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Chapter Fourteen

The Hall Doors

I wasn’t exactly sure what Father had intended for me to do with the sword. Nevertheless, I did as Father commanded and retrieved my sister, along with the sword and shield.

Madeline held the shield with both hands and followed me. I turned for a moment to catch Mother’s smiling glance. Into one hand I took the sword and proceeded up the stairs. Sajon’s men moved aside, eyes widened and peering toward that which they longed to hold but never would. Even Sajon beheld the sword and shield in a way that suggested reverence and humility. I fully expected him to bow as we passed, but he did not. Father stood near to the doors examining their design.

“You must not destroy these doors, young ones,” Father insisted. “They have endured from the beginning and we shall not bring an end to their proclamation today. And the damage they have tolerated can be repaired.”

“What are your intentions, Father?” I asked.

“What are your intentions, dear boy?” he returned immediately. “What is your goal?”

“We are to open the doors,” I said.

“No,” Madeline replied and took a step forward, “We are to save the people trapped in the darkness within. That is our goal.”

“Well said, Madeline,” Father continued, “But how shall we do this when that which keeps them in bondage must also be preserved and restored?” We both considered his words carefully (I more so than Madeline since I’d already answered poorly). Madeline suggested,

“We must do it with great care.”

“Yes, we must,” Father said as if he expected more to be said. But rather than wait, he continued, “These doors have stood as a means to render the Annals in simple and suitable words to everyone that passes. The histories of our great land and the Sower’s worthy praise have forever been proclaimed in purity from these posts. Should we tear them down as obstacles, as things no longer useful to us, or shall we consider them sacred and seek to preserve them?”

“We ought not to destroy such a worthy emblem of Ganchimi,” I said boldly.

“I would offer the possibility,” Father proceeded, “that they protected those within not because of their magnanimous size or their impenetrable stature, but because of what they are in place to do.” Father took a moment to drop down and reach forward to draw us close. Giving a solemn gaze, he kept on, “Otem may reduce everything in Ganchimi to dust and ashes, but there are those who will withstand the fire and continue on simply because of who they are and what they proclaim. Of this you can be certain.” Rising again to his feet, he offered, “With that said, what shall we do to preserve these doors and save the people?” Madeline and I still had no idea what we should do, but only that we needed to act. Father, seeing that we still knew not how to proceed, offered another suggestion.

“I know that these doors are fashioned on free pivots.” Pointing to the hinges, he added, “They were constructed and then lowered into the hinges. The top frame was then constructed at the last. It is to our advantage that the tops of the doors have now buckled in the heat, for with the space that has been given between the doors and the frame, our task is manageable.”

“Are you now suddenly of feeble mind, Caretaker?” I heard Sajon call from a few steps away. “I know where your wits are in this. You are suggesting that we lift the doors from their pivots. You will never achieve such an exploit. And even if it were possible to do this, how would we lay them gently to the ground without more damage? Each of the doors must certainly weigh more than fifty tons!”

“Joshua will lift it and Madeline will see that it rests carefully.” Father spoke these words as if he knew of no other logical way. In fact, he spoke them with such casual speech that it suggested a foolishness and insanity that was either without doubt or was completely disconnected from reality.

“But Father…” I attempted before he interrupted me.

“You will do this.”

“I could never do such a thing!” I said insisting that I was incapable.

“And Madeline will be crushed beneath the weight of the door,” Mother screamed in an angry tone from across the pavement near the steps, now starting to approach Father. “How dare you suggest such a thing?!”

“Have you joined in the disbelief, too, woman?” Father asked pointedly and yet still with a kind nature. With Mother’s words, Sajon’s men had already begun to laugh. Father was being ridiculed. Mother realized almost immediately what she had done. Though unintentional, she had shown a lack of faith in what had already been made known to her on more than one occasion.

“Very well,” Father said and lifted his arms to silence the racket. His voice became loud and heated. “If I must appeal to your logic, I will do so. Tell me of the children’s abilities to defeat the Picker beasts, and in such great numbers! Enlighten me with the facts of Joshua’s capacity for outwitting and defeating the agile Sajon on the path to Painoct.” Sajon savored a moment of disgrace as father continued, “Are we all capable of leaping into the treetops above? Do we all possess such skill at birth and are now waiting to discover it? Make a decree and give detail so that I may understand how a child is able to chop down the loftiest trees with a single blow. Tell me how a lad and young lady may defeat a warrior troll and cause him to cower with great fear and sadness in defeat. Tell me!” Father’s hues became that of intense anger and he pressed a lawful tone. “Use your wisdom and teach me so that I may know the truth. All of you! What more is there to give than you have not received in the flesh before you will consider the truth? Cast aside your doubting and believe, you wretched fools!” Turning to me, he shouted, “I believe! Joshua, lift the door! Madeline, stand ready to free the people!”

“No, Christof!” Mother called out in despair. Father restrained her and moved her away from where the door would fall. I looked back to see Mother struggling to free herself from Father’s embrace. When she realized he would not loose her, she buried her face into his chest and burst forth into tears. Madeline remained still and yet was quite surprised by the actions between Mother and Father. I was of the same for I have never beheld such vigorously irate contact between them. Never have I seen Father demand such obedience and use force to achieve it.

At his words, I moved immediately to the door on the right. I laid the sword at my feet and positioned both hands at the base of the colossal gate that seemingly stretched up into the heavens.

“Put Madeline in place, Sajon!” Father demanded. Sajon moved to Madeline and positioned her stance according to where the center of the door would fall.

