For the likes of Kent Neil, it had been a successful hunt. True, he had not bagged an elk, but for Kent, time spent in the high mountain wilderness was reward enough. And now on this last day of the hunt he was in no hurry to leave the Idaho back-country.
He and his hunting companions had broken camp before dawn and now they were making their way along an east facing slope as the sun broke over the mountains. Bringing up the rear, Kent paused as the hunting party emerged from a thick stand of Douglas fir. He waited while his friends crossed the open slope and watched as the tail of the last packhorse disappeared into the gloom of the evergreens about 100 yards away. Kent knew his friends would laugh among themselves, roll their eyes and make comments about his “spooky, spiritual communion with nature.” He smiled to think of it. It wasn’t nature he desired to commune with but the Author of creation.
He dismounted his horse and dropped the reins to the ground. He doubled his fists in the small of his back and stretched a moment before stepping toward the pack horse, now cropping grass at the edge of the wood. He checked the cinch on the pack saddle and made sure the straps were pulled tight on the panniers. After making sure everything was in order, he walked to his horse and began to rummage through the saddle bags for a snack.
At that moment, his peripheral vision caught movement on the ridge to the east. He turned to look and was surprised to see a magnificent six point elk standing with its nose pointed down the slope; a perfect broadside shot. Kent stood still and watched the magnificent animal, almost hoping it would move on. It was the last day of the hunt and his friends were far down the trail; it would be easier to let this one go. Yet, something stirred in him and he found himself reaching for the hunting rifle in the saddle scabbard.
The elk remained motionless as Kent stepped away from his saddle horse and leaned against a tree for a steady shot. He put the cross hairs just behind and above the left shoulder of the elk and began to squeeze the trigger. He hesitated, looked above the scope at the elk and then back at the magnified image of the scope.
“Something isn’t right” he said to himself. “It’s as if this guy is asking me to shoot him. It’s like he is waiting for this.”
Kent actually lowered his rifle and was ready to shove it back into the boot but the hunter in him wouldn’t let him pass on the opportunity. He raised the gun into position again, found his mark, and squeezed off the shot.
The elk lunged down the 70° slope and disappeared from sight. Kent shoved the rifle into the boot and climbed aboard his horse. He twitched the lead rope to start the packhorse and set off across the open ridge. When he arrived at the point where the elk had been he could clearly see where the animal had slid down the ridge. There was a stand of brush near the bottom of the slope that combined with the angle of the ridge to make it impossible to see the bottom. He sat on his horse and peered down, watching as occasional gusts of wind stirred the brush. It would be hard to find a way down the slope and if the elk had ran to the north before expiring he might not have to backtrack in order to catch up with it. At that moment a strong gust of wind stirred the brush. Kent caught his breath; he could have sworn he saw a human face momentarily revealed by the wind. He felt the hair rise on the back of his neck.
“This is ridiculous” he mumbled.
After another moment of consideration, Kent turned his horse around and made his way back to the stand of timber on the south end of the ridge. He had decided it would be easier to work his way down to the bottom of the gully from that direction. After several minutes he found himself at the bottom of the slope and moving northward up the draw. Sure enough, he caught sight of the six point bull about 150 yards north of the tree line – about 20 or 30 feet from the place it had descended the slope. He ambled his horse toward the elk but his mount shied violently when he approached the point where the bull had crashed down the ridge.
“Whoa boy – whoa – what’s up?”
He dismounted and glanced toward the bottom of the ridge.
“God in Heaven!” A chill shot through him as he saw the body of a man half buried at the bottom of the ridge. His horse snorted in fear behind as he moved closer, his hand gripping the butt of the revolver holstered at his side. Standing a few feet away, Kent could see the body had been buried – or at least partially buried – n the bank but when the elk had tumbled down the ridge it caused the sandy earth to give way, exposing the cadaver.
Although only part of the body was uncovered, Kent could see the man was huge. His massive head was covered with a dark shaggy mane and the left arm, laying exposed to the cold air, was as thick as Kent’s own leg. He moved closer. It appeared the man died recently since there was no evidence of decay. Indeed, if Kent hadn’t known better he would have said the man was merely sleeping.
The man’s eyes suddenly flew open.
Kent stumbled backward as he struggled to wrench the revolver free from its holster. He had the gun out and lined up with the man’s head before he realized what he was doing. He dropped the gun to his side and drew a deep breath before moving back toward the big man.
