RATED: 4 Stars
If you enjoy Frank Peretti, you’re going to love Carol Van Atta’s SOUL DEFENDERS. Steeped in a biblical base, the suspense is edgy and tense, driving the story with a clear plot of good vs. evil and an impressive gathering of characters.
I’ll be honest, I sometimes find Christian based books to be plain vanilla. Authors seem to skim over the elements that make sinners, well . . . sinners. Flawed characters battle internal demons and walk a fine line between salvation and condemnation on the road to redemption. I think that makes them interesting. Others might find them offensive.
So when I began reading SOUL DEFENDERS, I prepared myself for plain vanilla. What I got was so much more. The story moves quickly and sets up the battlefield early on, surprising the reader with a few unexpected twists along the way. Let me be clear, this is a story of angels and demons, and the small town souls who are at risk. It’s also a great thriller. Yes, the dialogue sometimes sounded juvenile or naive but I confess, the characters wormed their way into my heart to the point I was flipping pages long after I should have paused for the night.
If you can tolerate a book without graphic violence, sizzling sex, or language that would make your mother reach for the lye soap, you should truly read SOUL DEFENDERS. Even if you feel a good book absolutely must contain all of the above, you should still read SOUL DEFENDERS. Why? Because it has a message we should all hear. And the story is pretty darned good, too!
Soul Defenders: The Black Orchids
Soul Defenders, Book One
Carol Van Atta
Genre: Christian Fiction/Thriller/Suspense
ISBN: ISBN-10: 1479246964
Number of pages: 310
Word Count: 95,510
Cover Artist: fantasiafrogdesigns.wordpress.com
When Ted Lyons accepts the new pastorate at Cherry Creek’s Community Church, he has no idea just how handy his former law enforcement skills will become. A murdered pastor, the pastor’s kidnapped wife, and their runaway daughter are only the beginning in a series of problems he wishes were part of a bad dream. Ted soon realizes he’s facing a battle better fought on his knees, in prayer, than with his gun.
As ruthless demons, summoned by an international cult – The Black Orchids – take over the town of Cherry Creek, angelic warriors are dispatched to protect the weary residents and stop a diabolical plan of destruction. By surrendering their lives to God and forming an unlikely alliance, Ted and a rag-tag group of struggling believers work together to slay the shadows of evil that threaten their very existence.
Although she was only five miles from the security of her little town, Karen White’s hand trembled as she shut the door of her mud-splattered Jeep.
Glancing skyward, she noticed familiar gray clouds. Rain was in the air; she could smell it. Cherry Creek was a magnet for grey skies and rain. The flourishing grassy farmlands and surrounding forest ranges gave the town its green hue while Mount Hood towered in the background, its majesty inspiring protection.
At the moment, Karen wasn’t at all encouraged by her picturesque surroundings; rather, she was on the verge of a full-fledged panic attack.
Glancing up at the stately, snowcapped mountain, she felt so insignificant, inadequate. She’d never imagined herself as a spy, but she knew — God didn’t make mistakes. If He wanted her to play detective, she would.
Walking toward the Henderson’s abandoned farmhouse, she fought the urge to turn back. The place was already filling her with an eerie uneasiness that increased with every step.
On the outside, the building looked pitiful: chipped paint, missing shingles, broken windows. Its apparent state of neglect belied the truth Karen had learned listening to the town’s two worst chatty-Cathie’s at Monty’s Styling Salon last week. It amazed her that a secret society would invite such loose-lipped ladies into its concealed depths. Those same lips had gushed that the Henderson property was a decoy for a high-tech compound hidden beneath. From her vantage point nothing appeared high-tech.
She gazed up at the barn. It loomed threateningly behind the old farmhouse. To her relief, there didn’t appear to be anyone around as she picked her way up the path through the swaying grass. Perhaps she was early?
She gasped, shocked by a thick hand grasping her shoulder, pulling her to a stop. She cringed as recognition dawned. Byron Marker gave off that cringe-inducing feeling anytime he was near. Lost in her thoughts, she’d missed him creeping up behind her.
“Glad to see you accepted my invitation. I wasn’t sure you’d show up. Your familiarity with the town’s archives will be of great benefit to The Cause,” Byron Marker oozed. He sounded not only creepy, but also strangely formal.
