chilly autumn evening when the leaves on the landscape outside the stone walls were a rush of colors so brilliant one would think that the sun had descended from the sky and set them on fire. The storerooms of the monastery were being filled with the produce of the land. The clouds in the upper chambers of the heavens warned of wintery storms to come. As I was gathering the gleanings of the reaper's scythe, I suddenly became aware of a gentle breeze which brought with it the scent of springtime, like hyssop and fragrant holy oils. It stirred my senses, reawakening the longing within my heart. It was then that I saw her standing within the gathering mists at the top of a hill just beyond the gates of the monastery: a vision of beauty whose form and face captivated me in every way. I found myself intoxicated with her, unable to look away, lest the vision fade and my heart be broken with sorrow.

I could not help myself. I felt compelled to leave my work behind and seek her out, for somehow I knew she held the answers to the questions burning within me. My brother workers were struck by my sudden change. Brother Timothy, my fellow harvester, called to me: "Brother Paul, what is it?"

"Do you not see her?" I replied. "Do you not see the woman upon the hill?"

"I see nothing but the evening fog and the work at hand, Brother. Perhaps you are ill."

I rubbed my eyes and looked again, yet this vision of beauty remained, as if calling out to me. "No, I see her still, and I must go to her!" I ran past the barns and down the path until I reached the main gate, my breath heavy and labored. Brother Earnest looked at me with wide eyes. "What is wrong, Brother Paul?"

"Please - open the gate!" I cried, "I must go and see her!"

"Who must you go and see, Brother?" Brother Earnest asked.

"Please open the gate - " I repeated, "before it is too late!"

Brother Earnest looked to Brother Bartholomew who then looked to me and paused as he pondered my words. At last he said, "Open the gate, Brother."

Brother Earnest nodded in obedience, lifted the heavy latch and pulled open the outer gate. I ran past my brothers, not even stopping to offer my thanks, but rushing up the path toward the hill where the woman was standing - simply standing - as if it were her only purpose to wait for me on this very day. Breathless, I reached the top of the hill and stood before her. She was even more beautiful than when I first saw her. Her eyes held me fast, so lovely and blue were they, like the eyes of a dove hovering over a silent sea. Long braids of silken hair, as dark as the feathers of the raven, ran straight down to her waist. She was dressed in scarlet, the color of blood, the color that matched her full and gentle lips, like a jewel set in the pure ivory setting of her lovely face. In her arms she held a basket that was covered with a dark red cloth. I stood there speechless, unsure of how to greet the vision before me, as if one misspoken word might banish her to the mists from which she came.

The woman, as if sensing my apprehension, smiled with her eyes and spoke. "I am here now. I will not leave you."

I was puzzled at her words, unsure of the deeper meaning they held. "What do you mean? Who are you? Why have you come?"

"I know you are lost and alone," she continued. "I know you feel confused and afraid. But I have come to be with you - to stay with you on this journey."

"Then - who am I?" I finally said. "I cannot remember who I am or why I have come to this place."

"You have come that you may journey to the other side," she explained.

"The other side?" I gasped. "The other side of where - of what?"

"It is too soon," was all she could say. "In time, you will understand. But I am here to guide you through the darkness and the trials. Together, we will find our journey's end."

I could not comprehend her enigmatic message, though in my heart I knew she was someone I need not fear. As I looked into those deep blue eyes, I felt a holy bond, a deep familiarity as if our worlds were closely intertwined; and yet, we were as strangers, for this seemed to be our first meeting.

"Come - sit...eat," she beckoned. She pulled back the cloth to reveal three loaves of bread, milk, honey and wine. "Please - sit with me. Let us talk. How I love to hear your words!"

"But we have only met this day!" I said. "How can you say that you love to hear my words?"

"Because I know you," she answered. "I have always known you."

"So we have met before?"

"Not in this world," she replied. "In this world, we shall learn the strength and meaning of the bond we share. In time, you will come to understand our purpose in being together. In time, our love will grow."

Our love? The thought of that was like a flash of lightning in the inner storm within me, its fury rivaling the storm now gathering around us. It pleased me and yet, I felt still my apprehension and uncertainty. But as if to answer me, the sky rumbled with thunder in the distance.

