The continuing adventures of Samuel Arkwright and co.!
|Defenders of the Faith: Chapter 2
“Caeli, where did you put my ‘Know Jesus, know peace’ shirt?” Samuel Arkwright hollered from his room.
“In your closet, eighteenth hanger from the left!” Came the reply. Samuel returned to the hangers as Caeli turned back to her conversation partner.
“So, Kara, how long have you known Samuel?” She smiled over the rim of her coffee, assuring the other girl it was an honest question.
“We met in our senior year at Laramie High. He, uh... he didn’t notice me at first. I had the biggest crush on him, but I was kind of a plain looking nerd and ridiculously shy. Not exactly the type that gets picked first, Yknow?” Caeli placed her hand over Kara’s.
“I know exactly what you mean, dear.” She was about to say more, but Samuel came down the stairs, interrupting the moment.
“You two ready?”
“Yeah...” Kara said, obviously hesitant. As if reading her mind, Caeli gently squeezed her hand.
“It’s alright. No one holds what happened against you. We all know it wasn’t really you.” Kara’s smile didn’t quite evict the sadness from her eyes.
“Thank you, Caeli.” A horn sounded from outside and the three of them rushed to the door to see Daniel waiting impatiently.
“Let’s go, Jesus wouldn’t have made us wait like this!”
“Actually...” Samuel began.
“Samuel James Arkwright, if you quote the story of Lazarus to me, I swear on the harvest, I will leave you here!!” The young man just grinned as the three of them piled into Daniel’s old Chevy.
“...So I’ll leave you with this: Ask not what God can do for you, ask what you can do for God! Go and love!” Sermon concluded, Reverend Ohmer dismissed his congregation and stepped over to join Samuel and his friends. A smile lit his face as he spoke,
“So good to see you this morning, Samuel. It’s been an interesting couple weeks.”
“Interesting might not be the right word, Reverend,” Samuel replied with a smile of his own.
“Perhaps not,” the holy man said with a wink, “And please, you don’t have to call me Reverend all the time. Simply Kaleb will do.” He turned his attention to the girl standing in the back, trying not to be noticed. “Who’s your friend, now that she’s herself again?”
“Ah, this is Kara Milano.” The Reverend moved to shake her hand and she took it nervously.
“A pleasure, Miss Milano. No relation to Alyssa Milano, I presume?”
“Not... that I know of...” Kara said, averting her eyes. Reverend Ohmer gave her an understanding glance and looked back to Samuel.
“If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to discuss something with Miss Milano in private.” At this her head snapped up, fear clouding her steel grey eyes. “Daniel, join me, if you would. Accountability and all that jazz.” Daniel and Kara followed Reverend Ohmer back up toward the lectern, leaving Samuel standing by the door with Caeli. The young lady looked like she wanted to say something but she was doing a decent job of hiding it. Still, Samuel could tell something was up.
“What is it?”
“I shouldn’t say anything...” Caeli replied, debating whether to share what was on her mind.
“Caeli, I don’t have the patience for guessing games...”
“Okay, okay, it’s about Daniel...”
“What about Daniel...?” Samuel said, a note of worry on his voice.
“I... no, I shouldn’t say. He can tell
you if he wants to...”
“Caeli...” Before she could respond, however, Reverend Ohmer came walking back up to them, Daniel and Kara in tow.
“That was quick,” Samuel observed.
“A simple matter, asked and answered,” Reverend Ohmer assured him. “But I must go, the praise band is meeting soon. You four take care and I’ll see you next Sunday.” As he finished speaking, he made a point to look at Kara, then walked away.
“Can we go home now?” Kara asked into the silence.
Midnight found Samuel alone in his room, reading Ephesians. A soft knock came at the door and his head snapped up.
“Samuel? It’s Kara...”
“Come in.” The young lady slowly opened the door and stepped in.
“I wanted... I wanted to talk to you about the mission...”
“Sure,” Samuel said, sitting fully upright. “What do you want to know?” Kara walked quietly over to the bed and sat down.
“Well, I... after what happened, when I let that... monster... control me...” She looked him square in the eye.
