“Come to me . . .” The voice echoed in my head like a dream I couldn’t awaken from.

I knew it was calling out to me, and I knew I would obey its commands, regardless of what they were. Following that voice had brought me to the Great Mountain, even though everyone knew traveling it alone was a foolish and perilous business. My horse, Daisy, neighed in loud protest as she made her way carefully along the rocky trail. With each minute that passed, the path grew steeper and more hazardous. Thick green weeds grew through the cracks in the dirt and vines snaked their way across the the trail making it hard to distinguish. Dusk comes early this time of year, and with the darkening skies comes a brisk cold that is relentless in its attack upon my exposed fingers. The dropping temperature, along with my tiring mare and gathering darkness, should have been enough for me to find shelter for the night. Yet, the calling of the voice was too insistent. Stopping was not an option. A thickening fog begins to swirl down from the summit of the mountain, and I wrap my woolen cloak tightly around my slender frame. It’s a legend among my people that the fog is a bringer of Death, and whoever sees it, shall also see the end of their life before the sunrise. I accept the arrival of the fog with an inner cold that rivals the plummeting temperature. I have no desire to die, but will gladly offer up my like if the voice inside my head commands me to. Though I have faith that such a macabre command will not be forthcoming. I cannot escape the feeling that the voice belongs to Father, the keeper of everything, and I refuse to believe that one as benevolent and kind as Him would call out to me just to deliver me to my demise. Something in my heart tells me He does not work in such a callous or cruel way. Yet, this mountain is dark and dangerous, and the fog is pooling around Daisy’s hooves. “Come to me . . .” Daisy neighs and nods her head as if she is listening to the voice as well. I pull the reigns bringing her to a stop as I scan my surroundings. Between the blanket of darkness and the thickening fog, visibility is very poor. I pat Daisy on the neck in a reassuring manner, though it is my nerves I am trying to steel. “It is okay, girl. I trust you to find our way.” I am frightened now. Hearing the voice of Father, if indeed it is Father, is new for me. The people of my village had thought me strange and different since birth because of my visions, now I was hearing voices in my head. My visions invaded my thoughts every day. In my mind, I could see in crystal clear detail the fates of those around me. I never asked for the visions, and I considered them a curse, though my mother insisted they were a blessing from Father. My blessing made me an outcast. Isolation might be welcomed for an adult who was different, however, for a child who never understood what was happening or why the damnable visions chose her, the isolation tested my sanity. A sad smile spreads across my frozen lips as memories of childhood torments flood into my mind. There is nothing as cruel as the words of children, and I had carried the weight of their harsh name-calling all my life. That burden has now grown heavy, and I tire of owning it.

Physically, I was considered beautiful, though I felt ugly and disgusting on the inside. My raven-colored hair, long and silky, fluttered across my porcelain skin. My eyes, gleaming orbs of amethyst framed by thick dark lashes, constantly scan my surroundings for any sign of danger. My high cheekbones accept the bashing of the wind, and my nose is slender and long over full lips. My mother said I possessed an old soul, I never knew what she meant by that remark. Sitting upon Daisy upon this dark mountain listening to the call of Father, I understood it now. I was destined for greatness. And it was Father’s destiny that was singing to my soul. “Come to me . . .” “Yes, Father. I am yours to command.” His voice is much stronger now. It thunders in my head and pulls me in a direction that’s off the path. I shift slightly in my leather saddle and turn my gaze to my right. I lower the hood of my cloak knowing the moment of my destiny is almost upon me. I dismount and studly an opening in a group of sinister looking trees. I cannot explain it, but I know my destiny lies on the other side of that opening. Daisy neighs loudly and nudges me with her nose in warning. She senses danger. Yet, all I feel is an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility. My entire existence has been about this very moment. I scratch Daisy behind her ears, something she has always loved, as I contemplate what awaits for me. “Come to me . . .” I know now what must be done. I, Abigail Hillsong, must meet my destiny. A cry of triumph and release screams from my lips