“Are – are you – are you alright?” Kent realized how stupid he sounded. “No, no, I mean – ” He shoved the pistol into his holster and, overcoming his shock, moved toward the man. Kneeling down beside him he began to scoop away the dirt with his hands. The huge man gave Kent a look of gratitude and struggled to speak.
“Bendigedig fyddo’r Arglwydd, Duw Israel, o dragwyddoldeb hyd dragwyddoldeb.”
Kent stopped digging for a moment and stared. He shook his head and resumed his task. “Don’t try to talk right now – I – it sounds like you’re speaking a foreign language, I can’t understand you.”
As the form of the man was revealed it became clear he lay naked under the embankment. All kinds of scenarios began to race through Kent’s mind and he wondered if someone had tried to kill the man and bury the evidence. Yet, as the massive form was revealed to the early morning light Kent realized there was not a mark on the body. Or rather, no mark of recent violence. Indeed, the man’s arms and torso were lined with scars. To Kent it appeared the man was a veteran of numerous knife fights
Finally the man was free of the mound and he rolled to his belly at the bottom of the wash. He began shivering violently and Kent realized the man was in danger of dying of exposure. He turned on his heel and ran back to his horse, spooking the animal. He caught up the reins and tied the lead horse to a low hanging tree limb. Opening the panniers, he rummaged about for extra clothing. As he pulled long underwear, sweaters and socks from the pack he realized that none of them would be large enough to fit the man. Kent was over 6 feet tall but the shaggy man from the embankment was at least 7 feet and probably weighed 400 pounds. He glanced back toward the slope and saw the man was curled in a fetal position trying to conserve what little body heat he had. Quickly gathering the items of clothing in one arm, Kent grabbed a large tarp with the other and sprinted toward the shivering form.
“Here, get these things on the best you can and cover up with the tarp.”
Kent set the bundles beside the man and grabbed him by the arm to help him into a sitting position. The skin was stone cold but the muscles were solid and alive. Kent begin to work a wool sweater over the man’s head and help him shove his arms into the sleeves. The material stretched to the breaking point but it held and so Kent helped the man into a pair of long-johns.
“All right, finish up while I get a fire started.”
He turned away to pull together kindling and wood for a fire and within a few minutes he had a blaze going. By now the man was huddled under the tarp and as he scooted near the flames, Kent could see he was no longer shivering. It appeared color was returning to his face.
After throwing a few more chunks of wood on the fire, Kent returned to the pack and grabbed a coffeepot and coffee. There was a small creek at the edge of the timber and he filled the pot before returning to the fire. The big man sat stock still, hands extended toward the flame.
Kent glanced at him and shook his head as put the coffee pot at the edge of the fire. “I don’t know what you’re saying.” He looked back at the big man a moment before speaking again. “Can you tell me who you are, where you’re from?” Kent gestured toward the embankment. “And how did you get here?”
“I can see we’re going nowhere fast.” Kent stood up and looked toward the top of the ridge. “I guess it doesn’t matter. I just need to get you out of here.” He shaded his eyes against the rising sun, hoping to see his hunting companions peering down at him from the top of the ridge. “I could sure use some help right now.”
“Ddaeth y newydd-loer?”
Kent could feel a rise of irritation. “Look, I have no idea what you’re saying.” He looked back at the man and watched as he made motions toward his mouth as if eating. Feeling foolish, Kent nodded and turned once again to the pack horse. When he returned to the campfire he was surprised to see the big man digging in the embankment. He was more surprised when the shaggy giant pulled something from the dirt that looked like a belt with a long scabbard. Kent stepped forward as the giant brushed the dirt away from his find. It was a belt and scabbard, and the hilt of a sword showed as well. Kent watched as the colossus slung the belt around his waist. He had cloaked himself with the tarp and once the belt and sword were settled into place it seemed the man was transformed.
“This is getting weirder by the second.”
Kent backed away a few steps before turning to the fire. He shook his head. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of chopping that came from behind him. He turned to see the giant man standing over the fallen elk some yards away, wielding his sword like an ax, hacking away a chunk of meat from the haunch of the elk.
“Jeez, I forgot all about that.” He felt the rise of irritation again. “Hey” he called, “You don’t quarter an elk like that! You’re making a mess of it, damn it!”
