The Gathering, Part A: The Introduction
(Story IV-A in the Warrior Series)
by Miles H. Rost
(NOTE: If you’re interested in the previous three chapters of the Warrior Series, please go to these links: Part 1 – Unstoppable God, Invincible; Part II – Ambushed By Myself; Part III – Dull Swords. Also, please make sure to play the music at the appropriate spots. Finally, a warning that this is going to be long and have lots of description. It may be split. Be forwarned. -Miles)
“”Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed.” – Deuteronomy 16:15-16
It was here. The moment that we all had been waiting for.
We had traveled many days to get to the location. A long journey, going around various obstacles to the appointed place and time. We encountered many wagon trains, ox-carts and other sort of sundry delays. The time in which we were to go to the gathering was also a big time for many of the other people of the lands to celebrate their own festivals. Many of us were tired already when going there.
I was riding in the back of an ox-cart with two people who I befriended a long time ago when I was in the Sunlight Lands, far far to the south. They traveled many weeks, after receiving my note by carrier that this gathering was happening. The simple reply of the note was “We. Are. In.”
Cassie was a woman of stout resolution, with a playful yet sometimes stubborn streak. Even a broken leg didn’t hamper her efforts to get to our camp and travel onward. Further, she brought with the joyous Clarissa, a woman whose humor was considered legendary if not disarming. And we all ended up in the back of an ox-cart, traveling over bumps and rocks on the way.
After a couple of days in transit, we finally crested the last hill. We gazed upon the area where we would be gathering, and our mouths dropped in awe. The area were we arrived was incredibly beautiful. We spotted the main stage and areas up on top of a gently sloped but wide hill in the middle of the valley. This hill, as the locals told us, was called “Medicine Hill” in their language. They stated that the hill is where healing and rest was given to travelers through the land a long time ago, though it was only recently that it was being used for gatherings like this.
We noticed farther back from the hill, a giant lodge was tucked into the mountain lobes at the back base of the mountains. The lodge and adjoining houses would easily fit the entire congregation that was going to arrive, a seemingly massive complex that made us wonder what it would be like. We’ve been living in tents for a while, so having actual lodging was going to be quite different.
“It’s been 10 long years since I’ve been at a gathering,” I told Cassie, who was sitting up at the back of the cart with her leg stretched out in a brace, “I have no clue what to expect, and with everything happening lately, I am hoping some good stuff comes.”
“Things will do fine. There’s no reason to just hope. You’ve gone through a lot lately, and this is a way to process everything.”
Our caravan passed through a checkpoint, where a group of very hardy warriors searched the carts. Not only was this gathering well planned, but it was going to be well guarded as well. This made a few of us relax a bit more, as we descended the ridge into the hill valley below.
When we finally arrived at the lodge, we were given our orders as to where we were to stay. As per the custom of our warrior faction, men and women were separated unless they were married. I was to lodge in a modest lodge-hut with 5 other men, including one of my troopmates, Kazoyen.
A man of solid stature, and agile on his feet, Kazoyen was in a division of our forces, a division that dealt with fancy footwork and presentation that would distract and intimidate. They were kind of like our own version of ninjas. However, he would often be with our branch during the important struggles and enjoyed serving alongside us. He also knew where to forage for the best of our foods at camp.
“Hey, Kaz! It’s been a while! How’s the training with the crew?”
Kaz smiled back, as he put his stuff down in one of the bunks. He was sweating, which means he was likely done with a practice session.
“Doing well, Knight. We’ve been practicing three different footworks, and we’ll be presenting one of them this gathering.”
“I hope you’re not thinking about dropping a surprise on us. I heard that one of our leaders will be doing something crazy, as well.”
“Carlton. Leader of the Harbor Crew.”
“Isn’t he known for doing crazy stuff every gathering?”
I chuckled, more out of unsurity than actual knowledge.
“You’d probably know more than me. I haven’t been to a gathering in so long. That was way back when I was in the Western Lands.”
“Ah! I forgot about that. You’re still a bit new to our gatherings,” he replied, while scratching the front of his beard.
“That’s okay. I hope to be fully initiated by the time the gathering has finished.”
After swapping out pleasantries, and getting our things unloaded, we both went out to the main stage at the top of Medicine Hill. Even though our caravan came in non-descriptly, I knew that other major groups would not be so understated. I also knew that this would be something I would want to see.
As both of us reached the top of the hill, we both saw Ilya. Besides him was Erika, his wife. They were standing amidst the makeshift chairs and benches, looking off towards one of the three main gates. We walked up, and I gave Ilya a slap on the back.
“How’s it going, sir?”