as I charge boldly through the opening in the trees, and find myself falling over a cliff’s edge and tumbling to my death. . . . Warmth. Light. Peace. If this is death, it is very welcomed. I’m laying face-down in a sea of lush green grass. There is no pain, no fear, no remorse. The air is calm and the intoxicating fragrance of honeysuckle and wildflowers fill my lungs. The gurgling laughter of a small stream dances in my ears. I smile and push myself up to my feet. The scene around me is nothing short of paradise. Groves of perfectly trimmed lawns painted with colorful flowers and large sycamore trees greet my gaze. Bumblebees bob and weave among the flowers, and a warm breeze caresses my flesh. “I’m home,” I say out loud. “Come to me . . .” “Father,” I call out. “Where are you?” “Look within yourself, daughter. Look where fear used to live and you shall discover the answers you seek. You know where I am.” There is a soft swish of wind and a brilliant flash of golden light, and suddenly, a figure stands before me. It’s a man of advanced age with deep-set eyes and a long beard of pure white. Long wisps of white hair billow out from a sand-colored hooded cloak. He’s dressed in a simple clean brown robe with a cord wrapped around His waist as a belt. His feet are bare and He offers me a soft smile. “Look upon, me, Abigail, and see the One that you serve. Your mortal life is over, this is true. However, your incredible journey to your true destiny has just begun.”

500 Years Later . “Come to me . . .” I glance skyward with a knowing grin as I mount my trusted warhorse to go meet my destiny. On my finger of my gloved hand was The Ring of Life, a simple gold orb with an emerald green stone setting that glowed with magic. The ring was the power source for the magic-kissed sword that hung at my side. Together, they infused whomever wielded them with great fighting power. I had stolen them off the dead and rotting corpse of their rightful owner during a battle my liege, King Collin of Elyria, had summoned two summers ago. Now, the ring and the sword were mine. Perhaps that’s why the voice summoned me. “Come to me . . .” The midnight sky promises storms, but I care nothing about that. I am on a holy mission and I will not be deterred by anything, especially a little wind and rain. With a final check that my belongings are still securely attached to the back of my saddle, I spur my mighty warhorse forward with a quick, “Hup.” The voice of whom I can only assume is God echos inside my head like the hammering of hooves upon a wooden bridge. At first, I couldn’t believe the Lord would ever wish to speak to such a cur as me; I’m a mighty fighting man for a ruthless King who loves his dice games, his mead and especially his tavern wenches too much to have a soul worth saving. My idea of solving a dispute is with a sword, and far too many people have felt the bite of my magic blade for merely uttering the wrong words, or offering me the wrong look at the wrong time. I’m a bastard, I’m supposed to kill in the name of my liege. I never worried about my soul, no man of war does. We all just assume the fires of Hades are our well-won reward for services rendered, and we all boast of how we plan on swimming in the flames with great delight when we finally get there. Then God started calling to me; telling me to come to him. Me, Tragger Drake, the scourge of all Elyria, was being hailed by the Lord. The pull of His insistent calling overpowered my feelings of shame and unworthiness and I am forced to obey, though I have no idea where I’m going. The Lord has something amazing planned for me and I will not disappoint Him again. I will follow His voice, trust in it to guide me to my destiny. “Come to me . . .” An hour later, lightning rips across the low clouds as the inky sky finally lets loose with a cold, angry rain. The downpour devours me completely, chilling me to the bone in a matter of seconds. I tighten my wool cloak around my solidly-built frame and my steel-grey eyes scan my immediate surroundings. The pelting rain, along with the lateness of the hour, make it difficult to see very much. If danger is out here, it could be within feet of me and still be well-hidden. I draw my sword and tighten my other hand on the reigns of my mount. He's a mighty beast, but he doesn't care for the storm any more than I do. With my heels I spur him forward. The conditions are going to shit in a hurry; soon the thin roads won't be passable. I feel the presence of Death closing in around me. I steal a quick glance to the Ring of Life on my hand, it's glowing a bluish warning to me. I'm not sure if the danger I sense wants the ring or my magic-kissed sword, but either will only be won by my death. My Lord has great plans for me, I don’t plan on meeting death tonight.

