The adventures of Samuel Arkwright begin...
|Defenders of the Faith: Chapter 1
Samuel Arkwright stands in a wheat field, gazing up at an overcast sky. Though he doesn’t know it now, his life is about to change forever.
As Samuel watched the approaching storm, his best friend Daniel came to stand next to him.
“I really don’t see what’s so fascinating about storm clouds.”
“It’s not the clouds,” Samuel replied. “It’s the lightning.” As if on cue, a bolt struck in the distance.
“Let’s get inside, it’s gonna open up soon. Besides, you wanna be rested when the new girl shows up tomorrow.” Daniel nudged him and walked away.
‘She’s a wheat farmer, how impressive can she really be?’ Samuel thought. Still, he heeded his friend’s advice and headed back toward the house as the rains began to fall.
Caeli Rayne stared out the window of the taxi cab as it pulled up to an old, ranch-style house. She could barely contain her excitement as she got out and saw her new employer standing on the porch. She paid the cabbie, then ran up to meet him, her cross necklace bouncing against her chest. She smiled warmly and extended her hand to him.
“Caeli Damaris Rayne, grain grower and Christ connoisseur!” He took her hand, not entirely sure what to think.
“Samuel James Arkwright,” he replied calmly, “Farmer.”
Exactly! Farmer and what?” Samuel just shook his head.
“Just a farmer, that’s it. Let me show you what you’ll be doing.”
Samuel and Caeli stood facing the wheat field that took up the majority of the Arkwright property.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” A voice said from behind them. Daniel walked up, grinning, and offered his hand to Caeli.
“Daniel Richardson, Samuel’s only friend and fellow wheat nurturer.” Caeli shook his hand with a skeptical look on her face.
“That’s a little egotistical, isn’t it? Saying you’re his only friend?” Samuel turned to her, his face showing the shame he felt trying to overwhelm him.
“No, he’s right. Daniel’s been my only friend since Mom and Dad died. Everyone else just wants money or wheat from me.”
“I see...” Caeli said, her normally cheerful expression fading. But then it came back full force. “Well not anymore, now you’ve got two friends!” She reached up to high five Samuel and he barely got his own hand up in time to keep hers from connecting with his nose.
Later that night, Daniel showed Caeli around the house while Samuel sat in his room, locked behind the heavy oak door.
“Your room is down there,” Daniel said, pointing down the easternmost first floor hallway.
“There’s a full bathroom behind it and a full walk-in closet. The door locks, in case you were wondering.”
“Sweet! Thanks, Daniel!”
“No problem. Good night, Caeli,” he said with a smile as he walked toward his own bedroom. Caeli glanced at her room, then at Samuel’s room at the other end of the hall.
A knock came on Samuel’s door.
“Go to bed, Daniel.”
“It’s Caeli!” With a sigh, Samuel got up and unlocked the door. Caeli pushed it open and stepped in cautiously. “Hi. Can we talk?” Samuel eyed her suspiciously.
“Sure... what’s on your mind?” Caeli sat on the edge of Samuel’s bed, facing away from him.
“Is wheat farming what God’s calling you to do, Samuel?”
“W-what do you mean?” She turned to face him.
“Wheat farming. Is that all you wanna do with your life? You can’t tell me this all you want outta life. I know God wants more for you.”
“What God wants for me...” Samuel scoffed. “God wants me to be a miserable old man with a wheat field. Might as well not disappoint him.”
“So you do believe in God?” Caeli asked, brightening a little.
“I... I guess so... Look, God’s doing his thing, I’m doing mine, we don’t need each other.”
“Nonsense, come on!” Before he could protest, Caeli was dragging Samuel off the bed and out the front door.
“Caeli, it’s raining, what are you doing?!”
“The best place to encounter God is in the middle of the storm, so we’re going into the storm!”
“You’re insane!” But it was too late, she was already pulling him into the wheat field beneath a soft rainfall.
“Well? What do you wanna say to God?” Caeli asked, barely able to contain her excitement.
“‘This is stupid,’ is what I wanna say to you... God doesn’t care about me.”
“Yes, He does. Talk to Him. Get whatever’s bothering you off your chest.”
“Fine,” Samuel sighed. He looked up into the rain and took a deep breath. “How could you?! How could you take them and leave me here?! I never wanted to be a wheat farmer!! You took them away from me and now I’m gonna die an old, miserable man, who never got to LIVE HIS OWN LIFE!!!!!” Though thunder rumbled in the distance, the answer was as Samuel expected.
“Happy now?” He turned to walk away as Caeli hung her head.
“God, please, show him the way. I know you meant more for him than this...”