Attempting to camouflage her anxiety, she forced her eyes to meet his. “I hope I can help.” She made a point of scanning the area. “Is your daddy, Mr. Police Chief, here too?”
His disapproving expression led her to quickly change the subject to what she hoped was an approved topic: “Being part of such a powerful organization is an honor.” She wondered if it was enough to diffuse the tension.
His expression remained guarded, providing little assurance.
Forgive me for that lie, she prayed. God, please protect me, guide me, and reveal to me what You will.
Byron ignored the inquiry about his father and guided her around the old farmhouse, to the backyard, where they joined a group of at least fifty people clustered outside the barn’s main entrance.
“Why can’t we go in?” she whispered.
“They’re probably still preparing the room.” He didn’t elaborate. “It’s quite an event.
This is insane. God, I can’t do this!
Before she could muster an excuse for leaving, she spotted the two women from Monty’s Styling Salon. Why hadn’t she rescheduled her hair appointment? Shirley, her regular stylist, had been out sick.
Jolted back to the moment by a slight shove, she moved with the crowd, prodded forward like cattle. She crossed the threshold into the vacant barn, wishing for the final time that she’d stayed out of Joyce and Lori’s conversation. But the truth remained: She believed God had spoken to her, desiring for her to go. That knowledge had changed everything.
Okay, God, I’m in. Please stay right next to me and don’t let me make a fool of myself. She prayed with the fervency of a child reaching for a trusted hand in a windstorm. She wasn’t disappointed.
Peace caressed her spirit, bringing much-needed comfort along with a strong sense of purpose and God’s presence, convincing her she was exactly, no matter how wacky it appeared, where she was supposed to be. The renewed sense of purpose gave her enough courage to follow the others down the stairs and into the passageway below, where the corridor fanned out into another vast room.
“Remove your clothing and put on the robes provided,” an unidentified voice boomed, threatening to disrupt her newly-acquired confidence.
Take off her clothes! Why? She hadn’t anticipated this.
Glancing around the cavernous area, she observed in amazement how quickly the others complied. She assumed most of them had been through this before. Were they going to take off their undergarments too?
The bare behinds were her answer.
Not wanting to appear as conspicuous as she felt she undressed, slipping out of her skirt and blouse, and yanking on the black robe. After adjusting the floppy hood, she discarded her panties, adding them to her neat pile.
Terrified couldn’t even begin to describe how she was feeling. She guessed that standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down into a dark abyss, with no bottom in sight, might compare.
“I caught a glimpse of that cute tush of yours, Ms. White,” Byron said, leering.
She shuddered. How revolting.
Revolt changed to relief, when she realized there was no possible way he’d seen her “tush.” The discreet manner in which she’d removed her last article of clothing left no opportunity for any ogling.
Swallowing her disgust, she followed his lead. They joined the others who were forming rows around an ominous red symbol in the center of the floor. Smaller astrological shapes, magical sigils, and what seemed to be words, scrawled in an unidentifiable language, were displayed in a multitude of colors on the surrounding walls, ceiling, and below her feet.
Lit by candles, the room glowed eerily. Spirals of smoke twisted upward. She stifled the urge to gag, overpowered by the sweet yet pungent smell of burning incense.
The others stared expectantly at a portion of the wall. What were they looking for?
She chanced another glance at the other participants, her curiosity heightened as she recognized the familiar faces peering from under their hooded robes: the diner’s manager, Roy; Tom, a gas attendant at the local Arco Station; Susan, the new elementary school teacher; and so many other so-called normal people. Her definition of normal had just shifted.
This is too bizarre. Has our town gone mad? God, give me courage.
Once again feeling calmer, she continued her attempts to identify the shadowed faces. Before she could recognize anyone else, a concealed door swung open, revealing a towering, gaunt, grey-haired man. He reminded her of a ghoulish game show host as he strolled into their midst, his presence commanding attention.
“Good evening, fellow adventurers. We are progressing splendidly with our goals. The translation of the most difficult portion of the scroll will begin soon. The Translator will join us any day.” The man smiled as he continued his address.
