Twelve year old Jerad goes on a quest to see the flaming sword guarding the Garden of Eden. But the giant Nephilim also want the sword and will ride their mighty dinosaurs over anything in their way to get it.
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Sword of Fire
By Jonh R. Beck
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 John R. Beck
All rights reserved.
A Sleepless Dawn
Never feed a dinosaur something that smells like you. They get the wrong idea. Ten thousand two legged dark red dinosaurs clawed the ground inside the northern caverns of the volcano ne'Venge and they were hungry. Their riders prepared for war by donning scary looking orange and black armor. Dyed green from birth, the nine foot tall giants stunk like volcanic ash.
Crexor, general of the Nephilim, grabbed the reins of his mighty carnotaur. It reared up and roared. At his command the vast horde rode with him into the night. He promised his supernaturally sinister giants they would conquer the Known Lands, but Crexor also had a secret plan. He planned to live forever and needed the flaming sword from the Garden of Eden to do it.
* * *
Jerad could not sleep. He tossed and turned in the predawn hours of his twelfth birthday. Today Grandpapa Adam would take him on pilgrimage to see the Sword of Fire guarding the Garden of Eden. Jerad had waited years for this day and now dawn still seemed so far off. He stared at the red brick bedroom wall and then at the wood beams in the ceiling. He rolled left. He rolled right. Finally he sat up and kicked off his covers.
Jerad was a stocky, strong kid with short blond hair. After slipping on his favorite brown pants and blue shirt, he walked to his third story window. From there he could see the fortress courtyard. In the light of the full moon he could see mist rising from the ground watering the whole valley. All sorts of wild dinosaurs (saurs for short) roamed everywhere on the frontier of Seth's Land of Neer. But it was quiet at the moment. Too quiet.
* * *
Miserable. Methu felt miserable. He could barely move without searing pain. Methu stared at the dying embers of last night's fire. His left arm still felt hot from the branding ceremony. Each firstborn male heir of Cain got Cain's "mark" burned into their left forearm on the eve of their twelfth birthday. It looked like a big X.
Methu wasn't looking forward to dawn. That meant the trial. A trial always came the day after the branding. What a birthday present. He looked at his arm again and gingerly touched the singed flesh. Ouch.
Methu's greasy haired father, Mehuja, called it a mark of honor. Not that he saw his father much. Beyond his father's fierceness with a branding iron, Methu didn't know him at all. At the moment, his father's hunting caravan camped high up in the mountains in the land of Nod. Food was hard to find. Nothing liked it up here in Cain's Land of Nod but the rocks.
* * *
Jerad grabbed his slingshot and ammo. No one walked unarmed in this wilderness even when at home. He decided to head for the four story fortress tower in the center of the courtyard where his dad usually prayed. Dad prayed three times a day: at dawn, noon, and dusk. Jerad understood his dad spoke to God, but he wondered if God ever spoke back. Grandpapa Adam and Grandmama Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden, but that was centuries ago and not everyone believed their tales of Eden. As for Jerad, he wasn't sure what to make of it all.
While crossing the center of the fortress courtyard Jerad heard the dreaded sound of wings flapping. Rhamphorhynchus! Four hungry saurs with razor sharp teeth flew straight for him. He fired his slingshot and hit one right in the head. He clipped the second saur in the wing. The third one swooped down trying to bite him. Jerad rolled on the ground and took it out with another hit. He went for another stone to kill the fourth one and came up empty! He was out of ammo.
The last hungry saur dove at him. This was going to hurt. Then he heard a swooshing sound and watched an arrow nail the vicious thing to the ground. Jerad looked up at the top of the fortress tower and saw his dad lower his bow.
"Tell me again why we live out here?" Jerad called out while dusting himself off. He wasn't mad. This was just life.
"The dominion mandate: God's command to fill the earth and subdue it," Jerad's father, Mahalalel, replied as he lowered his bow. Each firstborn male of a generation started a new village at age sixty. Mahalalel had founded his village of El-Denn seventeen years ago. After clearing forest land and planting farm fields, he built this stone fortress to protect his growing family. A narrow subterranean tunnel to the northern cliffs provided a way of escape should the need arise. Only he and his wife, Lorilalel, knew how to open the secret passage. He hoped he would never need it and he never did.