“I want to help. I want to make up for my sin.”
“I understand.” Samuel got the sense that wasn’t all that was on her mind. “What else?”
“What do you mean?” Samuel raised his eyebrow in return. Kara smiled and hung her head.
“I never could lie to you.” She looked back up at him, her grey eyes glistening silver. “I, uh... I know this isn’t really the best time, but... well, I was wondering if... maybe sometime... you’d wanna get dinner...? Like just us?”
“Like a date?”
“I mean, yeah, sure, you can call it that, I, uh... Yknow what, forget I said it, it’s dumb...” Kara looked away, her cheeks burning. Samuel put his hand over hers and she looked at it, then back to his face to see a gentle smile.
“I’d love to. Friday at 6?”
“It’s a date.” Kara felt relief flood through her system as she returned his smile. She walked back to the door, beaming.
“Good night, Samuel.”
“Good night, Kara. Sleep well.” She nodded as she left the room. Samuel looked back to his bible but couldn’t focus on the words. A wave of uneasiness swept over him, but it was gone as soon as it came. Still, he knew something was wrong, so he bowed his head.
“Jesus... I don’t know what’s going on, but something’s not right... I need your guidance.” The room remained silent as Samuel felt himself falling asleep.
Samuel woke with a start. He looked around him, but something was off. It was his room, but something he couldn’t place was different about it.
“Hello, Samuel.” The young man jumped at hearing the voice come from the chair in the corner of the room.
As he looked, he calmed down when he saw Jesus sitting there, smiling peacefully.
“Jesus... You scared me for a second there.”
“I do apologize for that. I find this is the best way to reach you.”
“...I’m dreaming, aren’t I?”
“Very astute, Samuel. Yes, you are.” The young man sat up fully, drawing his knees to his chest.
“So, what is this about?”
“You asked for guidance. I’m here to guide you.”
“Right, I knew that,” Samuel said, feeling sheepish, “I, uh... Well, Kara, actually... asked me to go on a date with her...”
“Yes, I saw. Very brave of her, she’s been wanting to ask you for quite some time.”
“Yeah... after she left though, I got this uneasy feeling. Her and I being together won’t jeopardize the mission, will it? I don’t wanna fail you...”
“You will not fail me, Samuel. Not in this mission, and not because of Kara. Remember, all things work together...”
“...For the good of your kingdom... Is Napoli’s a good place to take her, you think?”
“That is your decision to make, Samuel,” Jesus said with a smile, “Although, I do hear quite a lot of people praising their food in my name...”
Samuel woke with a start, and he instinctively knew that he was really awake. He could smell bacon frying and followed his stomach to the kitchen. Daniel turned to see him looking expectantly at the stove.
“Cinderella was midnight, not noon.”
“Just make the bacon, meathead.”
“You got it, boss.” Daniel served breakfast— a heavy helping of bacon and waffles— and sat across the table from Samuel. “So what’s the plan for today?”
“I gotta go talk to this ‘Randy’ person. If I’m gonna use the sword, I should probably know how. Where are Caeli and Kara?”
“I think they went shopping. Or maybe they said hiking... I wasn’t paying that much attention, honestly.”
“I have a feeling with Caeli, it could be either one...”
“Ready to test out these new boots?” Caeli asked, her smile as bright as the sun on the mountain path before her. Kara looked down at her own footwear, surprised by how comfortably they fit her.
“As ready as I’ll ever be...” Kara said, not quite sharing Caeli’s optimistic outlook.
“Off we go!” Caeli said as she started up the slope, looking every bit the consummate mountaineer. Kara reluctantly followed, keeping pace with her new friend. She couldn’t help her thoughts from drifting to Samuel though. What if he didn’t really like her as much as she thought? What if he was just going out with her out of pity? Worst of all, what if, one day, he decided she wasn’t enough anymore, that he wanted someone with more to offer? That thought scared her so much that she shook her head and tried to refocus on the path before her.
“Are you okay?” Caeli asked, noticing her friend’s distress.
“Uh... yeah. I’m fine...” Caeli narrowed her eyes but didn’t press her as they paused to look around them.