“Ah! Knight! Things are good. How has training gone?”
I hesitated, drawing a sharp breath through my teeth.
“Well, I have a lot of work to do. My handling is sloppy, and it doesn’t help that my sword is balanced right, but that I am not.”
“It’s okay. You’ve been out of the saddle for a while, so it’s going to take a while to get your bearings together.”
I looked over to Erika and smiled.
“Erika, how are things going with you?”
“They’ve been really well. It’s interesting when you are waiting to see what will happen. I have a feeling that this gathering is going to be very special.”
“I’m not sure, Knight. I just have this feeling that there will be lots of revelations, that there will be a time of change for some of us. I also heard we’re getting some special visitors coming in from a land far away.”
I gave her a raised eyebrow, and gave her a querying look.
“You mean, you didn’t hear about the small contingent that’s been forming down in Mill Stream?”
“Mill Stream? You mean, the city with all those artists and creative type folks?”
“Yep! The same ones. Apparently, there’s a very small band of warriors who are coming up to join us for the Gathering.”
“Who are they going to be doubling up with when they get up here?”
“The Harbor Division. They already met them a week ago, and they’re on the way up.”
I was about to give a response, when we heard a loud horn blow. It sounded deep and guttural, but beautiful. I ran over to the side of the hill’s plateau and looked towards the southwest. Almost immediately as I recognized the caravan that came in, I bust out laughing.
Carrying the red and blue colors of their army, the Harbor Division rode in relatively quickly. Their commander, a hardy commander named Carlton, was standing with his second commander, who also was his wife, Mari. She was blowing on what looked like a didgeridoo, as he was standing like a captain. He had one leg bent, while the other was straight. He had what looked to be a yellow-colored wig on and what I could only assume as a sports jersey of some sort. As the rest of the caravan came in, he started playing what looked to be Spanish bagpipes. I could recognize the music he was playing instantly, and it just made things all the more hilarious. It was a spectacle that was likely not to be topped by any other caravan, as the Harbor Division was known for being on the humorous and outlandish side of the warrior spectrum.
I laughed heartily, until I could barely even breathe. Erika and Ilya were getting ready for me, in case I keeled over from laughing too much. After a few moments of gathering my breath, I stood again, ready to see more of the main caravan.
However, as the caravan finished passing through the gates, I noticed a blue standard with red and white stars following behind. I tapped Ilya on the shoulder and pointed, asking him which one that was.
“Oh, that’s the Mill Stream and Southern Harbor divisions. They’re currently under one banner while the Mill Stream folk get their training done.”
They were a small continent, all on one big wagon, but they were waving their standard with gusto. I realized that I absolutely must meet these people before the Gathering finished.
A movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I turned towards the western gate.
While quieter than the Harbor Division, the Forest Division were still a force to be reckoned with. The contingent was about the same size, maybe a slight bit smaller than the Harbor Division, but the deep green and blue of their standard was unmistakable. The commander, a slim man who carried respect and authority, stood atop the main wagon. Everyone simply referred to him as “Mikhail”, even though he did not look Russian at all. He held onto the hand of his second commander, who everyone simply called “Dream”. From the stories I was told of, she was someone who knew about the power of dreams, and many of our contingent spoke of her with high regard.
The contingent came in at a moderate pace, not looking at a lot of pomp and circumstance, but looking quite humble. It was as if respect was the main characteristic for their branch. They were the understated of all the divisions, but the power they held in their ranks was formidable. It would be foolish for any enemy to underestimate their resolve; that much was evident.
As both of the caravans cleared their respective gates, I turned my attention to the northern gate, where I heard the ringing of a bell. This was the newly re-christened Antioch Division. The bright yellow on their flags contrasted the deep blue also found on them. Being the largest division, they had the longest caravan. This was the flagship Division, the one from which all the others came. They had a lot to overcome in recent months, and the taking of Fort Antioch was a turning point for them.
At the front of the caravan was the commander of the division, and the major general to the entire group of divisions. No one has ever heard his real name, but everyone always just referred to him as “P.S.” To those who would look at him, they would think that he was a more rigid of a leader. But, once a person got to know him, they would see the humor come out almost quickly.
At his right hand was his wife, the brigadier general of the division that everyone just called “P.I.” Legends stated that she was given a heavenly blessing at the last Gathering, a memorable blessing, and that she had been taking time off. It wasn’t expected until the last day when in transit we found out she was going to be arriving. Needless to say, I was very excited that she was going to be around, as her words were very powerful.