"When is Grandpapa Adam going to get here?" Jerad asked while springing up the steps toward his father.
"I suppose as soon as he wants to. Are you ready to go?" Mahalalel asked with a smile as the first ray of dawn broke over the horizon.
"Yes!" Jerad laughed. Was he ready? He had been ready for this trip his whole life and all night and it all took so very long.
"Go help Mom until he gets here, please. I'll be there after I finish my prayer time."
"Ok," Jerad mumbled as he ambled back down the steps. He was in a hurry to go see the sword, not in a hurry to help.
Jerad's mom missed the morning sunrise as usual. She typically had no time for such things if the family hoped to eat breakfast. The twelve kitchen fireplaces were lit, dozens of servants were busy, and the food was coming together nicely. Lorilalel sat down for a moment. Her back ached as her unborn child kicked for the last time before settling into a long nap. She just knew she was having another daughter. Jerad walked in and plopped down in the middle of everything.
"Good morning, Jerad. Did you sleep well?"
"Not a wink. When's Grandpapa Adam going to get here? Dad doesn't know."
"I suppose when he wants to. You know the 'First Made' man; Adam does what he wants in the time that he needs."
"I hope he gets here soon," Jerad stood up and drew out an imaginary sword and waved it around. "I want to see the burning blade. Does it catch the Garden of Eden on fire?"
"I don't think so. The cherubim take care of the sword day and night. They never need rest." Lorilalel thought about that. How could anything just go on and on anyway? Then she moved on to more pressing matters, "Please check on your brother and bring me your sister."
"Aww ... ok," Jerad grumbled and mumbled his way to the bed chambers of his siblings. As the oldest he got his own room on the third floor. But being the oldest meant more responsibility. His ten-year-old brother, Terad, was cool most of the time, but baby Lelai was a big pain.
Of course Lelai was crying. A stinky smell filled the air. So, he went to Terad's room and unceremoniously pushed his brother out of bed. Then he waited impatiently while their new nanny, Taya, changed Lelai's diaper in the baby's room. After scooping up his wailing sister, he nearly sprinted back to the kitchen.
"Here she is," Jerad said as he handed his sister over to his mom. The baby stopped crying instantly. "Can I go now?"
"As soon as you set the water pitchers on the tables you can go."
* * *
Methu woke up drenched by a big bucket of water. He instinctively grabbed his boomerang in self defense.
"Rise and shine trial boy," laughed Deli. Methu's mother always liked a joke at someone else's expense. Methu did not find it funny and his forearm still ached. Now his ragged black hair was soaking wet for the first time in ages. He was a thin, wiry kid for his age and wore what he always wore: a ragged red shirt, black pants, and a worn out backpack to hold his boomerang.
"What's for breakfast?" he asked.
"I ate the last of the frog bread a few minutes ago. Bring me back something if you find anything," Deli demanded. She licked her fingers and then went back to sleep.
As Methu left the tent, he noticed Sheli sleeping. She was mother's favorite and as a big sister always bossed him around. Sheli liked to scare him with stories about velociraptors. That gave him an idea. He tiptoed over and carefully tied her long unkempt hair to a tent peg. He got ready to scare her when someone grabbed him by the neck and tossed him headlong into a wagon.
"Hey!" Methu sputtered half upside down.
"Be quiet!" hissed Mehuja, "we're going to ask Cain about your trial."
Methu sat up with arms crossed while Mehuja saddled up a rather sickly looking four legged tenontosaurus about the size of a huge horse. His father whipped the saur to get it moving. The saur's yelp scared Sheli awake. She struggled to stand but couldn't much move.
"I hope raptors eat you for breakfast!" she shrieked and then began to cry. Strangely, Methu didn't find his joke that funny after all.
Terad and Jerad argued back and forth about whether or not Cainites ate wolf meat.
"Knock it off," whispered their irritated mother. Breakfast started out ordinarily enough for the few hundred people gathered there. Dad had opened the meal with a prayer of thanksgiving. But conversation had quickly turned to Adam's unexpected absence.