“This is a really beautiful place, Caeli.”
“It definitely is. You’ve never been up here?”
“I don’t get out much. And I’m not actually from here, I’m from a little town in Oklahoma you’ve probably never heard of.”
“Try me!” Caeli said, “I’m from Stillwater, myself!!”
“It’s called Checotah.”
“You’re from the same city as Carrie Underwood?! How cool is that?!”
“I guess so... I moved when I was a Freshmen in high school.”
“What brought you the whole way up here?”
“I could probably ask you the same thing...”
“God called, I answered! I was meditating one day, just listening for His voice, and He said ‘Caeli, it’s time to leave home. Laramie, Wyoming is your next stop.’ Long story short, here I am!” Kara glanced at the ground, an unwanted surge of memory rushing through her.
“...My foster brother died and I had to leave Checotah. Wyoming seemed like a good place to restart my life...”
“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry!” Caeli said as she hugged her friend. Hesitantly, Kara returned the embrace.
“Come on, there’s something I want you to see,” Caeli smiled as she started up the trail again. Kara followed, trying her best to force her memories back into the past. They stopped at an overlook, staring down at the nature around them.
“It really is amazing, isn’t it? God made all of that... just for us.” Kara just nodded and continued to reflect on the trees below.
“I, uh... I meant what I said, yknow,” Caeli went on, “No one blames you for what happened...”
“But it still happened, Caeli!!” Kara burst out, “Whether it was my fault or not, I still hurt you, I hurt Samuel, and I let that... that... monster inside me...I became the monster...” She hung her head as the tears started to fall, “I don’t wanna hurt you again. I don’t wanna hurt anyone...” Kara felt a soft hand touch her shoulder, completely calm.
“You won’t. You’re safe now. We all make mistakes, Kara. It’s part of being human.”
“Most people’s mistakes don’t run the risk of killing their friends...”
“Most people aren’t controlled by demons either.” Kara chuckled in spite of herself.
“I want... I want to help with the mission. What do I have to do?” Caeli considered for a moment.
“Well, you should probably start by praying... Have you asked Him what He wants you to do?”
“I’m afraid to...”
“Well then that’s what we’re gonna do as soon as we get back! Come on, we’ve got a lot to do today!”
“What kind of name for a Japanese guy is Randy?!” Daniel asked as the boys walked through the screen door back into the house.
“I’ve heard stranger,” Samuel replied, “Maybe it’s a nickname. Or maybe it’s anglicized?”
“Angli— from what?!” Before Samuel could reply, they caught sight of Caeli and Kara in the middle of what looked like a very serious prayer. Caeli looked at them sternly, but patiently, and silently invited them to join in. The boys quietly walked over and sat next to their housemates. Kara finished her prayer and slowly opened her eyes to look up at Caeli.
“What do I do now?”
“Now you listen for Him to respond. Keep reading the Word and praying and you’ll find your answer,” Caeli said with a gentle smile.
“Actually, that’s perfect timing,”
Samuel chimed in, “We we’re just about to start looking at Revelation, so we can kinda get a sense of what we’re dealing with.”
“You guys go ahead,” Daniel said, shifting uncomfortably. “I’m gonna go meditate for a little bit...”
“Oh... Okay...” The others watched him walk away, then sat together in the living room.
“I’m still worried about him,” Samuel said, “It still feels like he’s on the fence about this. He’s reluctant, but I don’t understand why...”
“He’ll come around,” Caeli assured him, “Give him time. This is still really new to him. He just needs to—“ Caeli was cut short as she noticed Kara raising her outstretched arm in front of her. They’d been so caught up worrying about Daniel that they hadn’t noticed Kara’s lips quietly moving, her head bowed. As she looked at her hand, she flexed her fingers and a shimmering light materialized in her palm. They watched, fascinated, as a shining metallic staff appeared in her grasp. She smiled as she looked back at Caeli.
“I did it! I asked Jesus what to do and he said to hold out my hand!”
“That’s great, sweetie!! Will it do the same thing Samuel’s sword does?”