The entire Antioch Division was a mix of all sorts of soldiers and warriors. There were so many different mixes, there was no way to really put in a theme or category for them. Which made them a category of their own, in certain ways. In the back of the caravan, I could hear crying out the words of someone that sounded very Latin or Spanish. She kept crying out behind her as the gate closed, and I looked to Kaz to find out what she was saying.
“Do you know?”
“I’m not sure, my romantic languages are rusty, but I think she’s saying ‘You do not come back to my house making noise with your pesky dancing shoes’. ”
My eyebrow went up, as I sat and thought about what was just said. I decided to file it away in my mind until later, hopefully to find out what it meant.
Last, but not least, I saw my crew. Coming through the western gate was our division, the Freedom Division. The caravan had our commander, Morgan, smiling and some small movements that one might have called dancing. He looked like a man who would have fun, and knowing him like I did, I knew he was a fun guy. I also knew that he took business seriously, which made the fun image a bit more unique.
I continued to look at the caravan, with Kaz, Ilya, and Erika giving waves to all those who came in. We waved at our compadres, who were looking around the gated compound with eyes full of wonder. Chesley and Siobhan were the first to see us, and they waved with bright, broad smiles on their faces. Brian and Kristi were guarding the middle. Brian kept watching around the caravan, while Kristi seemed to be jumping up and down with joy.
As all the caravans got into their places, I returned to our lodge with Kaz. He had to go and practice, but we would talk later. I decided to take a nap, in order to get things together for the night to come.
Five hours later, while still tired, I awoke in time to hear the call to gather. Putting on my cleanest garments, I rushed out of the lodge to join my brothers and sisters in the Gathering.
I got up the side of the hill, and I was met by Chelsey, who was bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet.
“Knight! You made it! Tia’s been looking for you. She wants you to join her up front!”
“Up front? Well, it’s where I usually am for the monthly mini-gatherings. I may as well! Care to lead, sis?”
She beamed up at me, and walked me over to where Tia had taken a seat. Tia looked up at me, and gave me a bright smile. She jumped up to give me a hug, grinning broadly.
“Are you ready for this, Knight? Are you ready?”
“Uh…I hope so. It’s been 10 years since, and I really don’t remember how this all works. But I’ll do my best.”
“You’re gonna do fine! You’ve got the Spirit in ya, and that means everything.”
“Are you sure? I’m old hat. I’ve not done a lot of the stuff that you all have done before. I mean, I have danced…”
“Knight, don’t worry. Old and young have no worries. There are folks here approaching 50 who will go crazy in worship for our Lord. The optics are nothing, just pour it out and worship extravagantly.”
I was about to respond when we heard the call. We heard the voice of the second head of the martial corps, a lady of small stature but large heart whose name I had forgotten. She was one of the leaders of the Antioch Division’s martial corps, and they were ready to get us moving.
“People! Warriors! Let us rise to give praise to our Father! We have a lot of good things happening tonight, so let us prepare our hearts to give praise and receive His grace!”
As we started singing, I felt all of the self-consciousness start to slip away. Like dirt that was being washed away, all of the old thoughts started to drip off. The self-consciousness of many years, the worries about whether things were authentic, doubt, fear, all dripping off like water off armor. The beat poured into each and every heart in the assembly. While I could feel what all was going on around me, all of the sounds and feelings faded away until it was just myself, dancing and singing to my Lord.
In a glance, I was able to look around at so many different folks. Different warriors from the different division, all worshiping in their own ways. I saw a few fighters bouncing and jumping, and even one doing backflips. It was truly a show of freedom. I even saw Brian, my mentor and accountability brother, calling on his roots in his dancing. This was a blessed event, indeed. And this was only the first song.
We spent many minutes in worship, using movements that showed our reverence and thanks for His grace and his presence. I could easily see all of the warrior, all our divisions, their spirit becoming stronger with each bar.
Even as the music transitioned into slower musics down the line, the devotion that each warrior showed was incredible. Battle hardened warriors giving their all in worship. I saw Tia, sitting on the ground, raising her hands with her eyes closed. She exuded a peaceful, yet glorious reverence for our Lord.
After a good while of praise and worship for our God, we all saw P.S. walk up onto the stage area. Many of us moved to go back to our seats, when we heard him cry out.
“Stay! Let us continue to celebrate! I call for the new recruits of our divisions to come forward.”
As I started walking towards the front of the stage area, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a new recruit, but I knew that there was so much that I had yet to learn. I did not know whether I would be reproved for my failure, or whether I would have been rewarded, or even whether I would be passed over.
All of us, a great multitude, just stood with our eyes closed. We would be listening to what P.S. had to say, but we would also be spending more time in communion with the Great General himself.
To Be Continued…