"Take - eat." she said as she handed me a cut of the bread. I raised the precious morsel of food to my lips and breathed the words, "I will." The bread tasted as sweet and as filling as any food I had ever known. I was filled with an inexplicable peace, a presence of the One who had brought us together.

She opened the flask of wine and poured. "Take and drink. Remember and be renewed." I brought the wine to my lips and savored its robust flavor. I was beginning to see. In this our holy sharing, we were committing to the journey together, sealing a sacred vow to one another in a moment of pure surrender.

She leaned in, closed her eyes and pressed her soft lips to mine. She laughed so joyfully, so playfully, that I was sure this moment rivaled the first kiss Eve gave to Adam at the dawn of Creation. And then - there was a flash of recognition, an image of the two of us in a field such as this, sharing a similar meal and tender kiss! It was so brief as to be but a jot in the whole of a sacred volume of Truth...and then it was gone.

She rose from the ground and I stood with her, gazing into her deep blue eyes once more as the lightning and thunder again rent the heavens and the evening fog began to roll onto the shore below the mighty rock upon which the monastery stood. She took my hand in hers and held it tightly for a moment. "I must go now."

"But you told me you would never leave me!"

"And I never will, My Love!" she replied as once more she smiled with her eyes. "This time...this place...is not done with you yet. There is still work for you to do here. But I will be close by; and when the time is right, you will see me again. On that day, do not hesitate to follow the words which I will speak."

I spoke not a word, but watched in silence as fog began to surround me and she once more faded into the mist which wove its way through the forest like a silken thread. I was left with more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity, but this one thing I did know: I would follow this path to its conclusion, seeking not to fulfill it with the works of men, but with the power of love's pure and sorrowful sacrifice, the sacrifice that would lead to joy once more!

   

Chapter 3: Invaders from the Sea

I returned to the monastery and immediately sought counsel from Brother Peter. As I sat with him in his chamber, my thoughts were flooded with questions and ponderings from my brief encounter with the mysterious woman. I was not sure if my teacher and friend would even believe the incredible tale that poured forth from my lips. The others had not seen her. Some were saying that I had fallen under the oppression of a demonic spirit, that I was ill or under the impression of a type of madness they had never encountered before. There was talk among the elders of putting me out of the monastery, of testing my spirit with fire, of exorcisms and penances, judgment and condemnation. But none of that mattered. I had seen what I had seen and my heart had been touched in a way that left no doubt as to the source and strength behind the bonding that had taken place. Even if my brothers did not understand, I could neither deny my experience nor recast it in a different light than the one that now shone within my spirit.

Brother Peter had been lost in thought and prayer, his head bowed down to his praying hands. He finally lifted his head and began to speak: "My brother, I am unsure of what to say. Fear and uncertainty have touched the souls within these walls. Your brothers do not know what to make of the visions of which you speak. Not one of them has received a word in prayer regarding a course of action and I myself am at a loss as to what to do about it. I need to hear from you, Brother Paul, so that I may understand and decide in wisdom how to proceed."

I drew a deep breath and slowly let it out. I was relieved that this wise man was willing to listen and learn what had transpired. "All I can offer, Brother, is that I have been a part of this holy fellowship for some time now. You know me more completely than anyone here. In all our encounters, have I ever given you reason to doubt my spirit or my sanity?"

"What I do not doubt is the sincerity of your heart, Brother Paul," Brother Peter replied. "What troubles me is that the enemy of our souls could be deceiving you, or the past that has remained buried within you may finally be expressing itself in a new form of madness. My charge is to glorify Our Lord and protect the ones He has given over to my care."

I was thoughtful for a moment, taking in his wisdom and considering my next words. "The past that has been submerged in the depths of my soul is indeed fighting to return to the surface to once more carry me on my way to new paths. Perhaps it is truly a form of madness, but it is a madness that I, like the Patriarch Jacob, must wrestle with until I receive the blessing that is meant for my soul."

"How do you know your vision – this woman – was even real?"

Again I took a moment to ponder his question. "How did you know, Brother, that your holy calling was real?"

Brother Peter smiled. "I knew because my heart was broken: broken of all the sorrow and selfishness of my past, and broken of pride and doubt and indecision. I knew because I realized that I had finally found the lover of my soul!"