“Not quite,” Kara frowned, “A sharp hit will stun a demon, temporarily nullifying its powers, but it won’t cast them out. That still falls to Samuel.” Kara looked at him and smiled. “Gotta keep you doing something besides looking pretty.” Samuel grinned and was about to reply, but Caeli beat him to the punch.
“Alright, alright, enough of that,” she chuckled, “We should at least look at Revelation today.”
“Actually... would you mind if we did a study specifically on Lucifer and Lilith?” Kara asked sheepishly. “‘Know your enemy’ and all...”
“Sure!” Caeli agreed, “Great idea, Kara!”
“Where do we start in order to study Lilith?” Samuel wondered.
“Well...” Caeli hedged, “Not much is really known about Lilith... Not in this book, anyway... probably better if we start with Lucifer...”
“I know where to find him,” Samuel growled. Frowning, he flipped the pages by memory to the book of Ezekiel.
“The longer you let this fantasy go on, the stronger they’re getting!” Lilith yelled at his back.
“Do you think me incapable of dealing with them, Lilith?” He asked, shifting his head to glare with one eye in her direction. “Do you think their insignificant little trinkets are going to save them from the wrath of the true king?”
“N-no, Master, I... I only suggest we take them out now, while they’re still struggling to find their power...”
“That’s just like you, Lilith. You’ve always lacked patience and vision.” Turning to regard her for a moment, he continued, “You really don’t understand, do you?”
“I... I’m afraid I don’t...” In a flash, he was across the room and raising her off the floor by her neck. His fingers burned and seared her skin.
“Imagine the heartache, the GUT wrenching sorrow, when they realize that they researched, practiced, and bonded, and whatever sappy garbage have you... only to fail. Only to go down in a wondrous BLAZE of glory.” The sear of his fingers intensified momentarily as the fires in his eyes lit even brighter. With a sigh, he tossed her across the room. “Go. I’ll summon you when it’s time.”
“Yes... Lucifer...” Lilith choked. Slowly, she rose and walked out the door, glancing once at her master, settling onto his throne.
It was finally Friday evening and Kara was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Fortunately, she had Caeli with her for support.
“Kara! Kara... Look at me...” Caeli carefully put her hands on her friend’s shoulders as she looked her in the eye.
“You’re alright, it’s just a date. There’s literally no pressure here.”
“What if he doesn’t like the dress?! Or my hair?! Or the way my nails look, or my lipstick?! Oh, God, what if he doesn’t like my face?!?!”
“Kara!! Relax... you’re fine.”
“I just want him to like me...”
“Kara, he’s a man,” Caeli said flatly, “he’s gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it.” Kara looked at her shoes, perfectly matched to her dress, then back at Caeli.
“Positive. Now finish getting ready, gorgeous.” Kara couldn’t help smiling to herself as she put on her earrings.
“What do you think, ‘God Is My Hero’ or ‘Called to Duty’?”
“It’s your date, dude, wear what you want,” Daniel replied, flipping the page in his copy of ‘Sword of the Spirit.’
“Yknow, this whole helpful thing? You’re not good at it.”
“The words ‘Daniel Richardson’ and ‘helpful’ have never been uttered in the same sentence unless ‘is’ and ‘not’ were involved.” Daniel glanced up from his reading. “Go with ‘Called’, it fits you better.” Instead of wasting time arguing the implication of that statement, Samuel threw the unused shirt at his friend and slipped into the other.
“Do I look okay?”
“You want my honest answer?”
“You look stunning, fabulous, amazing, any girl would be beyond lucky to have you, honestly, I can’t understand how you’ve been single so long!!”
“Would you leave already?” Daniel said, laughing, “At this rate, Kara will be waiting at the table for you instead of the other way around.”
Samuel watched Kara walk in the door of Napoli’s and it was like the entire room lit up all at once. She smiled as she saw him waiting and strode to the table to take a seat.
“I... You look... Um, wow.”
“You really think so?” Kara asked, blushing ever so slightly.
“I feel incredibly underdressed...” Samuel said, glancing at his jeans and t shirt, paired with a navy blue sport coat and a silver cross necklace.
“You look fine... I almost had Caeli convinced to let me come in one of her Casting Crowns t shirts and ripped up jeans...” They shared a laugh as their waitress arrived at the table.