"Easy there, fella," I say to my brave warhorse with a reassuring pat to his neck as he neighs angrily into the soup of the night. "We have the hand of God upon us this night. We’ll be safe." I was beginning to rethink my noble, if somewhat foolhardy, notion of not seeking shelter for the night. The Lord was calling me, yes, but I was positive He would understand the delay. After all, I reasoned, it was He who sent this storm in the first place. Perhaps He didn’t wish me on the roads tonight and this was His divine way of telling me so. Would I not be the bigger fool to ignore such a message? Traken, a small industrial town, was only a few miles up the road. It wasn't an ideal spot for me by any means. I wouldn’t fit in very well among the wealthy, welldressed set of Traken with my unkempt long flowing mane of blond hair and scraggy beard, but it would have an inn and a stable to shelter my horse. A warm bowl of beef stew and strong mead sounded good as well, especially under my current conditions. The glow on the Ring of Life grew brighter; I knew that was not a good sign. The shadows around me seemed larger and darker than a moment before, and appeared to be moving like an evil fog keeping pace with me. The magic in my sword was quiet. Whatever was out there the special steel couldn't detect. That didn't bold well. The only thing my sword couldn't feel was magic of its own kind. I keep my steed on a steady pace and continually scan the edges of the road for the attack I know was coming. So far, whatever was out there was perfectly happy to just watch me. So be it. Traken wasn't far. Hopefully, the signs of life from the town would make cowards of the danger lurking in the heavy dark shadows. Something told me however, that they would make their move long before I hit safety of a well populated town. “Come to me . . .” Another gout of lighting split the sky open, and I saw a pair of glowing red eyes just off my sword hand. Red eyes meant hellhounds, and hellhounds meant death. In a flash I swung my mighty sword in the direction of the eyes. I felt the magic-kissed blade hit flesh, then bone. The beast roared in agony and rage as the magic contained in the sword stole the life from the disgusting creature. I pulled my blade free with a yank and spurred my horse on faster. I killed one hellhound, but they always traveled in packs and they wouldn't take kindly to a human killing one of their own. I closed my eyes and offered the Heavens a silent prayer. I'd need more than just a magic sword and ring if I were to make it out of this night alive. Suddenly, my mission was in great peril. The Lord was calling me, yet He sets hellhounds in my path? It must be a test to determine the strength of my resolve to do His bidding. I felt my determination harden. I would not fail God. The storm's anger increased, making my already shitty visibility even worse, though I was sure whatever was controlling the hellhounds played a strong part in that. I now couldn't see three feet in front of me, but I could hear the frenzied growls of the demonic beasts. There was no way I was going to make the safety of Traken. I felt the heavy shadows that had been lurking just off the road's edge close around me. Glowing red eyes surrounded me from every side. Their putrid breath filling my lungs. My warhorse came to a halt without me prompting him, something he never does. Suddenly, the rain stopped. My vision cleared to find a towering cloaked figure hovering right in front of me. It's face was completely covered by a thick hood, but black shiny scaled skin poked out from the sleeves of its robe. In its hand it held an impossibly long staff that ended in a great gout of flame; I stared in horror at this mighty instrument of death, for I knew it on sight. It was the Rod of Redemption. A mythical staff used

to judge the souls of the nonredeemable. It was rumored that only the most vile of men tasted the punishment of the Rod of Redemption. And here it was now pointing at me. “Come to me . . .” I had been betrayed. The voice that I so incorrectly believed belonged to my Lord now came spewing from this vile creature that I knew so well. The hooded one before me was Krastor, The Gatekeeper to Purgatory, Death’s first lieutenant. I knew without a doubt that my fate was sealed. Death was the only prize I would win tonight. My soul had been judged unworthy. Krastor pointed a spidery finger at me and an unearthly laugh crackled from him. “How easily you were lead to your demise, human. You came as willingly as a child answering