"It is the same with me," I said. "The love I feel for this woman reaches deeply into a hidden place in my spirit and kindles in me a holy fire – a blessed determination to seek out the meaning to my wanderings and the end of my journey. It is like the Savior's love. In truth, her love is so intimately connected to His that to deny what it speaks to my soul would be the true madness."

I saw the turmoil within my brother begin to ease. He took a deep breath and released it, and with it, all his doubts and uncertainty. "Then, my dear brother, I believe it is time for you to leave."

"One thing remains," I said. "The woman told me that this place and this time were not yet done with me. She said that there is still work to do here. But I do not know what that work will be."

"Nor do I," Brother Peter said. "God will reveal that to us as well – in His good time."

At that moment, a bell sounded outside the walls of the chamber. It was a different bell than the one at the main gate. There was an urgency to its tone that was unmistakable. "What is it, Brother Peter?"

"Next to the loss of a soul to the fires of hell, our greatest fear!" he said. "Invaders!"

We rose and came to the window in the chamber which looked out over the sea. Brother Timothy, who was standing in the courtyard, called out. "BROTHER PETER! THERE ARE SAILS ON THE HORIZON!"

I looked toward the sea and could see faintly the masts of several ships on the edge of the horizon. "What does it mean, Brother?" I asked.

There was an urgent knock on the door of the chamber. "Enter!" Brother Peter called.

Brother Clement burst into the room. "Brother Peter! We count six ships in all! Brother Bartholomew believes that they are but two days from reaching the monastery!"

"Our Lord and Saint Michael preserve us!" Brother Peter prayed.

I looked out once again at the approaching ships. "What can be done, Brother?"

"There is nothing that can be done," he said. "We cannot leave the sacred texts and the other books in our Library. We have no defenses, save these sturdy walls, which the enemy will breach soon enough."

"Surely there must be something we can do – somewhere we may go to seek help!" I pleaded.

Brother Clement looked at Brother Peter. "The Duke of Everdale is but a day's ride from here. With the Lord's blessing, perhaps his army would arrive in time!"

"I will go, Brother!" I said. "I will bring back the Duke's army. The Lord's sanctuary shall not fall!"

Brother Peter turned to Brother Clement. "Ready the fastest horse for our brother and secure supplies for his journey!"

"With your permission, Brother Peter, I should like to accompany our brother on his journey," Brother Clement proposed.

I turned toward Brother Clement. "You would be welcome, Brother!"

Brother Peter extended his hands as Brother Clement and I knelt before him. "May God be with you on your journey and see you safely to your destination!"

We rose and gave each other a look of solidarity and prepared for the journey. As we approached the open gate, I looked down at Brother Bartholomew and Brother Earnest. "We will not fail. With God's help, we will not fail!"

We rode for the next several hours in silence, our minds and hearts focused on our holy purpose and our destination. We stopped finally in a small clearing beside a sparkling silver stream to rest the horses and to take some food. Brother Clement made a small fire so that we could warm ourselves. I looked at him as he sat and prayed by the fire. Like each holy brother at the monastery, he appeared familiar to me in some deep sense that I could not fully grasp. But, now, in the sharing our common quest, I felt a deeper connection to this man. His face, his ways, yea, even his very spirit was like a long lost friend returning from a journey of great distance and time.

"Brother Clement, may I ask you something?" I inquired.

"Certainly Brother Paul. What is it?"

"You seem to me to be a man of great joy and strength," I began, "but I sense that your inner peace has come at a great cost. Is that so?"

Brother Clement smiled. "The cost is but a grain of sand when weighed on the scales of eternity.  Yes, my peace came after great pain, but I recall those struggles with deep fondness, for without them, I would never have surrendered my life to my Lord." He paused and then added, "I see the same spirit in you, my brother! I know you cannot recall your past, but I have come to understand – to know as sure as I know my own salvation – that your sins have been transformed into your strength. You are a man after God's own heart, Brother Paul. Never forget that."

On the strength of that sharing, we rode the rest of the way to Everdale, to the castle of Duke Leo the First. We arrived at the outer gate of the castle and from a parapet a guard called out, "STAND FORTH AND BE RECOGNIZED! WHAT BUSINESS HAVE YOU WITHIN THESE CASTLE WALLS?"