“Tonight is of the utmost importance. One of you will be selected to host a spirit guide. We will receive crucial instructions. So please, relax. You may be seated if you wish. Open your mind; go within; and begin to seek insight.”
A strange hum vibrated throughout the room. The air seemed to shiver with unseen energy. Karen noted the hairs on the back of her neck and forearms were standing at full attention in the static atmosphere.
Several people sat in yoga positions with their legs crossed. Others stood rocking, arms raised, in a posture of worship. Most of the group began to chant. The sound, both ancient and evil, grew in intensity, increasing the throbbing, electrical feeling surrounding her.
She wanted to cover her ears, but hated to admit the rhythms were somehow enticing. The words, although foreign, had a drug-like effect on her mind. An erotic tingling sensation traveled up her thighs, another terrifying testimony to the power unleashed by their invocations.
She found herself swaying with the others as if an invisible force was pressing against her, drawing her into a diabolical dance.
A baseball-sized crystal was passed with reverence through the crowd. It glowed amber, giving off an unnatural radiance. The moment Joe Nickels, a conservative banker, grasped the orb, it flared crimson, blazing between his fingers.
He toppled over, the crystal clutched in his hands.
Karen watched, horrified, as his body writhed with convulsions. Alarmed, she started forward thinking maybe she should administer first aid.
Byron shot her a warning glance.
Struggling for balance, the banker sat up. He didn’t seem so small anymore. His eyes, usually a dull gray, now had a haunting crimson glow.
Someone, or something, stared out through those red eyes.
His mouth gaped, as if pried open by invisible hands, and a menacing, other-worldly voice bellowed, “The plan is progressing as our Master wishes.”
His head twisted in an unnatural jerky motion, until, without warning, the red eyes latched onto hers.
Oh no! He knows I’m an intruder. Afraid to look away, she maintained eye contact, ignoring the perspiration trickling down her cheek, only to drop from her jaw in what felt like slow-motion. She was sure he could sense her secret, and see her perspiring.
Mercifully, when she couldn’t bear it a second longer, his attention transferred to the next person. She swiped sweat from her upper lip, and attempted to regain her composure.
He continued his announcement: “There is the matter of Rose Howard, Pastor Howard’s widow. She has located her late husband’s journal and will attempt to disclose its contents this evening. We cannot permit these narrow-minded, judgmental people, to interfere with The Cause.
And beware of a new man coming to town. He will try to stop us. Make note of his weaknesses.”
With the message dispatched, the banker’s body sagged; collapsing like a puppet whose puppeteer had released its strings. Emptied of whatever force had filled him, he lay motionless.
The grey-haired man lurched forward, drawing closer to the awestruck crowd. “You heard the instructions. Our timing is critical. Several of you have envelopes in your pockets.”
Karen, along with the others, fumbled through her cloak’s pockets. Nothing. Thank you, God.
“Those of you fortunate enough to be chosen for this assignment will remain for further instructions. The rest of you are free to go, or you may stay and visit the specialty rooms.”
People nodded, sharing knowing glances. One woman winked at the owner of the bakery. Others clustered together talking in hushed tones.
Karen could imagine what went on in the specialty rooms: sex, drugs, and more in-depth contact with evil spirits. She wanted to escape but waited, not wanting to appear as repulsed as she felt.
Several other participants found their clothing and began to dress. She followed their example, relieved the ordeal was almost over. Locating her clothing, she dressed faster than she thought possible. Fear had a way of speeding things up.
Moving toward the exit, she noticed Byron opening one of the infamous envelopes. Not wanting to discuss her impression of the evening with her horror so fresh, she hurried by with her head down.
Dodging through the remaining participants, she stumbled up the stairs and through the barn, no longer caring what anyone thought.
Relieved to be out of the smoke-filled dungeon, she inhaled deeply, savoring the refreshing night air. Off in the distance, over the tree branches, she could see the carnival rides’ twinkling lights. They’d been erected earlier in honor of the annual Mountain Day’s Celebration.
Celebrating tonight was not an option. All she wanted was to go home, lock the door, take a long, hot shower, and cry.
Lily Howard laughed from her perch high atop the groaning, old carnival ride. She felt as if she could reach out and touch the stars blinking overhead.