a mother’s dinner bell.” “I have no fear of you, demon,” I called defiantly into the blackness of the night. “I have the ring and the sword. My fate has not been settled here, yet. I challenge you to a duel, your magic versus mine. Winner take all.” “Done.” Krastor shook the fabled Rod of Redemption once, and the gout of flame atop the staff danced in a mighty burst, then was directed in a spiraling stream right through the center of my unarmored chest. I was dead before I hit the ground. . . . Warmth. Light. Peace. I’m lying face-down on a smooth floor of cool marble. The floor seems to expand forever in one flawless slab of the expensive stone, and I marvel at the impossibility of such a thing. There is no sound; no screaming voices, no neighing horses, or snarling Hellhounds. No wind screaming through the branches of dead trees, or demonic laughter. There is only blissful silence. There is no pain. No burning in my chest where Krastor’s flame scorched me, no stench of burnt flesh, no bite of a sword’s blade. There is just the rhythm of my steady breathing. Breathing suggests life, yet surely I cannot still be in the realm of the living. No mortal can withstand a direct blast form the Rod of Redemption. Yet, somehow I breathe. The frigid wetness of the storm was replaced by brilliant, warm sunlight. My thick black gloves were gone, along with the Ring of Life. A curse runs through my mind, then escapes out of my mouth. The emerald-faced ring was one of the only weapons I had against Krastor, and if I’m still alive that must mean he’s still after me. But I can’t seem to hang on to that thought, nor any thought that has to do with violence. It’s as if those thoughts and feelings are being physically removed from my soul by a benevolent presence. The heat of the sun upon my flesh felt good; then it felt very odd and uncomfortable, for I could feel it everywhere. I know I should fret over this, but I do not. I just lay there on the coolness of the impossibly large marble floor.I did a quick inspection of myself and groaned at what I discovered; not only were my gloves gone, but so was all of my clothing. I cringed and uttered another curse. Death was one thing; I'm a warrior, we're trained to welcome death, but nakedness, now that was a totally different matter. "Lift thy self off the floor, Tragger Drake," came a soft female voice. The sound wasn't human exactly, but rather it resembled music. It had such a pure, beautiful tone to it, unlike anything I had ever heard before. There was no accent of any kind, no lisp or stutter to it, just perfectly uttered sounds that sent an unexplainable thrill through my heart. Instead of being

startled or frightened, I felt an incredible sense of peaceful serenity flowing into my soul. I slowly got to my feet stealing glances at my new surroundings. Close as I could tell, I was in Nirvana, not Purgatory, or worse Hades, as I always believed awaited me. I was in a large open-roofed gazebo-like structure that had no horizontal start or end, and was surrounded by lush green grass and fruit trees. The mouthwatering sent of apples filled my lungs, and bumblebees buzzed contentedly all around. However, I was still completely naked, and not at all pleased about that. “You took my clothes!” I bellowed feeling rather silly. “And you took my ring. I, Tragger Drake, prized lieutenant of King Collin of Elyria’s famed and feared army, demand an explanation, followed by an apology and the immediate return of my belongings!” All at once, a golden glow covered me from head to toe, and when it finally receded I was dressed in a clean red tunic, dark brown leggings and black felt boots. A belt of hemp cord was fastened around my waist and dark brown leather wristbands donned each arm. Amazingly enough, I discovered my sword was attached to my side by a glistening, cold-platted sheath. Though without the Ring of Life it was just as normal as any other sword. It needed the ring to feed it the magic. I knew this, but wasn’t about to say anything. If need be, I could try to bluff it. The magic of the sword was well-known, and perhaps I could hide behind its legend, if not its actual magic. Next, a grand staircase appeared before my very eyes. I stared open-mouthed as the shimmering steps, made of the same sparkling marble as the floor I stood upon, solidified. This was much more than my simple warrior mind could accept. Staircases just didn’t appear out of thin air . . . even in this most bizarre of places. Then she materialized out of a sheen of wispy smoke and slowly began