I raised my voice and spoke: "WE SEEK AN AUDIENCE WITH DUKE LEO ON BEHALF OF BROTHER PETER OF THE MONASTERY AT LAND'S END. WE ASK FOR THE DUKE'S HELP IN DEFENDING THE MONASTERY FROM INVADERS FROM ACROSS THE SEA!"

"OPEN THE GATE!" the guard called, and within a moment's time, the gate began to raise up. Standing there were six guards in armor, all carrying spears and shields. A seventh man, the captain of the guard, came from among them and walked up to us. He bowed in respect. "Welcome holy men! We are here to serve. We shall escort you to the Great Hall of Duke Leo. Please, follow me."

We were taken through the inner gate of the castle and through the courtyard to the Great Hall. It was a massive stone structure – beautifully decorated with tapestries. In the center of one wall a fire was blazing in a huge stone hearth as servants tended to the food cooking over the coals. We came to a large oak table in the center of the room where Duke Leo rose up and came forward to greet us. He was an imposing man, a head taller even than Brother Clement, with a face and bearing that shone forth his nobility and his strength. "Good men of God!" he said. "You are most welcome in this Great Hall. Your presence honors us! Please refresh yourself and dine with us. You must be hungry after your long journey."

Brother Clement spoke next. "My Lord – we come on an urgent mission and cannot tarry for even a moment. At our monastery we spied six ships on the water coming from the Southern Sea. They were no more than two days away from the monastery. We come asking for your help in defending our sacred sanctuary."

Duke Leo looked at us with fierceness and righteous anger. "THIS SHALL NOT STAND! WE CANNOT ALLOW INVADERS INTO OUR LAND TO VIOLATE OUR MOST HOLY PLACES! CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD! SEND OUT THE CALL TO THE THREE COMPANIES TO ASSEMBLE AT ONCE, AND SEND WORD TO THE SIGNALMEN TO ALERT OUR SHIPS TO INTERCEPT THE ENEMY ARMADA BEFORE IT CAN REACH OUR SHORES!"

I watched as this noble warrior shouted commands to his soldiers and gathered his armies to send them on a hard march toward the sea. He sent out his trained falcons with messages to his fleet to intercept the invaders and hold them back until his armies should arrive. There was no debate, no questioning our character or our cause, no hesitation in his determination to defend the holy men who served to keep the Word of God alive and further the mission to reach the world in His name.

The Duke urged Brother Clement and I to stay the night while he and his men rode forth to vanquish the enemy on the field of battle, but we refused. How could we remain behind while our brothers were in peril? No, we would press on and travel the long distance back to our home. The Duke provided us with fresh supplies and new horses so that we could make the journey as swiftly as possible. We mounted with the rest of the armies and rode forth once more toward our home.

As we were moving past the gate, I looked among the crowd and saw my love standing before me, her eyes full of joy, her smile a soothing balm to give me strength for the long journey before us. I had all but fulfilled my purpose and I knew that soon I would be called away from this place to the next step on this journey we shared. But for now, I needed to complete the final chapter of this, my holy calling, this, the awakening to the path toward my true home!

Chapter 4: Falling Asleep

We rode through the night, the full moon lighting our way. Brother Clement and I lifted up entreaties unceasingly for our brothers at the monastery, but even as I prayed, I became strangely aware that something was not right – something deep within me. The nearer we drew to our destination, the more this feeling grew. I became lightheaded and my vision narrowed. I felt a weakness in my frame and a deep pain in the core of my being. I could not explain what was happening, but the longer we rode, the more it overwhelmed me.

Brother Clement noticed the change in me and rode closer, reaching out his hand to steady me. "What is it, Brother Paul? Are you ill?"

"I feel as though I am under attack," I said. "I cannot explain it but I believe it is connected to the monastery. I fear the worst, Brother Clement!"

"Have faith, Brother Paul," Brother Clement replied. "God will not abandon us." He looked at me with worry in his eyes. "Are you able to go on?"

It pained me deeply, but at that moment, I realized that I could not. "No, Brother...but I must! I must make it back!"

"And what would you do when you arrived, Brother?" he asked. "Would you take up a sword against the enemy? You would surely be cut down by before you could raise your weapon! No – you must remain here! We will take the fight to our foes!"