All at once, the rains stopped and, as Samuel looked skyward, a lightning bolt descended and struck the ground at his feet. The resulting force hurled him backward and he hit the dirt hard. Caeli rushed over to him, but he was already unconscious.
“Samuel. Wake up, son.” Samuel groaned as he instinctively obeyed the ubiquitous voice’s command.
“Where am I?” Instead of answering, a figure dressed in a brilliant white robe appeared and strode toward him.
“Eric Clapton?! Okay, I’m definitely dreaming...” The man chuckled, but looked squarely at Samuel again.
“You know who I am, Samuel.” The young man sighed as he hung his head.
“What do you want with me? Why now?”
“Excellent questions. The time has come. All of the pieces are now in place.”
“Time for what, what pieces? What are you talking about?!”
“Caeli Damaris Rayne was the last piece that needed to be implemented before the story of Samuel James Arkwright could continue.”
“Yknow, I really wish you would just tell me what you want, instead of this riddle-talk...”
“You have been chosen, Samuel. You will wield great power in my name.”
“Like a preacher? Come on. I think we both know that’s a little far fetched.”
“Walk with me, Samuel.” Jesus smiled and, as Samuel looked on, the darkness surrounding them vanished, replaced by the familiar sight of Samuel’s wheat field. Samuel watched as, slowly, the wheat disintegrated, until nothing but dead ground was left. At length, Jesus spoke,
“The world has allowed demons to run rampant for far too long. Yet, my Father has not instructed me that it is time to begin the war with Lucifer. Therefore, it is to you We look, Samuel. The people of this world are as your wheat field. If they are not rescued from this plague, they will surely allow their own destruction.”
“What do you want me to do about it? I’m a wheat farmer, not a miracle worker...”
“Use my word. Speak it aloud.” Suddenly a gleaming sword appeared before him. “Demons will confront you. They sense and fear the power within you, Samuel. Strike the demons with this and it will bind them and cast them before me.” Samuel picked up the sword and examined it, holding it with both hands.
“Kinda medieval, Don’t ya think...?”
“These are dark ages, Samuel. Demonic times call for drastic measures.”
“...What about Daniel? What do I tell him and Caeli about this?”
“Tell them everything, but instruct them to tell no one. It is not yet time to reveal your mission to the world.” Jesus closed his eyes and began to fade away from Samuel’s vision.
“Wait! Why me?!”
“You have been chosen,” Jesus voice came back to him, “You and your friends are the defenders of the faith.”
“Samuel, wake up!” Caeli pleaded. Daniel, kneeling next to him, slapped his face.
“Wake up, you are not leaving me here in charge!” He reached back to slap him again, but Caeli stayed his hand as Samuel’s eyes fluttered open. With a groan he sat up and reoriented himself.
“What happened to you?!” Daniel asked.
“Christ happened. Look, I don’t expect you to believe this, but Jesus spoke to me. He gave me... us... a mission.” Both of his friends stared at him for a long moment. Then Daniel burst out laughing as he stood up.
“Good one, bud! Dinner’ll be ready in ten.” He walked back in the house, leaving Samuel and Caeli sitting in the field.
“I believe you,” Caeli said. “Tell me about this mission.” Samuel relayed what Jesus had told him, as a look of increasing interest lit Caeli’s face.
“I have an idea,” Caeli suggested. “Why don’t we start a bible study, so we can learn more about what it is we’re supposed to do?” The unsure look on her boss’ face spurred her on. “It’s the best way to learn about what we’re dealing with and you know it...”
“....fine... where do we start?”
“Somewhere between Genesis and Revelation!” Samuel gave her a sour look.
“Obviously. I know next to nothing about this, Caeli. Where does the Bible talk about casting out demons?”
“Well, it’s all over the gospels and Acts... let’s start there!”
“Gospels it is...” Samuel said, still not entirely settled with the idea.
“Daniel, join us.” Several weeks had passed since the storm that set Samuel on his new path.
“Yeah... I’m good. Maybe when lightning strikes me.” As Daniel walked away, Samuel shook his head.
“It’s like he doesn’t care...” Caeli put her hand on his forearm.
“I think it’s actually that he cares a lot. He’s afraid of what will happen if we pursue this.” Samuel looked back up, a smoldering fire lighting his eyes.
“He’ll be on board when he sees what we’re up against.”
“Speaking of that...” Caeli said, glancing at the Sword, “Do you know how to use that thing?”
“It can’t be much different than swinging a scythe, can it?” The skeptical look on Caeli’s face told him otherwise. “I know someone that can help. Randy something or another... I’ll look into it tomorrow, where were we?”
“Second Corinthians, twelve, nineteen.” Samuel looked back down at the pages in his hands.
“‘Perhaps you think we’re saying these things just to defend ourselves. No, we tell you this as Christ’s servants, and with God as our witness. Everything we do, dear friends, is to strengthen you.’