Some of the children shrieked with delight. Others screamed in terror. She grasped the security bar in front of her as the iron cage spun and began its rapid descent.
“What a ride!” she shrilled, realizing she felt pretty good tonight.
Her father had been dead for almost eight months; she’d been feeling like she’d died right along with him. But here, on this giant grinding machine, she was alive, exhilarated. Her stomach, protesting the spinning motion, gurgled; even though she’d made a point to avoid the enticing aromas when she’d strolled down the midway earlier with her mom. Puking on the rides was not her idea of a good time, nor was it cool.
A good time would be when she turned sixteen in just over a month. Sweet Sixteen, at last. I can’t wait!
Interrupting her birthday thoughts, the ride screeched, and then shuddered to a sudden, clanking halt. A scruffy, greasy-haired man unlatched the door to her metal cage. With caution, she stepped onto the narrow ramp. Her legs were wobbly, like a newborn foal’s. She smiled at the image, and caught her mother studying her.
“What? Do I look funny?” Her mother was awesome. Lily couldn’t imagine a day without her.
“Funny isn’t the right word.” Rose smirked, her playful side making an appearance.
“Whaddja mean?” Lily shot back, joining her mom at the railing.
“Well, you look happy, and rumpled.”
Her stomach grumbled again and it had nothing to do with motion sickness. “What I really am is starved. Let’s eat before it rains.” She linked arms with her mother.
“I feel different tonight, like a gloomy cloud has been lifted. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes, sweetie, I do. Hey, there’s the jumbo corn dog stand. Shall we eat, darling?” Her mother drawled, trying to sound like a Southern belle.
“Yummy,” Lily replied.
“I’ll assume that was a yes.”
Giggling, they joined the long line, evidence that they weren’t the only ones craving the fair’s most gourmet dish.
Rose Howard spread a generous amount of catsup on her second corn dog. Taking a bite, she observed Lily. Her little girl was becoming quite a beauty. Lily loved being well-dressed and took care of herself and her clothing to the point of obsession. Rose smiled at the thought of Lily’s hysterical reaction to a few muddy paw prints on her new white shorts last week.
Hearing laughter, Rose returned her attention to the present. Lily and several of the local girls huddled together whispering. Teenagers, almost young adults; they seemed more like aliens from another planet.
Seeing her interacting and laughing with her peers again was encouraging. Considering all she’d been through, when her father was murdered, Lily had come through okay. Still Rose worried. Sometimes she couldn’t quite read her like she had in years past. There was something off, but not anything she could put a finger on.
What Rose did know for certain was just how challenging single parenting could be. She had a whole new perspective. Doing it alone, without Bill, was difficult to say the least.
He’d been the anchor in her life, her best friend, her lover, and her cheering squad. Of course Bill had been far from perfect, but he’d been a man who wasn’t afraid to admit his mistakes, always asking for God’s forgiveness. She hoped he had asked for the Lord’s mercy before taking his last breath.
She peeked in her purse at the leather-bound book that was Bill’s personal journal. She wished for the hundredth time that she’d never found it. Wasn’t ignorance supposed to be bliss? It was too late now. She already knew too much to pretend otherwise.
“Hi, Mrs. Howard.” A young man’s voice put a stop to her worries. “How are you?”
She could tell his question was sincere by the concern in his eyes. “I’m better. Thanks so much for asking.” Rose liked Robert Billings. He was a fine young man, strong in the Lord, and a journalism major at Mount Hood Community College. He was just the type of man she would like to see Lily interested in.
With Sweet Sixteen just around the corner, Lily had earned the privilege of dating in a group. But unfortunately, her daughter seemed to be more interested in the rebellious, rock-star types.
“Mrs. Howard…?” Robert began.
“It’s about time you called me Rose,” she encouraged.
“All right, Rose. I know Lily is going to be having a birthday soon, and I was hoping you’d allow me the honor of taking her, with some of the other kids, of course, out for a birthday dinner.” He sighed as if relieved to say what was on his mind.
“I’m sure that would be just fine. She’s over there.” Rose pointed towards Lily, who was staring brazenly at the lead singer of the pop band that had just taken the small stage.
Great, why does she have to like all the wild ones?
