Mac Creiche was still convinced that the albino goose was leading him to Jerusalem, and as such, wandered away from the monastery without a body of followers, despite Brandan's adamant advice against it.
Even after many days the bird never left his sight, nor veered off
course. Jerusalem, it is! he
declared happily to himself.
His elation was taken down a notch when a new obstacle appeared on the
horizon. He would have to pass directly through Illyrian territory to get
Though Illyricum lie within the bounds of the Roman empire, the Empire was in a
shambles. Back in the days of the great Caesars, any and all threats were
swiftly and severely crushed, but that Empire had grown fat, corrupt, and
tolerant of all forms of evil. Ultimately they could no longer defend
themselves against the barbarian rabble clawing at the gates and melted away into chaos.
Rome died because she lost the will to live.
Now pandemonium reigned everywhere as heathen warlords separated one-another's
head from body for various crowns and treasures. From grand palaces to
country villages, it was might-makes-right and every man for himself.
Illyricum ahead was now claimed by both an Ostrogoth Emperor and the
Byzantine Empire, yet neither would spare the resources to police or
defend it. The
place was one perpetual Los Angeles riot from end to end.
Mac Creiche was now seriously regretting his decision not to bring a team along.
On the other hand, the trouble with that plan was they'd have probably have wanted to stop and
bring order and righteousness to the heathen. Mac Creiche only hoped to
slip past them unnoticed.
Fie! I shall fare just fine!
the doubts away, also reminding himself that these were the same
people that the Apostle Paul spoke of in Romans 15:19. Any people who had
witnessed the miracles of the great Apostle couldn't be all bad. Could
Not only that, this was also his first experience visiting one of the places he'd
read about in the Bible. Mac Creiche's spontaneous pilgrimage was
starting to feel excitingly real to him, and he couldn't let a bunch of
riffraff turn him away now.
Mac Creiche jabbed at the remains of the campfire with a stick. The
charred log was dark as the surrounding night, with only the dull glow
of embers remaining to show its shape.
As quickly as the bright flames faded, so the stars shone brilliantly
across the expanse of the sky.
He drew his cloak tight around himself and squirmed in as close to the coals as
Looking at the impossibly bright stars, he felt so small in the cosmic scheme
of things. And yet, somehow, the immensity of creation only served to
magnify the size of its Creator. Though huge and frightening, his God was
greater still, which gave him comfort, rather than fear.
In that loving
embrace, he drifted slowly off to sleep.
Mac Creiche found himself following the goose as it waddled down the old Roman
Road just as he expected the journey to be.
Soon, the road veered to the southeast to keep to the coast, but the
continued on his original easterly course, not knowing, or caring that
he was straying from the path. Before long, he was in the weeds by the
side of the road and
continuing to drift away.
The monk stood at the roadside and called after him, but the goose plodded on.
"What should I do?" he asked, "To follow the path or the guide?"
He waited a long time, unable to decide, and therefore, doing neither.
In the end, he stepped away from the comfortable, known path and followed the
It was a difficult track the animal led him on. Through thorns, crossing
streams, over boulders, even crossing the Black Mountains themselves.
Onward he plodded through the lands of the Slavs.
Into one of their villages it wandered. Following the monk and his animal guide was a wave of curious villagers.
In the midst of the town lie their pagan altar to the god En. Here, the goose
stopped, and so did all others looking on -- for the animal at once transformed
into a radiant white angel! All those around (including the monk) fell to
their knees before the blinding glory!
"Rise up, man of God," commanded the being, "and tell me what you
With no small amount of trembling, Mac Creiche stood and looked.
"I-I see a pagan idol." he stammered.
"You know what you must do."
Mac Creiche walked toward the heathen thing to get a better look. En
looked back, fierce and alive, with eyes ablaze with hellfire. A chill
ran up his spine.
He looked to the angel beside him, who only nodded.
Mac Creiche took heart. He bent over, picked up a stone and hurled it
with all his might. Or, at least, he would have. But he hesitated.
The angel looked at him questioningly. "If you throw that stone, the idol
shall crumble. But if you do not..." he waved his hand and a new vision
swirled into place.
A giant iron bull appeared silhouetted black as pitch in the flames of the
burning village. People fled in terror.
The bull snorted smoke and stormed across the land. Its hooves snapped
and uprooted entire trees with every step.
Mac Creiche wept for the trouble his hesitation had caused. "My lord, is there no
"Though trouble be easily slain when small, it becomes a monster when fully grown."
"Is there no hope!??", the monk wailed.
"Listen to my words, for I was also he who led Elijah up to
Mount Horeb, and just as the Lord rose up another to take his place, so He will
rise up a slayer to take yours! Behold!"
Mac Creiche turned and there was a strange new warrior - a woman! Her
long coat snapped in fiery flames. The flame, too, sparkled in her eyes
-- eyes very much like his own, he was ashamed to admit. She bore in her
hand a bow without string, and three, yea three, companions at her side.
She fired the bow, once, and the mighty beast reared back in pain.
It turned on her, huge mouth agape and ready to swallow her up, but again she
fired, causing its head to fall.
Then, a third was loosed, causing the terror to fall to the ground and rise no
The crack in the dream was
accompanied with a searing pain that hurled him from sleep.
He convulsed in pain, trying to make sense of the pair of leather-wrapped feet
that stood before him on the rocky ground.
Another crack and another streak of
pain seared across his back. A whip, no doubt.
A command was barked in some language foreign to him, and a number of calloused
hands hoisted him to his feet.
The monk was met with the snarling and scarred face of a barbarian military leader. A face like that couldn't be anything but.
The man spoke to the monk in the same tongue as before, but the
latter had no comprehension of it. His assailant didn't seem
deterred. Rather, he motioned to a body of
bedraggled slaves, resting by pile of gear. He jabbed the monk in the
chest with a finger and then made the motion for lifting something. As
still wasn't clear, he pointed again and shoved him in the direction of
An aide tugged at the sleeve of the officer's costume. He gave low a
whisper in the man's ear.
The commander nodded and turned back to Mac Creiche. Now in stumbling,
but passable Latin, he asked, "You... priest?"
"Yes." (Now was not the time to quibble about titles.)
He hesitated. He didn't know whether the barbarian was wanting to know if
he would make a good slave, or that his magic was strong and he shouldn't be
He decided for a reply like David or Daniel would have given. "I am weak,
but God is strong!"
The man snorted but said no more. At least not in any language Mac
Creiche could understand. He walked away, pointing and giving orders.
Though he was not put in with the slaves to act as a human pack animal, the
monk was herded along at sword point, and his captors were none too gentle
whenever he fell behind.
It occurred to him that he was being taken along as some kind of fetish, or
good luck charm. But why? Where
are they going?
The answer fell into place. The Illyrians were marching to war!