descending down the steps. She was an absolute vision. Dressed in a long-flowing white gown, she was tall, slender and moved with an unspeakable gracefulness. Her raven-colored hair spilled down the sides of her ivory-complected face like a silky waterfall, and her eyes were dark orbs framed by long lashes that seemed to see into the very core of my being. Her lips were full and colored the softest pink and had a bit of a natural pout to them. She was tilting them up in a sly, understanding smile. I couldn’t move, couldn’t even draw breath, so completely did her elegant beauty capture me. I gulped several times in an attempt to get my heart back into my chest where it belonged. Her eyes never left mine as she slowly made her way down the stone steps towards me. The closer this impossibly beautiful vision got to me, the stronger I could feel her; it was as if there was some sort of magical rope connecting us by our souls. I knew without a doubt that this woman before me, this magnificent vision of beauty and grace, this goddess of unmeasured magnitude was the keeper of my heart, mind, body and soul. I was amazed, but not ashamed, to feel my body respond to her on a physical level. I tried unsuccessfully to hide my bemused smirk at discovering that even the dead get hard at the sight of such an incredibly beautiful woman. I knew my leggings were tight, and that the bulge that was growing in them like a weed in an unattended garden was evident to her. There was no way to hide it, so I didn’t even try. She should be proud that Tragger Drake found her so appealing. After all, I could snap my fingers and have any woman I wanted. Such perks came with my title, and if, for whatever unfathomable reason, they need more coaxing, the magic I controlled through the Ring of Life took care of things. Perhaps, I thought to myself, the slight

smile playing on her full lips was due to her approval of the size of my prick. All the wenches I’d bedded had assured me it was of impressive size; how could she not also be impressed with what I had to offer her? Maybe, this exquisite creature was my reward for all my years of loyal servitude to King Collin and the various lands of Elyria. I nodded my head as I ran my hand along my golden-colored beard, she was a fitting reward indeed. I would have a grand time with her. If I only knew that death was so pleasant, I would’ve designed my demise long ago. “So,” I said in my best seductive voice. “Just who might you be, and why are you so overdressed?” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I gaze upon this disgusting man before me and think a mistake of epic proportions must have been committed. Surely this crude creature with his vulgar manners and sloppy grin could not be the one Father has chosen to be His new Golden-God Warrior. Certainly he was handsome in a rugged way; with his unkempt golden hair that swept past his wide shoulders, and his thick beard that failed to hide his manly features. “Father, must You test me so?” I say under my breath as I slowly make my way down the stairway to officially welcome the ruffian. With a primal look, I feel him undressing me with his eyes and it takes every ounce of self control I have not to blast this man out of existence. Clearly, Father has assigned this ragamuffin to me as some sort of test. It is my unsurpassed love for Father that drives me onward. I can already tell that this man is not the equal of the one who came before him; he is not Glyn. In all fairness, I can not hold that against this urchin, for in truth, he could never be the great warrior that my beloved Glyn had been. I recall the original Golden-God Warrior with a faint smile. Glyn was magnificent with his mane of dark hair and pale blue eyes. His clean-shaven face, marred only by a faded pink scar that ran down one cheek, still invaded my thoughts. Glyn had been gone for four centuries now, but he had been a true warrior for Father. He had been a man of immeasurable character and a great defender of Truth. Glyn owned strong morals and he loved me with every fiber of his being. In strong contrast, I could see that Tragger Drake was abrasive, self-centered and uncouth down to his core. While alive, he had been a man who warred with the truth easily and sided with those who paid the highest wage. And yet, all I could think of was how badly I wanted to taste this new warrior’s kiss, which in turn made me want to smash him through a wall -- a couple hundred times. I unfurled my wings as I hit the bottom of the grand steps with a great ripple of power. His eyes go as wide as gold coins in a mixture of awe and fear as send him sprawling backwards onto the gleaming marble floor with a simple flick of my wrist. “I am Abigail Hillsong, Tragger Drake. I am no tavern whore. Never again speak to me in such disrespect, or your punishment will be quite severe. Do you understand?” He nodded his head in bewilderment. I knew I had made my point, but decided to make this a lesson he would not soon forget. “With a single thought I can level entire nations should I so desire. You would do well to remember this.” My tone is grave, as it must be given the situation. However, my look soon