Strengthen... Paul wasn’t so much admonishing them or clearing his own conscience as he was building them up. I think we should be doing that too...”
“Excellent,” Caeli beamed, “You know, I’m proud of how far you’ve come in such a short time, Samuel.”
“Well, I’ve got a good teacher, so...”
“All God’s doing, I’m just a power conduit,” Caeli said, raising a hand to stop him. Samuel nodded as he glanced back down at his bible. A faint, but recognizable voice suddenly whispered,
“Acts 19:13.” All at once, the pages of Samuel’s bible fluttered as they turned themselves.
“Acts... nineteen, thirteen...” he said slowly, “‘A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of The Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, ‘I command you, in the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, to come out!’ The men doing this were the seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, ‘Jesus I know. Paul I know of. Who are you?’ Then the man with the evil spirit within leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.’”
Samuel took a moment to digest the reading before speaking. He’d been directed here for a reason and he thought he knew the answer.
“So saying ‘In the name of the Jesus we’ve read about’ won’t work...”
“The sons of Sceva’s mistake was their lack of faith. They put their trust in Paul, rather than The Lord, and they paid for it. If we want to be effective, we have to be mindful of this lesson.” As she spoke, the pages again flipped, this time to the eighth chapter of Matthew. The words took on a slight glow as Samuel read them.
“‘When Jesus came to the other side of the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were possessed by demons accosted Him as they came out of the tombs. They were so violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?! Have you come to torture us before the appointed time?!’”
“Keep reading,” Caeli encouraged, a smile lighting her beautiful face, “It’s just about to get good!”
“‘Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them,’” Samuel continued, “‘The demons began to beg Jesus, saying, ‘If you are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine!’ And He said to them, ‘Go!’ And they came out and went into the herd of swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters.’”
All at once, Samuel’s bible slapped shut of its own accord.
“...What’s the lesson?” Caeli prompted, “What are we supposed to take from this?” Samuel closed his eyes as he focused on the verses.
“The demon asked if Jesus was there to torture them... they begged to be cast into something else....” his eyes snapped open, “Demons need a host. Being without one is torturous to them.” Caeli’s smile spread once more, the pride in her student showing on her face.
“You’re getting good at this. Let’s call it a night and we’ll pick this up tomorrow afternoon.”
“Well, we’re going to church in the morning...” Samuel just stared at her for a moment.
“Yeah, okay, you’re right, we’ll go...” he said, finally resigning himself to the idea, “But I’m not dressing up. Jeans and a t-shirt.”
“I don’t think that’ll be a problem,” Caeli said with a knowing smile.
“Come on, Daniel, it’ll do you good.”
“I’ve got all the good I need right here, Samuel,” the stubborn man replied, holding up the leftover Pizza Hut box. Samuel’s admonishing look prompted a sigh. “Look, unless Jesus himself comes to me and says, ‘Daniel, go to church,’ I’m not going. You kids have fun, I’ll guard the fort til you get back.” Samuel just issued his own sigh as he watched his best friend walk away. His thoughts were interrupted though as Caeli called,
“Hurry up, slowpoke, we’re gonna be late!” Samuel picked up his new bible and headed out the screen door to meet Caeli.
“Reverend Ohmer is cool, I think you’ll like him,” she remarked as they got into Samuel’s old Jeep.
“As long as his words line up with The Word, I’m sure we’ll get along fine.”
Noon found them standing by the door with the man of God.
“Reverend Ohmer, this is my friend Samuel, Samuel, Reverend Ohmer.”
“Howdy,” Samuel said, shaking the holy man’s hand.
“And a good day to you as well, Mister Arkwright.” At the startled look on Samuel’s face, he added, “Caeli tells me you’re a wheat farmer?” Samuel quickly recovered with a smile.
“Yes, sir. My parents owned and operated Arkwright Farms.”
“Ah, that would make sense. By your use of the past tense, am I to understand that they’ve already gone to be with The Lord?”
“I see. Well, you’re always welcome here, and I’m always ready to listen if you’d like to talk.” Samuel just nodded as Caeli piped up.
“Actually, Reverend, there was something I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Of course, Miss Rayne, step into my office.” As Caeli walked toward the altar with Reverend Ohmer, Samuel glanced out a nearby window toward the darkening sky. Something told him he should go outside, and as he did, he noticed that the darkness above seemed extremely unnatural for this time of day, and not like any storm cloud he’d ever seen. Instantly on guard, he turned for the door.
“Caeli! You might wanna see this!” The young girl and the preacher rushed from the altar to see what had Samuel freaking out. As they gazed, the sky momentarily lost all light. Then, as thunder made its presence felt, a bright lightning bolt struck the ground across the street. In the bolt’s place stood a young female, a self-assured grin on her face. She cracked her knuckles as she walked toward the church.