Kent strode toward the man but before he arrived at the side of the bull elk, the goliath had completed his task and was making his way back to the fire with a large portion of elk meat gripped in one hand, the sword in the other. As he drew near, Kent was struck by the sheer size of him. His anger was suddenly replaced with caution.
“That’s fine, go ahead, help yourself. The way things are going I doubt I’ll get that bull out of the woods anyway.”
The man squatted by the fire and started to roast the meat. Long before it was properly cooked, he produced a large knife from a sheath behind the sword scabbard. Then, gripping the meat with blackened teeth he tugged at the flesh, stretching it tight to cut a bite free with the knife. Kent watched as the man consumed the entire slab of meat in this fashion. Then, finished with his meal he looked a question at Kent.
“Ddyfrhau’r?” The giant made a drinking motion. Kent grabbed a cup and poured some coffee. He handed it to the man and the giant downed the scalding coffee without hesitation. He handed the cup back to Kent and the process was repeated several times until the cloaked colossus set the cup on the ground and sighed. For a moment he gazed intently at Kent, and then spoke.
“Pwy wyt ti?”
Kent slowly shook his head. “I don’t understand you. I – “
“Tu quis es?”
To Kent it sounded different, like Latin maybe, but he shrugged and shook his head again.
“Oo tis ay?”
“Look, I have no idea what you’re saying.” Kent shifted uneasily. “It doesn’t really matter. I need to get you out of here – I need to find out who you are and – “
Kent stopped short. He looked with amazement as the titan gazed heavenward and lifted his hands. His voice rumbled down the gully as he called out.
“Gwae fi! Dyn a’i wefusau’n aflan ydwyf! Dywedodd Iesu wrtho, llefarant â thafodau newydd!”
He reached out and took a smoldering stick from the fire and touched the hot coal to his tongue.
“What are you doing? You’re going to burn yourself.” Kent lunged forward but stopped as the man continued to chant.
“Quia tacui quia vir pollutus labiis ego! Ait illi Iesus, linguis loquentur novis!”
It was clear he was speaking in more than one language and in between he touched the smoking wood to his tongue.
“O ego, kai eimi anthropos akatharta kaylay! Kai, Yaysoos glossais lalasoosin kainais!”
“That’s enough!” shouted Kent.
“Woe to me, for I have been silent, For a man – unclean of lips am I. But Jesus said, with new tongues they shall speak.”
He lowered his gaze and looked at Kent.
“How – you spoke English – what – what’s going on?”
“Hmm.” The big man stood, rising to his full height. “Hmm. Hmm.” His voice rumbled in his chest. Then he drew a long breath before speaking.
“I am a prophet of Arglwyydd Dduw, the one you might call Yahweh Elohim. I am here at the end of this time to see the turning of time. Arglwyydd Dduw, has promised me I would be the only one of my age to perceive it.” He looked around as if seeing the gully for the first time. “Now, who are you and of what people are you?”
Kent’s shoulders dropped. He stared dumbly at the ground for a long while. “This is ridiculous. This is totally ridiculous. Look, ah, mister, all I want to do is get you out of here and find out were you belong. I’m not interested in this mumble-jumbo. “
“Hmm.” The big man crossed his arms and began to pace around the fire. “I will speak. I will tell you of my flight and why I come here.” He stopped and look hard at Kent. “I do not know this time now – it seems much different – but I believe it is the time Arglwyydd Dduw, told me of. Here is my tale.”
He planted his feet and let his arms drop to his side.
“I am of the Keltoi people. Long we have been driven westward. Not for lack of courage, but for lack of men.” He lifted his hand and made a fist. “A powerful people, each one himself, but too few in number.”
He resumed his pacing. “I am called Elias, a prophet in the ways of Arglwyydd Dduw – Yahweh Elohim – the One many of us have worshiped since the truth came to us some four hundred years after Iesu Grist died on the bloody tree of Rome.” His hand went to the hilt of his sword and he turned toward the wide valley that opened north of the gully. “Not all of the Keltoi bow the knee to Iesu Grist. No, indeed, most do not. Those who do not have continued to harass. And I, for one, was driven westward, ever westward until, so long ago – centuries I think Arglwyydd Dduw tells me – finally I came to the shores of a vast and wild land. It was then that Arglwyydd Dduw told me I would perceive the turning of time.” He paused a moment and looked heavenward. “It is the turning from humanity’s infancy to childhood.” He looked back to Kent. “But I am to die then as well – and to be certain that those who pursue die with me.”