The demon, Senturus, hovered high above the fair on a thick gnarled tree limb. Few rides were higher than his present viewpoint. If a human were able to see him right now, they might mistake his identity, believing him to be some deformed, winged, prehistoric creature scanning the earth for prey. They would be right on both counts, but not quite in the way they imagined.
The searching for prey part was accurate. Indeed, he was ancient. But a dinosaur, he was not.
Senturus was one of the many beings created before the dawn of man. He, like his commander, Prince Lucifer, was created by Elyon, who had many names, such as: Jehovah, God Almighty, Jesus Christ. How he despised those names, for they represented the Great I AM.
“P…ssst, Senturus, don’t look so grim,” Jocenlas wheezed, hovering just above Senturus.
“Must you always interrupt my …”
“Your what? Thoughts? What would a stupid demon like you be thinking about?” Jocenlas cackled.
Senturus was always stuck working alongside Jocenlas. He’d learned not to complain though. After all, it might be worse; he could have Rakus for a companion.
Senturus eyed the gnarled branch, wishing for a momentary reprieve. But they were too near a church of the faithful — those who had claimed this land for God. On the other side of the field lay the town of Cherry Creek. There they’d surely find some rest.
Rest for them came only in the human realm in two ways: when they were permitted by a human to travel in or with that human, or when a human abdicated his authority over a specific geographical region.
There were specific areas on earth that were havens for demons. These refuges often lay in the worst sections of cities, or within corrupt world political headquarters, where so many humans were under the control of the Evil One that demons were given complete control of the region. They could also be found in a greed-filled church on Sunday morning, in places where church staff used their positions for pleasure and prosperity.
With so many opportunities, gaining access to a human would be fairly easy, if not for the fierce competition from other demons.
Human emotions were great perches. Fear, unbelief, uncertainty, rebellion, and pride were the strongest and most stable grips a demon could get on a human. Once the human began believing and accepting the whispered lies and half-truths the fiend crooned in his ear, the demon would get some rest upon the perch of nagging thoughts and emotions.
Senturus had seen the mightiest of demons strip the host demon right off a human. The devils from the tribe nicknamed The Addictions were good for that.
Once an Addiction got a perch, not many demons would even attempt to unseat him from his human. The best demons were able to gain complete possession of their human.
All I have to do is to gain control of someone, he thought. Then he began to despair, thinking about the difficulty of such an endeavor. With this Christian filth around here, I have to be satisfied with oppression, which gives me only a moment’s opportunity to rest. These Christians toss us off like we are flies. They put up with us just long enough until they start to pray for relief from God.
If only I could get a denouncement of faith. That will happen. I just have to get this job done. This job will be my prize seat! I’ll be rid of Jocenlas for good. Let him take his comedy routine to the Addictions, demons so strong they make me look pitiful. They won’t appreciate him; that’s certain.
Senturus redirected his attention on the job at hand. “There is much to discuss,” he continued with authority, before Jocenlas could interrupt again with his ridiculous attempts at humor.
Jocenlas had been assigned to destroy a once famous comedian. Since completing that quest, he was always attempting to make jokes, which were always unfunny.
Senturus explained, “Thus far, I’ve seen no evidence of the Heavenly Army, but rest assured, they will come. This area is too crucial to be ignored for long.” He again scanned the wooded landscape.
“I heard that Marcus the Merciless will be joining us,” Jocenlas commented, now intent on the tasks ahead rather than failed attempts at humor.
“You are correct. You and I are to instill lust and doubt into Lily Howard, and pave the way for him. She is a prime candidate for deception. The girl is disappointed in God and blames Him for her father’s murder.”
“A nice set up for us. Why they blame Him for our work continually surprises even me. You would think they would have learned over the centuries.” Jocenlas shook his horned head.
“Humans are ungrateful, you know. They always want more of everything. When God could provide them with everything, instead they turn to the world and are left empty and craving yet more.” Senturus grinned. He despised the human swine.
“These humans couldn’t begin to comprehend what awaits them here in this small town. And they say small towns are safe? Ha! Let us move in closer and follow the girl. She is difficult to reach when accompanied by her vile mother. That woman is fully devoted.” Senturus wanted Rose Howard to suffer. Her spiritual confidence was an abomination.