“Reverend, go back inside,” Samuel said as an unexpected feeling of calm settled over him.
“If you think I’m going to run away from a harmless adolescent girl, you are sorely mistaken, Mister Arkwright.”
“That’s no adolescent girl,” Samuel replied grimly, “That’s a demon.”
“All the more reason for me to stay put!” Samuel had to tell him. It was the only way to keep the holy man safe.
“Reverend...” Samuel sighed as he closed his eyes. On his command, the sword that Jesus had given him appeared in his hand, “Jesus gave us a mission... One that Caeli and I have to handle alone for the time being.” Reverend Ohmer’s face was grim and there were clearly things he wished to respond with, but instead, he nodded and turned back toward the church door.
“Christ be with you, Samuel,” he said as he disappeared inside the sanctuary. Samuel turned back toward the demon just in time to catch a fist to the face. Caeli was already attempting to recover from her own sucker punch as Samuel looked up at the demon from the ground. Finally getting a good look at her host’s face, he instantly recognized her.
“Kara?! Is that you?!”
“Not anymore,” the demon laughed, “I’m in control now. Oh, that poor, idiot is still in here, begging me to stop hurting her friend, though. She seems to do a lot of begging.” The demon punctuated it’s monologue with a swift kick to Samuel’s ribs and an amused laugh. Samuel gasped for breath as the demon snarled above him.
“I cannot believe the golden boy picked you as his champion.” Samuel tried to bring the sword to bear, but the demon kicked it away and it clattered on the ground. As the demon drew back to kick him again, however, it recoiled instead as Caeli’s booted heel smacked her full in the face. The demon whirled on the new assailant and began chanting in Latin. As a ball of pure darkness formed in the demon’s hand, Caeli instinctively threw her arms in a defensive X in front of her face. Much to her own surprise, the ball of darkness never touched her. She opened her eyes, astonished, at the shield that had materialized before her. It was limned with an ever so slight golden glow and it was much lighter than it appeared. Caeli could almost completely hide behind this kite shield, and yet she could easily lift it with one arm. The borderlines glowed as well, a fiery red, with the words of Ephesians, chapter six, verse sixteen: “In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.”
The demon, none too pleased, stalked forward furiously, contorting Kara’s face in rage. It’s arm crackling with dark electricity, it cocked a fist to punch at Caeli. The blow never landed, however, as the tip of Samuel’s sword poked through the demon’s chest. Caeli looked over to see the young man, still struggling to his feet.
“In the name and authority of Christ Jesus, get out, demon.” Caeli’s confusion quickly turned to relief as the sword was violently ripped from the vessel. The demon howled in agony as it was likewise torn from its host. The sword wound closed itself, showing not even so much as a small scar in its place. The girl collapsed to the ground at Caeli’s feet.
“Daniel!” Caeli exclaimed, throwing her arms up. The shield disappeared as she wrapped her arms around him.
“What changed your mind?” Samuel asked as he staggered toward them, still not quite recovered from the kick to the ribs.
“Jesus did,” Daniel replied as he broke the embrace with Caeli. “I heard His voice first, but I didn’t believe it was Him until He was standing in the kitchen next to me saying, ‘Daniel, go to church.’” Samuel just smiled, but at that moment, Kara stirred.
“Kara, are you alright?” Samuel asked as he knelt down beside her.
“I... I am now... thanks to the three of you.” Daniel was about to say something in return, but the sudden change of expression on Kara’s face stole both his reply and grin away. Her hand shaking with unbridled fear, she pointed past the trio and they turned to see a woman standing over them. Samuel didn’t have time to react as a wave of energy pulsed over the four of them and pinned them to the ground.
“Pitiful,” the woman sneered, her outstretched hand keeping the energy field in place. “Oh, how I wish I could just kill you now and be rid of you worthless meat bags. Alas, Lucifer would be displeased. ‘Don’t kill them, Lilith, I have plans for them.’ Pff... yeah... whatever.”
“Satan... sent you...” Samuel grit out.
“Lucifer!!!” Lilith screamed, flexing her hand and causing the energy field to intensify. She dropped into a squat next to him and looked him in the eye.
“Lucifer just wanted me to let you know that he’s watching. And that he’s intrigued by Daddy’s little project.” The energy field intensified again, becoming almost unbearable as the door of the church burst open. Reverend Ohmer stalked out, firing a Nerf SuperSoaker as he approached. The holy water sizzled and burned on Lilith’s skin. Snarling, she disappeared in a flash of darkness. The five of them looked at each other, shaky, but whole... for the moment.