I wanted to go on but at that moment, the unsteadiness overtook me and I fell from my horse. Brother Clement quickly dismounted and came to my side. He picked me up and carried me to an opening in the forest – a ledge on the side of a cliff that overlooked the monastery, still many miles away. "Here, Brother – take some water." He handed me the skin and I took a drink. "Rest for a time. I shall stay with you."

"NO! No, Brother Clement!" I cried. "Please go. I will recover soon! Please do not delay because of me!"

Brother Clement looked at me and hesitated but a moment before standing up. "I will return as soon as I can."

"I am sorry!" I said through my tears. "Be well! God go with you!"

Brother Clement nodded and mounted his horse. He said nothing but turned and rode away into the night to join the army of Duke Leo. I tried to push myself up to look out at the monastery. I wanted to see what was happening. As I did, I saw flashes of light and heard peals of thunder. No – it was cannon fire! There was a great battle raging in the sea! The ships of Duke Leo were engaging the enemy fleet, holding them off until the Duke's army should arrive. I wanted to see more, but at that moment, everything went dark and I collapsed on the ground.

It was the same strange feeling I had first encountered when I entered this world – this time and this place. It felt like dying and birth, rage and surrender, all at once. I do not know how long I lingered in this purgatory – this inner world of turmoil – until at last I came to consciousness once more. I opened my eyes and attempted to sit up. My head was spinning and my thoughts were disjointed and confused. Where was I? How long had I been unconscious? Why did I become ill as we approached the monastery?

There was a feeling of corruption in the pit of my stomach, something that went deep down into my soul. I was becoming weary of this place, this time, this world! I fought to rid myself of these feelings but they lingered still. My sacred home across the miles was under attack! And my brothers! I had almost forgotten about them. What had transpired since I fell into my sorrowful sleep? I looked over the edge of the cliff towards the sea and the monastery. A fierce battle was raging. I could not tell at this distance whether the forces of Duke Leo or the forces of the enemy were prevailing. "What do I do now?" I wondered out loud.

"You rest...you surrender...you heal!"

I turned around and once again, it was her – the woman who had been bonded to my very soul. I found the strength to sit up and once more I became lost in her eyes. She smiled at me and sighed. For a moment I forgot everything that was unfolding around me.

"Take and eat! Drink and be renewed!" she said as she had before. Once more she offered me the nourishing bread and the robust wine.

Slowly I took them into my hands and looked at her. "It must be!" I said as I consumed the holy meal. At once, my strength began to return and again my mind found clarity and conviction. "What lies ahead for me?"

"What have your learned, My Love?" she asked. "How have your mind and your heart been transformed? What voices do you hear speaking to your spirit? What distant shore calls out to you now?"

I thought for a moment, suddenly realizing that there were tears forming in my eyes. I drew a deep breath and released it to the evening air, knowing now that I was indeed done with this world. "I have learned...that, while it is good to have knowledge, it is the will that truly guides how that knowledge is used. I have learned that birth is the beginning of death, and that brokenness leads to rebirth." I paused, as if the whole of heaven had ceased its holy activity to witness this moment of most profound recognition. "I have come to find myself at that place where the spirit overtakes the emotions and leads to the deepest leap of faith. I hear many voices calling me – and yet only One! And now, I no longer fear what I will leave behind nor what lies ahead. I do not need to know the substance of the voice or the manner in which I will be changed; I only know that I have committed myself to follow this sacred course to its conclusion. I am ready to surrender, to give up my life so that I may find it anew!"

The woman smiled and moved closer to me. Once more, she leaned forward and pressed her tender lips to mine. I reached up and took her head in my hands and in a moment as poignant as the Song of Solomon, we shared a passionate, powerful kiss. Our desire for one another was one, our purpose and our bond sealed forevermore! It left us breathless – at peace – floating in a reverie of joy!

The woman looked at me and gestured towards the monastery. I gazed through the mists of the closing day and saw that the battle was suddenly over. The forces of Duke Leo had prevailed! I breathed a sigh of contentment and relief. The forces of good within me had prevailed as well.

"There is one thing left, My Love," The woman said. "Go to him. Go to him and then return to the hill where we first met. I will be waiting for you there!"