Kent stared at the big man for several seconds. He slowly shook his head. “Listen – Elias is it? – centuries ago? – that doesn’t really make sense to me. I understand you’re feeling a little mixed up, but what we need to do is to get out of here.” He glanced at his watch. “The day is getting on and it’s going to take a while to hike out on foot.” He looked over at the horses. “I mean, there is no way one of those two is going to be able to pack you out of here.” He suddenly brightened as a thought struck him. “I tell you what, It might be best if I leave you here with plenty of food and firewood and ride out as quick as I can for help.” Kent grinned at the thought. “Sound like a plan?”
Elias glared at Kent. “You have not heard me.” He moved toward Kent and the smaller man took an involuntary step backward. “Arglwyydd Dduw has brought me here to perceive the turning. Long centuries I have slept in this foreign land but now is the time of turning Someone must be here to receive it. You are the one to receive it.”
“No, nope.” Kent turned toward the horses and started to walk away. “I’m sorry but that’s a bunch of baloney. No one lives in suspended animation for hundreds of years – not anywhere – and especially not in a pile of dirt in the back-country of Idaho.” He glanced over his shoulder. “If you expect me to believe you came from England or Briton or wherever a thousand years ago or whatever, well that’s idiotic” he snorted. “I’ll unload the food and gear. I should be back with help tomorrow morning.”
“Stop!” The voice of the giant seemed to shake the ground beneath their feet. “If you go, you shall not live. I warn you, with my awakening the Cythraul are awakened too. They who drove me to this land. They must die or their evil will bemire this time.”
Kent turned to look at the man. After a long moment he shook his head. “I’m sorry pal, but I’m not staying. I’ll leave you everything you need for the night – and then some. But, frankly, you give me the creeps.”
He had just turned back to the horses when the man shouted a thunderclap. The horses reared back against the tether and before Kent could reach them, they were free, running north toward the open valley. He watched helplessly as they disappeared in the distance.
“Great, just great.” Caution made Kent keep his anger under control. He paused a long moment before continuing. “Alright – fine – not that it matters. My buddies will be here looking for me before long and I’ll just ride out with them. So, until then, you can keep telling me your fairy tales – if you want.”
“There will be no other here but you and I when the Cythraul come.”
“Whatever you say, uh, Elias.” Kent’s hand went to the butt of his revolver. “But thanks to you we won’t have any grub while we wait. Unless you want to keep working on that elk.”
With that Kent remembered he hadn’t taken time to field dress his kill. He walked toward the downed elk as he lifted his knife out of its sheath. “At least I’ll have something to do while I wait” he mumbled.
When he finished with the elk the sun was beginning to sink in the west. It hardly seemed possible the day was over. And still no sign of his hunting party.
The game bags had been lost with the horses so he hung the quartered elk, uncovered, in the branches of a tree. Cutting several good sized steaks from one, he made his way back to the fire.
“I may as well make the best of it” he grumbled. “Here you go ‘Prophet’ – I’ll make an elk steak dinner just to show you there are no hard feelings.” He looked at the man and realized he was bowed in an attitude of prayer. He felt foolish. “Well, hey, I’m a Believer too” he said mostly to himself. “A Christian anyway, but this stuff – too weird for me.”
Elias raised his head and looked at Kent as he approached the campfire. His eyes rested on him for a moment and then turned toward the open valley. After a few seconds he spoke. “Have you brought plenty of meat from the animal?” he asked. “We will need more. We are going to have guests” and he pointed northward.
Kent turned to look. About a quarter of a mile away he could see several indistinct forms moving toward the camp. They looked human but their gait was odd, jerky, like puppets on a string.
“What is that?” he was embarrassed at the tremor in his voice.
“Cythraul. Demons. But truly they are men, mortal as I am. Men who have slept as I have.”
“I told you I don’t believe your – ” He stopped in mid sentence. “What do they want – what are they going to do?”
“Hmm.” Elias watched the advancing shapes “They want to kill me. Their kind will lose strength as humanity matures and they believe the turning of the time may be stopped if I am killed. They are wrong. Yet, they must die or they will bring their poison into this time.