softens towards this crude warrior. I know well the path that lies before him, and it is not an easy one. Indeed, it is the most difficult thing he will ever have to endure. I tuck my wings behind my back. “You have been chosen by our Father to serve in the battle against the Evil One, whose foulness stretches hard and fast into Father’s worlds. I am the angel assigned to to guide and protect you in this epic battle.” I watch in keen interest as Tragger Drake pushes himself back to his feet. He struggles to contain his anger and compose himself before meeting my steady gaze. There anger in his smoldering grey eyes but he nods his head in the traditional warrior gesture of respect. “My apologies, Abigail Hillsong. I meant no disrespect. I was just having a bit of sport with you.” His proud eyes continue to hold mine, and my heart leaps into my throat. The connection to this handsome vagabond warrior is very strong, and the subsequent fire in my soul is unsettling. I am not prepared for this instant bonding between us, though it had happened with the last Golden-God Warrior I was assigned to guide. Perhaps, that’s why Father assigned Tragger Drake to me; He knew that my soul needed to feel love once again. I had not known such feelings since Glyn’s had laid with me, and the power of them is both troubling and comforting. Tragger Drake’s body is as hard as stone, his stance masculine and confident, his scent heady. I breathe him deep into my lungs and a rush of heat floods my body. In this moment of desire, my mental barriers drop and his lewd thoughts overtake me. I see, in vivid detail, images of us with our limbs tangled together, and I feel my cheeks flush with passion. Bad enough that these images invade me, but now I know that Tragger Drake is a man fully educated in how to please a women. Flustered, I shake my head and push the thoughts of lust out of my head. Where desire had been just a moment before, now dwells guilt. I’m ashamed of my immediate attraction to Tragger Drake. How could I possibly defile the sweet memory of Glyn in such a shameless manner? Glyn had been my soul, my rock. He had shown me love unlike I had ever known in my mortal life. He had been my everything. Yet, in my heart, I knew that this man could come to mean more to me than Glyn ever had, and it frightens me. I beckon him to me with a hand gesture. He obeys slowly. He’s unsure of what’s to come, and his concern burns bright in his eyes. He’s used to battlefields, not paradise, and his thoughts are still as a soldier would think, and not as his destiny will teach him to think. I offer him a smile to assure him that all is well. He approaches but keeps a close eye on me. I find his human cautiousness cute, and completely out of place. When at last he is within reach, I place my hand upon his chest, connecting us soul to soul; solidifying our bond as soldier and guide, man and woman, children of Father. We are two and yet, we are one. I feel his heart slowing to match the beating of my own. My energy seeps into him, and his into me infusing us with clarity, warmth and blissful understanding. With an ancient incantation uttered by me, our connection is complete. Tragger Drake is now officially Father’s chosen one. There’s no turning back now. “Father’s will be done, Tragger Drake. You are now a part of something magical and magnificent and history shall know your name. There is much for you to learn and understand, and I will teach you well in Father’s ways. In time, the Ring of Life shall be returned to you, for you will need it to fulfill your glorious destiny. You are a great and mighty warrior, a strong and competent leader, and a staunch defender of Father’s worlds. Do not resist this destiny that is

now upon you, Tragger Drake. The hope of mankind depends upon your ability to accept that you shall be the next Golden-God Warrior.”

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