I stood up, astounded that I knew exactly what she meant. Filled with strength and purpose, I ran the rest of the way to the monastery, feeling both the joy of victory, and the sorrow of my surrender to the flame of life being extinguished in this holy moment. I entered through the open gate, past the bodies of the dead and past the noble soldiers who had fought so valiantly for victory, until I reached Brother Bartholomew and Brother Earnest. "Where is he?" I cried. "I must go to him!"

In silence and sorrow, the brothers gestured towards the main building of the monastery. I moved through the marbled hallway, up the winding stone staircase and down the long hall to the Abbot's chamber. Brother Clement, Brother Timothy, Duke Leo and the elders were gathered around their leader and friend. Brother Peter lay in his bed, mortally wounded, the ornate Bible clutched in his trembling hands. "Brother Paul!" he exclaimed. "Please – come closer my friend. Let us talk one last time!"

I came over and sat on the edge of the bed, smiling a sorrowful smile, letting my tears fall freely as I looked into the eyes of the man who had taken me into this sacred space. "I was delayed in coming, my brother!" I took hold of his hand and held it firmly in mine. "It saddens me to know that you are leaving this world, but my joy will be to hear you speak to me your words of wisdom this one last time!"

Brother Peter smiled and looked more intently into my eyes. His breathing was labored and heavy, for he was falling into the eternal sleep granted to those who had chosen life. "Now – it is time for you to leave! This world is done with you, Brother Paul! It is time to surrender to the next! It is time for you to say goodbye so that you may yet awake in a new and wonderful place. I have taught you all that I could. I hope it is the Lord's wisdom that spoke through my voice. I hope..." He smiled one last time. "I hope!" And then, my brother and friend fell asleep.

"Goodbye Brother!" I whispered. I leaned down and gave a tender kiss to his weathered brow. I stood up and looked at those who remained. "I shall miss you all! But I am confident that I shall see you again! It has been my honor to know you in this world! Truly, it has been my honor!"

We said our goodbyes and I left through the gate, carrying nothing with me but the knowledge and spirit of this holy place. I made my way to the top of the hill where I had first met My Dearest Love. She was standing there, looking more beautiful than ever. I ran to her and we lost ourselves in a moment of embrace so powerful as to rival the first moment of creation in its beauty. The world around me seemed to be spinning in infinity and I was drunk with the Spirit coursing through my entire being!

"I am so happy to have you here, My Love," she said. "Are you ready?"

"Yes, I am ready," I said. "What shall I do?"

"Yield to the wind," she replied. "Look out to the ocean of time and trial, of sorrow and surrender, and plunge yourself into its depths!"

I looked to My Love, knowing that I would see her again, but strangely sorrowful at having to say goodbye. I took her into my arms and kissed her passionately once more. It seemed ethereal, eternal – the kiss of lovers, the embrace of those bonded in Agape Love! I stepped back, looked once more into those incredible eyes and then turned toward the sea. With one last deep sigh, I let go – let go of this world and this time, the sadness and the suffering; and I surrendered to the mystery and the majesty of the journey ahead. I felt as though I were both floating motionless and falling at incredible speed as I plunged into the ocean depths beneath the cliffs upon which this holy monastery stood.

Once more into the suffocating silence. Once more into the darkness as the icy waters enveloped my body, my mind and my soul. I hesitated to draw a breath, but only for a moment, but then, took in the sea and felt myself drowning to this world, dying to all so that I could be reborn!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"TAKE HOLD OF HIM, LAD! LIFT HIM UP, NOW! BE LIVELY!

I looked up to see a large, tattooed man hoisting me out of the water and into a small boat. Though he was clean-shaven, his face was familiar. "Brother...?"

"ABLE SEAMAN, ROGER CLEMENT, AT YOUR SERVICE, SIR!" he bellowed. "GLAD WE COULD FISH YOU OUT O' THE SEA!" He turned toward the larger ship in the water and to the Captain standing tall on the Quarter Deck. "WE CAUGHT US A FISH, CAP'N! WE'RE BRINGIN' HIM ON BOARD NOW!"

I looked up to the Quarter Deck of the large British Man O' War to see a towering figure standing in full British naval attire, a head taller than his crew, whose face and bearing shone forth his nobility and his strength...

The End – Book One

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