"It's not like Adam to miss a meal," said grandpa Kenan. His dark clothes matched his dark shade of skin.
"I think he's in trouble," great-grandpa Enosh replied. His light skin tone nearly matched his off white shirt.
Jerad wasn't actually sure how many relatives he had. With six generations still living from Adam to himself, and new uncles and aunts and cousins born every year, it was hard to keep up. He pushed back from the table satisfied but not stuffed. He had never known real hunger. Not that he noticed. As long as food showed up on his plate, he didn't think much about it.
Suddenly the large double doors pushed open and all eyes turned toward a man standing in the doorway. The broad shouldered man wore a cloak and hood of dark green. He leaned with both hands on a long white staff. Seth, son and legal heir of Adam, pulled back his hood revealing his middle brown face complete with bushy red hair and beard.
"I can't find my father!" Seth announced to the hushed crowd. He walked in the room absentmindedly spinning his staff. The eight foot long white gopher wood stick was his most prized possession. His father Adam had carved it for him centuries ago. It served as a symbol of Seth's authority over all the Sethite clans. One side read: "Love the Lord." The other side read: "Defend the family."
"Let's split up to find him," Seth continued. "Kenan, take Mahalalel. Enosh, come with me." All the elders agreed. After Lorilalel closed the meal with a prayer for blessing, everyone went to the stables.
"I'm going to help find Grandpapa," Jerad declared as he watched the men gather their dryosaurs at the front gate.
"You better ask first," replied Terad.
"Duh! I'm not about to get in trouble today of all days," Jerad retorted as he ran up to his father. "Dad, can I go with you? I want to help!"
Mahalalel leaned back in his saddle and gave it a moment's thought. Jerad was about to go on pilgrimage and prove himself a man but he was also twelve.
"Sorry, Jerad, it's too dangerous."
"But Dad, I bet you would let me go after my pilgrimage. What's the difference?" Jerad asked as he impulsively grabbed the reins of his father's saur.
Mahalalel understood Jerad's frustration. The whole morning was going completely wrong for the boy. "Pilgrimage is not just a sightseeing tour through the wilderness."
"But Grandpapa Adam and I are supposed to go alone on pilgrimage and now you're taking half the village to find him."
"Precisely! We don't know what to expect. What could keep him from doing anything?" Mahalalel was now fully convinced in his own mind. He would not risk his heir. Jerad saw the look in his father's eyes and knew not to ask again. Father's yes was yes and his no definitely no. Mahalalel took the reins back from his son and joined the search parties.
"We ride hard and fast," shouted Seth, "Adam must be found today!" Guards opened the twenty-foot tall gates and the two search parties headed out in a cloud of dust.
Jerad sprinted past Terad toward the inner courtyard.
"Where are you going?" asked Terad.
"To the tower!"
"Wait for me!" Terad followed Jerad up the steps to the top of the tower. They watched their father's search party gallop down the dirt road toward the village of El-Denn and beyond.
Both boys knelt and prayed that Grandpapa would be found safe and sound. Terad seemed more into it than Jerad felt at the moment.
Their mother quietly came up behind them as the two boys finished and stood up. "They won't be gone long. You'll see," she said as she hugged them both.
Jerad and Terad looked at each other. Mom was so emotional. But neither boy left her side until their dad was long out of sight.
A Slippery Slope
As he rode in the wagon Methu looked up at the clear blue crystal sky totally bored. He wasn't looking forward to the Council of Cain in the city of Enoch. It wasn't much of a council really. From what he heard, great-great-grandfather Cain just ordered the elders like his dad to do stuff. He watched his father sip something made of rotten grapes. It mellowed the guy as the bumpy journey progressed. Soon his dad was humming some tune and laughing at everything. That's just great, thought Methu, he's nuts, too.
* * *
"This has got be the worst day in the entire 472 year history of the world!" Jerad whined bitterly to Terad after lunch. At the moment they were hiding from their mom and their wailing sister. Neither wanted additional chores.
"Yeah," Terad agreed trying not to be too jealous of his brother's pilgrimage.