“Good evening, y’all, I’m Ashlee, I’ll be your server tonight, can I start ya off with drinks?” The girl’s heavy Texan accent complimented her bright, friendly smile perfectly.
“I’ll have a glass of Roscato, please,” Samuel said, hardly glancing at the wine list.
“I’ll have... um.... a Chardonnay, please?”
“Sure thing, I’ll have your drinks in a jiffy!” Ashlee said, smiling again. She walked away to get the drinks and the couple started reminiscing, sharing stories and memories. Their dinners were promptly delivered (Chicken Marsala for Kara and Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo for Samuel) and they ate quietly, enjoying each other’s company.
“You wanna try this?” Kara offered, holding out her fork.
“No, thanks,” Samuel said, “I’m not a big fan of mushrooms... would you like a shrimp?”
“Oh, yes, please!” She ate the pan seared crustacean from his fork and grinned in surprise, “Oh my goodness, that’s amazeballs!” Samuel grinned in return as Ashlee arrived at the table again.
“Anything else I can get ya tonight? Dessert, maybe?”
“I don’t think I could,” Samuel said, glancing at his date.
“I can’t either, I’m stuffed...”
“Just the check, please. Thank you, Ashlee.”
“You’re very welcome, I’ll be right back!” Samuel was about to say something, but the uneasy feeling he’d felt before suddenly swept over him.
“Kara, we need to go, now,” he said quietly, but sternly.
“I felt it too,” she whispered. Samuel was surprised, but didn’t press the matter as they paid their bill (generous tip included) and headed for the car. The ride home was quiet and tense, but the uneasiness had begun to fade. As they stepped out of the car and walked toward the house, though, a flash lit the sky. Where their path had been clear a moment ago, a figure now blocked the way. A familiar figure.
“Ashlee?! You’re a...” The creature laughed at Kara’s inability to say the word.
“I’m a what? A demon? Clever girl,” the Texan accent was gone, replaced by the cold, unnerving tone most demons seemed to share, “The pathetic brat inhabiting this meat suit recognizes you, yknow. She never forgets a face. Even now, she’s begging me to leave you alone. Saying you’re innocent. That you’ve done nothing wrong. Foolish imbecile.” Samuel didn’t say a word, summoning his sword to hand.
“Ah, yes, the Sword of the Spirit. Charming.” Kara, recovering from her shock, summoned her own weapon at the sight of Samuel’s.
“What’s this, then?! The abomination has a Spirit weapon too!”
“You’re the abomination,” Kara gritted out. The demon just laughed as it hurled a bolt of dark energy. Reacting on instinct, Kara spun her staff to deflect the bolt harmlessly away. Surprised for only a moment, the demon snarled and hurled another bolt straight at Kara’s face. She pivoted to block this one too, sending it straight back where it came from. The bolt hit the demon full in the chest and knocked it off balance. She stretched out both hands to loose bolts at both Samuel and Kara, but stared in disbelief as nothing happened. By the time it recovered, it was too late, Samuel pounced, shoving the sword point through its rib cage. The demon screamed in anguish as it fled the touch of the holy weapon. Ashlee collapsed without a sound as the slice from the sword healed over. Kara looked at Samuel and was about to say something when another figure stepped from the shadows.
“Samuel, look out!!” She cried instead. But it was too late. As the young man turned toward the disturbance, reflexively bringing his sword to bear, he caught a face full of demon-powered fist. Kara swung her staff as Samuel fell to the ground, but the monster caught it easily and shoved her away.
“Now, now, Kara, darling, is that any way to treat an old friend?”
“Lilith. I’ll kill you, if it’s the last thing I do.”
“You’ll do no such thing, dear,” Lilith said as she extended her hand in Kara’s direction, holding the young woman in place. She stepped over to Samuel and picked up his sword. It burned to touch, but Lilith held onto it all the same, fighting against the pain. She put her boot on Samuel’s neck as she glared down at him.
“I think we’ll see what Lord Lucifer has to say about your little toy here, now that it’s ‘master’ is out of the picture.”