“Did you receive the order about The Translator?” Jocenlas asked as he passed Senturus and glided to a point just above the ground, his onyx wings slightly extended.
“What?” Senturus felt his excitement mounting.
“We will be planting an ancient language into his mind. This will allow him to translate the remainder of the words and symbols needed to complete that which must come to pass.”
“Very ingenious. Let us proceed. I want to accomplish as much as possible before the holy people begin to join forces.” Senturus bolted through the brush, joining his comrade.
“I hate it when they surrender and pray,” Jocenlas agreed. He wasn’t joking now.
Senturus crouched low to the ground, his companion nearby. Together they slunk though the field surrounding the carnival. Small rodents and animals scurried away as they approached. It always amazed Senturus how animals could sense their presence. Humans could too, if they were spiritually discerning. Most, however, were not.
In a flash, he reached down and grabbed a baby rabbit. Feeling its tiny heartbeat race in fear, its eyes gazing up at him, wide in horror, excited him.
Without a second thought, he sunk his fangs into the tiny white ball of fluff and tore its head off. Blood spewed in their path. He spat out the head wishing it was Lily Howard’s. Now, that would be a tasty treat.
Ted Lyons drove with a crumpled road map in his hand. Although he’d highlighted his destination, Cherry Creek, Oregon, the map was still difficult to read at night, even with the overhead light. He’d yet to embrace the technology that would eliminate his need for a paper-made map. Maybe it was time to rethink that decision.
He pondered the growing ministry in Southern California that he was leaving behind. His friends and family were there. Ted didn’t know anyone in Oregon, and had never even heard of Cherry Creek seven days ago. Now he was making the town his home, a cold and wet home, if the current weather was any indication.
He cherished the warm southern climate, not this rain beating down on his windshield. But more than anything created he loved The Creator. When the Lord wanted Ted to drop all and follow, he followed. If any doubts encroached, which they often did, he thought about Abraham’s quest, and how he’d left everything behind to follow God. The decision to move had been riddled with reservations, but he’d relented.
For Ted, the whole process started just a week ago at a leadership conference where he’d enjoyed the company of several pastors from the green, northern state. They’d discussed the plight of the Cherry Creek Community Church, and Ted had felt that familiar tug in his heart; the tug he knew, without doubt, was from God.
He’d scheduled an appointment to meet with the church’s elders; and he couldn’t deny the gnawing anticipation at the prospect of something new and different. He was both saddened and intrigued by the events leading to his arrival.
Murder of a well-respected man of God and months without a replacement were not ordinary occurrences. His intuition told him something was very wrong in Cherry Creek. Having once been a police officer and, briefly, a private investigator, caused Ted to be inquisitive. He was lonely too; maybe here God would answer his prayers for a wife.
He approached the exit, shifting gears, when an eerie chill fanned down his spine. He sensed the presence of something close by — something malevolent.
As a pastor, who’d experienced more than a few implausible situations, he understood what was happening — a spiritual attack. The enemy didn’t want him to reach Cherry Creek.
He was on the verge of an accident.
Wiping a trickle of perspiration from his brow, he took a deep breath trying to calm himself enough to think. The defroster had decided to quit working and he couldn’t get his windows to open. He wiped the front window with his palm. Nothing changed. It was too fogged to see. In fact, he couldn’t see out any windows now.
A horn blared as an unseen vehicle sped by on the left. Not knowing what else to do, he pulled over to what he hoped was the right side of the highway. Another car blew its horn and screeched to a halt behind his bumper. It continued on its way around him, honking the entire time.
Taking another deep breath, Ted adjusted the controllers on his console. Everything was functioning fine now. He wasn’t surprised to find the windows working too. Fresh cool air poured in along with a few raindrops. Thank God he was on the right shoulder. Both he and his car were intact.
“Thank you, God, for Your protection. Help me to reach Cherry Creek in one piece.”
A sense of relief replaced his fear. Such a blatant spiritual attack confirmed what he’d suspected all along — this was no ordinary job.
Taking a long look over his shoulder, he maneuvered back into traffic. His headlights reflected a welcoming sign just ahead — Cherry Creek next exit. Clicking the turn signal, Ted turned toward an uncertain future.
He knew he was right on schedule.