"C'mon, let's go swimming," Jerad suggested as he got up with an air of foolish resolution.
"Mom won't say yes to that one, Jerad."
"Then we won't ask her. Besides, Dad let's us go all the time."
"Only when he comes along, Jerad," Terad had that high and mighty tone a younger brother gets when he knows he's right.
"Then you have to come. Or, it will be your fault if something happens to me."
"Jerad, that's not-"
"Oh c'mon, Terad. There's nothing else to do."
Terad thought it over and decided to go swimming. At least it beat extra chores.
* * *
Mehuja arrived at the city of Enoch fairly drunk. Built over a tributary of the Tigris River, the sprawling city was a fortress of grim and gray stone. As long as he could remember, all the Cainite clans, except those permitted in the hunting camps, lived in this miserable place. "All-father" Cain would not allow anyone to move out. He said it would be easier to defend if they all stayed together. The buildings were just high enough to cover the streets in perpetual shadow. Nothing grew here; nothing healthy at any rate.
They finally stopped at the six story stone palace of Cain. Mehuja watched Methu jump out of the cart. Then Mehuja tried to do the same. He managed to step off, get tangled in a wheel, and crash to the ground. His son started laughing at him. "C'mon little boy. Time for the trial of your short miserable life!" Mehuja shouted as he reached for his bottle of vine juice. He found it empty so he chucked the bottle at Methu.
Methu ducked, grabbed his boomerang, and sprinted off. He knew better than stick around an angry drunk man.
"Come back here!" Mehuja started after him but tripped and did another face plant into the dirt.
Methu ran until he was out of sight of his father. What a loser, he thought. He was hungry and there was breakfast to find. Methu wandered the city streets of Enoch. He stole a little food, but as usual it did not satisfy.
* * *
Jerad and Terad waited in the bushes for a stegosaurus to amble by and then hiked to the swirling canal pools. Their Dad and his kinsmen had dug the canal from a tributary of the Gihon River to the village of El-Denn. But they had made several engineering errors where they connected the tributary to the canal. The false starts had created a couple of swirling whirlpools with steep banks. Of course the two boys enjoyed jumping in heedless of the danger. They swam for a long time until Terad began to tire.
"Jerad, I'm hungry."
"So?" Jerad scrambled past Terad toward the top of the bank.
"So ... what if they found Grandpapa by now?!"
"Good point. Just one more jump!"
"Ok, fine!" Terad raced past Jerad to the top, slipped, and tumbled backwards off the bank into the water twenty feet below. When he did not come up for air, Jerad dove in and found his brother floating unconscious underwater. A frantic moment later and they were both ashore. Terad sputtered and coughed. A nasty gash bled from his forehead.
"You hit a rock?" asked Jerad.
"I don't know ..."
"Don't tell Mom, ok?" Jerad wrapped Terad's head with his own shirt.
"Don't tell Mom. We don't want to get in trouble!"
"We?" Terad gingerly touched his bleeding forehead.
"Yes ... 'we' because 'we' both went swimming, remember?"
"Because you ..."
"Because 'we', you mean. C'mon let's go." Jerad tried to help his brother up. Terad stood for a second and then collapsed into unconsciousness.
Excerpted from Sword of Fire by Jonh R. Beck. Copyright © 2013 by John R. Beck. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Author's Apology.................... vi
1. A Sleepless Dawn.................... 1
2. Unexpected Absence.................... 7
3. A Slippery Slope.................... 10
4. Methu's Mission.................... 17
5. Home School.................... 22
6. Adam's Road.................... 27
7. Of Bullies & Battles.................... 33
8. Of Faith and Fear.................... 38
9. Of Courage and Cowardice.................... 47
10. On the Fence.................... 55
11. The House of Eve.................... 61
12. In the Fight.................... 67
13. Of Pilgrimage and Trial.................... 73
14. Of Clay and Coal.................... 79
15. Steps of Sorrow.................... 85
16. Of Stick and Stone.................... 90
17. A Floating Forest.................... 95
18. The Battle for Adam's Wall.................... 102
19. At Trial's End.................... 111
20. Seth's Last Stand.................... 117
21. The Flaming Sword.................... 123