“You needn’t worry that you’ll witness the squashing of your precious kin,” Sajon said as he passed back by Mother. “The boy will never get the door off of its hinge. This is a futile matter.”

“Prepare the shield, Madeline!” Father called. “Lift it above your head and prepare!” Madeline had a dreadful look of fear sweep across her as she turned back at Father’s words. She lifted the shield above her and took a leg back to support. Her face was awash and she closed her eyes.

I shifted a bit from side to side as one will do before lowering enough to lift a heavy pile of cinder bricks or kindling wood. I closed my eyes and paused.

“I’ll never lift this door,” I hushed to myself. I took a deep breath and grunted out a strained effort to lift. I tried again. The door didn’t budge.

“Did I not tell you,” Sajon said proudly. “Even with the proper tools, a man with the strength of 100 horses could not accomplish this alone.”

“Bear the sword in one hand and lift with the other,” Father demanded. Mother was looking on and appearing more at ease now that I had been unsuccessful. Madeline relaxed her stance as she too seemed a bit relieved. Sajon and his men laughed again.

“Stop it!” Madeline cried. She did not appreciate others taunting Father.

“Caretaker!” Sajon called. “Let the boy rest and we’ll leave these people to die within the Hall in peace.”

“Lift it, Joshua.” Father said quietly. “Finish the task at hand, son.” Madeline resumed her position, this time with what seemed a bit more confidence. Nodding to me, she said, “Do it, Joshua. I am not afraid.” I nodded back and picked up the sword with my left hand. It lifted within my grasp with great ease. I reached back down below the base and closed my eyes once again. I said nothing. Breathing in the smoky air that wafted and crept through the pillars that lined the outer edge of the Hall, I took a brief moment to silence my thoughts. In a great exhale of strength to my right arm, I pressed against the stone floor with my feet and pulled up on the bottom of the door. Everything was still, but only for a moment. There came a scraping of wrought metal against metal that gradually grew louder as the door indeed lifted from its hinges. The stones beneath my feet began to crack as the sound of weighty hunks of joined metal became dislodged, reverberating against the stone walls that comprised the door frame. At that moment, I was lifting the door. Sajon and his men slowly paced forward in disbelief. Father consoled Mother and encouraged her to continue watching as her son shone forth as the true heir to the Sower once again.

Once the door was free of the pivots, I jostled it free from the frame and withdrew my hand from its base, dropping it to the stone floor. In a piercing crash that rivaled the sound of a lightning strike, the door smashed against the floor, cracking the stones and throwing up shards of rubble from beneath its incredible weight. I moved aside as right away it began to teeter toward us. Sajon’s men scattered backward and Father held Mother close, withdrawing to the backside of a pillar. The door began to fall forward toward Madeline. Mother screamed in terror and reached out toward her daughter. Father continued to hold her.

Madeline lifted up the shield toward the falling giant and closed her eyes. Everyone (including myself) turned their heads away from what seemed to be the end of the little girl from the Nefton Woods. They expected an awful crash and a cloud of dust to billow up. However, there came an intense clang, as if a bell of great size had been rung. But it was not the stone floor upon which the door gonged, rather it was the shield held in the tiny arms of that same little girl. Madeline stood with her eyes closed beneath the gigantic door that hovered above her. She was holding its full weight alone.

“Quickly! You must help her, Joshua!” Father shouted. “Madeline, you must work your way to the top and let Joshua lower the door to the ground.” Madeline opened her eyes to see that she was completely enveloped within the dark shadow of the impossible feat she had accomplished. Right away she began to drag the shield above her. Screeching against the metal, the shield scraped the door and knocked against its etchings. I moved to the edge at the top of the door and used my arm to hold the door in place so that Madeline could retreat from beneath. I gave out a grunt and slowly lowered the door to within a few inches of the pavement. I stepped back and dropped it. Even from such a short distance, the fall of the door shook the ground beneath us, causing a startled expression to all.

Father let Mother go and almost at once she was with Madeline to scoop her from her feet with a solid embrace. Sajon and his men said nothing but merely looked over the massive door that lay resting undisturbed on the ground. Father brushed the dust from his overcoat and stepped toward the door. He gathered both Madeline and me to stand before him and he presented us to Sajon’s men.

“Your weak faith does not make the reality of this truth any less visible,” he said ushering us up onto the edge of the door. “Do not be concerned with what you believe to be true, but rather let the truth shape what it is that you believe. And then, even the simplest of gestures will have the muscle to move others to join the crusade.”

Sajon and his men dropped to their knees. Drawing their swords, Sajon led them in proclaiming,

“Hail the Heroes of Ganchimi! Hail!”

“Put away your swords, brothers, and rise to your feet,” Father said motioning for them to rise. “We must attend to the people in need.”

It wasn’t long before people emerged from the darkness of the Hall and into the smoky air that filled their beloved borough. Bishop Pomnthos stepped out of the shadows and came forward to Father.

“It is good to see you, brother,” Pomnthos said as he gave a firm embrace. His albs were dirty and singed. His clothing matched his face and grayed beard, suggesting that he had experienced a dreadful event. “We have been expecting you for some time.”

“Yes, I know,” Father said. “With the rains, we were unable to cross the Milver-Lion until Painoct. It is there we were held for a short time.”

“It is by the Sower’s providence that you were late,” Pomnthos replied, “for treachery has taken root among the Assembly and your lives would have been in danger.”

“What do you mean?” Father asked.

“First let us care for the people and then I will give you an account.” Father agreed and called Sajon’s men to deliver the supplies they had gathered from the chambers. Bishop Pomnthos looked toward me and smiled.

“Well done, dear boy. Well done.”