The angels assigned to protect the holy man unsheathed their flaming swords. Their demonic foes screamed their fury, swearing obscenities as they retreated from the pastor’s car, spiraling into the overcast sky.
“Observe, my friends. That preliminary encounter will allow Pastor Lyons to reach his destination unscathed,” Raulo, the Lead Angel, announced, triumphant. He continued to fly over Ted’s vehicle for a few more minutes before veering to the right.
“This man will provide the leadership the church needs. He is dynamic, creative, tough, as the humans would say!” Raulo glanced curiously to his right at Mileo, who had just been assigned to his ranks.
For centuries, Mileo had been in charge of welcoming the saints into heaven. Raulo could not fathom the reason for such a drastic change in position, but he knew better than to question The Father’s divine plans. He would make every effort to train the angel, helping him develop his instinctive fighting skills.
“Mielo, do you sense the evil creatures arriving? Your opportunity for battle may arrive sooner than expected. We will discuss strategic warfare soon,” Raulo explained as the church’s steeple drew his attention. He circled, landing on a grassy slope. He and his battalion would rendezvous here.
From his position, he watched as the pastor parked his car, heading towards the safety of the Country Inn Hotel. He hoped Ted and the other Christians would begin to pray soon. Their petitions affected heavenly response far more than they were aware.
Raising his magnificent wings, Raulo saluted his fellow comrades as they too glided down. He marveled at God’s handiwork. Each angel was created different. They all shared human qualities, but they were anything but ordinary.
All were clad in flowing beige or white tunics adorned with glittering jewels. Swords, shields, spears, and crossbows could be seen attached to belts or tucked inside their cascading garments. All were male in appearance, although not men in the human sense of the word. They were muscular and fit. Most of the warriors towered well over seven feet tall, a few even taller. Amazing, grand, powerful, and perfect could only begin to describe his heavenly allies.
Raulo reached into his tunic and grasped his most prized possession, an exquisite golden trumpet. Placing the instrument to his lips, he blew. The sound, gloriously clear and perfectly holy, signaled the beginning of their meeting.
“Let us begin.”
Raulo recognized many of the warriors from previous battles. These angels were what the humans would refer to as the “best of the best.”
“Lord, we praise and honor you. May we obey and operate inside the parameters of your perfect will.” The intercessory angel opened their meeting.
Raulo stood to his full height, commanding respect. “Welcome, friends. Many of you have traveled far and are eager to receive your new assignments. Our leader, Michael, has given us explicit directions from The Father. I expect Rafael will join us in the future.”
He observed his companions’ reactions. They were thrilled by the prospect of fighting alongside such a respected and experienced warrior.
Unrolling the glowing parchment, Mileo had given him, he began: “Several humans will play crucial roles in resolving this conflict. Rose Howard, Ted Lyons, and Karen White will be protected and guided by me and my new partner, Mileo. Argentio will have a challenging young charge, Lily Howard. These humans will be under intense attack. I am quite certain you all received extensive background information on each individual in your pre-battle briefings.”
He surveyed the warriors. All eyes remained on him.
He continued, “We are not yet permitted to engage in outright combat. Our job is to protect the humans involved in this conflict, yet we must allow them to make their own mistakes. The enemy will be permitted to test these humans, extensively, for a time.”
Pausing, he allowed this statement to penetrate. By the uneasy glances he knew the significance of the boundaries were understood, not liked, but accepted.
“We are to protect their lives and offer encouragement. I believe at a later time we will be allowed to take a more aggressive approach. Our actions will depend on the tactics the enemy employs.
I am not sure what they are after, but from their numbers, it is of the highest significance.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Like most authors, Carol Van Atta is no stranger to the written word. She penned a short novel at age 12 (somewhat frightening illustrations included) and had a creative writing piece published in her high school newspaper. Devouring books from numerous genres, she developed a thirst for more reading materials and could almost always be found with her nose in a book. She has contributed to several popular inspirational anthologies and devotionals, published by Zondervan and Regal Publications, and was a regular writer for Campus Crusade for Christ’s Christian Women Today. Writing fiction is her greatest joy.Soul Defenders: The Black Orchids, is the first book in a trilogy of spiritual warfare thrillers.