Kent shook his head and turned back to the fire. “There is plenty of poison in ‘this time’ already my friend.” He hunted around for sticks to skewer the elk steaks. “I don’t really understand how you came to be buried in that bank or where you came from – why you have that sword – but I’m not interested in your private feud. You can’t just up and kill people, not in this day and age.”
“No. But to defend oneself is just. I will not invite attack, but I will defend myself when it comes.” He inclined his head toward Kent. “You must do the same.”
Kent pulled his revolver from the holster and checked the cylinder: six rounds. His extra ammo was gone with the horses. Suddenly he shook his head and jammed the gun back in place and secured the strap. Was he actually going to fall for this man’s story? But then again, better safe than sorry. He unsnapped the holster again and made sure the revolver was free for a quick draw. He stood up and looked north. The figures were gone.
“What’s keeping ’em?”
The big man glanced at him before turning to the campfire. “They have confirmed I am here. They will arrive when the sun is going down. Now I will spend my time in prayer. You will do the same?”
Kent looked at his watch and then at the late afternoon sky. If anything was really going to happen, it wouldn’t be long in coming. Perhaps he should take time to pray. Not that he believed the giant’s story. But any Christian would want to pray if they were in his shoes. He stepped a few paces away from the fire and sat down under a fir tree. He could hear the voice of Elias quietly rumbling away in his strange tongue and he found his hesitancy melted. Not sure where to begin he decided to recite the Lord’s prayer.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by they name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
All at once the air was torn by an inhuman scream. Kent’s head jerked up. He saw several grotesque shapes swarm the giant. Elias was on his feet and his sword flashed about him in the failing light. Kent leapt up and stared open mouthed. Unexpectedly one of the creatures turned and rushed toward him. He fumbled for his revolver. It cleared the holster just as another of the fiends materialized from behind the tree and chopped down on his arm with a short heavy sword. Kent screamed in pain, but somehow he retained his grip and pulled the trigger as the demon was upon him. The body of the ghoul jerked and blood burst from the wound. The second creature raised its sword for another blow and Kent turned to fire. He squeezed off three quick shots and the body of the devil was driven back by the impact. It fell writhing to the ground and Kent turned toward the battle raging to his left. Two of the brutes were down near the campfire but Elias continued to battle two more. Ignoring his throbbing arm, Kent rushed forward and one of the fiends turned to meet him. It screamed as it charged, a hideous gaping corpse. Kent pulled the trigger three times in quick succession. Two shots rang out and the ghoul fell to the ground. There was no third shot; the hammer fell on a spent shell. He threw his handgun at the final creature but was dismayed to see that the ogre had found its mark, plunging its sword deep into the chest of Elias. Before it could wrench the blade free, Kent charged forward, his hunting knife in his left hand. The creature turned and Kent’s knife went home. He stepped back and let the monster fall.
“Ein Tad yn y nefoedd, sancteiddier dy enw”
It was Elias, speaking in his strange tongue. Kent knelt beside him and reached to examine the wounds. The big man caught his hand and shook his head.
“Deled dy deyrnas; gwneler dy ewyllys, ar y ddaear fel yn y nef.” There was something familiar in the cadence and somehow Kent understood the giant was reciting Our Father.
“Dyro inni heddiw ein bara beunyddiol.” Elias turned his eyes toward the ancient sword as he spoke as if to indicate he was bequeathing it to Kent.
“You want me to have this?” Kent asked as he pulled the sword close to the giant’s side.
The big man nodded as he continued to pray, “Maddau inni ein troseddau, fel yr ŷm ni wedi maddau i’r rhai a droseddodd yn ein herbyn”
Kent lifted the sword and held it as Elias breathed his last.
“A phaid â’n dwyn i brawf, ond gwared ni rhag yr Un drwg.”
He looked at the face of the ancient prophet for a long moment. He drew a long breath and slowly exhaled as he reached to close his eyes. He stood and lifted his face to heaven.
“Yes, God” he prayed. “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
Welsh: Y Beibl Cymraeg Newydd Argraffiad Diwygiedig (The Revised New Welsh Bible).
Latin: Jerome’s 405 A.D. Latin Vulgate
Greek Transliteration: Septuagint LXX Greek Old Testament and Greek New Testament: Byzantine Textform