The Spear of the Seraphim
It was moments till midnight when I passed through the mystical door. A four-foot fellow with a great red beard and a qi like three linebackers met me with a scowl and said, “Grack the foam-gardener, I. Trespassers deal with my fists!”
I didn’t have time for this. I parkoured off the basalt wall between two tapestries and front-flipped over his strong, short-statured form. A flying back-spin kick at sprinting speed, and the final door burst open.
There he was, folks: Father Christmas, folded in full lotus, entering some esoteric meditative state. “Yo, Santa!” I bellowed at the top of my pecs. “Snap out of it, the Anakim are coming!”
Grack tackled me before I got any closer, and the two of us smashed through an expensive-looking mahogany table full of flickering candles. Twist-rolling like a break-dancer, I put him in guard and got a hold of his hair, struggling to lock in a triangle choke. Meanwhile he was raining punches on the forearms that I barely got up in time to defend my face, and they felt like sledgehammer blows from John Henry. Probably crush my skull if they connected. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was not in advantage position, when a quiet word froze the both of us in place.
“Gentlemen.” That voice, his voice.
“Lord Claus,” Grack said hastily. “There’s no cause for concern, I’ve got this under—”
“What,” intoned the voice, “of the Anakim?”
I had feared that things would prove worse than I feared. But now I feared they were proving even worse than I’d feared, than I had feared they would. The Anakim, after all these long years!
“So like how big are we talkin’ here?” Mr. Jones inquired. “Like Empire State Building big?”
“Big enough to tread on the Empire State Building without breaking stride.”
“Wow. Okay, yeah, that’s big. But still, boss, I can handle this. Gimme ninety minutes and I’ll be back here with a crate fulla rocket launchers. No matter how—”
I shook my head. “I’m afraid you don’t understand, my friend. Besides their monstrous stature, the Anakim share the Nephilic propensity for regeneration.”
“. . .So, no weapon forged by mortal man, et cetera?”
“That just ain’t fair.”
“It’s as I told you.” Samaelion, my kinsman from of old. “The path of wisdom is to join the victor. There’s still time to find that possessed boy and send our overtures to the Darkness through the spirit in his flesh.”
The three of us were in the basement of my tavern, a small dim space cluttered with old boxes and shelves. Jones and I were standing, both with glasses of bourbon in our hands; Samaelion was zip-tied to a chair. “Old friend, I will put you in a cupboard and leave you without food, water, or the touch of sunlight till the next ten Christmas Eves have passed you by.” Immortality has many perils. “Or you could answer a few brief queries.”
He knew I make a point of never bluffing. “No need, no need for such measures. What do you wish to know?”
“What do the Goblins hope to accomplish by the building of their tower?”
“No one knows, exactly. King MacDrenneth ordered the construction out of the blue one day, and none dared question it. He seeks to confer with the devils in the heights, but for what purpose I cannot say.”
“And how did he enlist the Anakim to aid him in the building?”
“Again, it’s not quite clear. They say he called in a marker, some ancient boon they owed his forefathers.”
A boon? Frowning, I sipped my drink. A boon. When the Anakim last walked the Earth, the Goblins weren’t even a unified rabble, let alone a monarchy. Just scattered tribes, killing each other for scraps of carrion. How could the Crown of MacDrenneth, a line measured in mere centuries, hold such a claim?
“Won it in a poker match, maybe,” Jones muttered.
I almost smiled. Flippancy aside, it was conceivable that he was onto something. Perhaps the king had somehow acquired the rights to someone else’s marker. Mere conjecture, of course, but it made as much sense as anything else.
“Very well. Now, one last question. What will the Anakim do once the tower is complete?”
He looked genuinely surprised. “Why—I have no idea. Resume their age-old quarrel with the Elves, mayhap. Or head South to the Land of Dreams. But then again, they might wish to stay in goblin territory with the Angels of the Darkness, their fallen fathers. Who can say?”
“Hm.” Whatever their plans, we couldn’t have them stomping amok in the world above the waves. “Mr. Jones, please double-check the restraints on our guest and then head upstairs to keep an eye on the festivities.”
“Got it, boss man.”
I produced the key with which I had sent Thomas Belmont to the Dwarven Lands, and stepped over to the corner of the room. An old pine door in a rickety frame stood leaning against the wall, a passage to nothing at all. But once the keyhole accepted the mystical key—
Yes it is I, Vissarion Tulurieth, son of Quistilith Zelenorm, soldier of Favenheld Dale! The Elven High Council, well pleased with my recent mission to Boston, had just promoted me to Captain of the Eighth Garrison, which is how I came to be on patrol nigh the border of the Dragon Countries when the moon grew dark and the earth began to shake. We sent our scouts ahead, and they sent ahead their well-trained message-bats, who sent ahead their probing peeps through the wind and winter frost. And when the peeps and bats and messengers returned, they bore such tidings as I had not thought to hear in all my time, though time for elvenkind is long indeed.
“Lieutenant,” said I.
“Sir,” replied Carillion Morelain, my thrice-worthy and honorable swordfellow.
“Dispatch our three fastest runners back to the Council by swift but separate routes. Befall what may, they must receive this intelligence. The rest of the garrison shall hold position here, and make preparations to receive the invaders.”
“Spears, Lieutenant. Let the trees yield up their fair, beloved boughs to the needs of the day, and each man-jack of us fashion spears no less than thirty feet in length and stout as ever they can be. We cannot hope to defeat the giants, but we must do what is in us to slow their advance.”
“As you say, Captain.”
“If you see me not by morning light, then I am dead and you must take command. Farewell, good friend and comrade, for the nonce.”
And I was off. Tulurieth, my epithet, means Wingfoot in the tongue of my people, and the slowest of my people is faster than any mortal. I shot through the night, across the trembling plains, over the icy grass, beneath the glimmering stars. And soon, rearing above the meadows like a hundred million nightmares stuffed into one impossible sack, their heads came into view. Miles and miles away beyond the hills. I gritted my teeth and ran faster.
As I drew nearer, I saw that they did not proceed unchallenged. Dragons were swooping round the Anakim like mosquitoes, flicking out lancelets of fire which, to any other living thing, meant burning agony and grim demise, but which to these gargantuans were like the plink of morning dewdrops. I know the dragons: fierce they are, and quick to strike. I doubted they had paused for parley. Slim the odds, but it was not impossible that the giants could be reasoned with. It was my duty to try.
There: one vast approaching foot. As it came down with the ponderous weight of a thousand mountains, sinking deep into the wounded land, I came sprinting to the base of it, caught a hold of the wrinkles of flesh and hair, and began to climb. Fifteen minutes later, I had reached the tip of a toe.
Racing along the top of the foot, I made my way eventually to the ankle, and there I paused to catch my breath. We were rising again at that moment, and I peered down from the citadel of shin to see the living earth fall away below. The trees became matchsticks, dwindling, dwindling, and the mighty rivers were as shoestrings in the distance. Then the descent, like an eagle’s dive through cloud and fog, but slow as a marching glacier. Boom: the footstep.
I climbed again. For hours I climbed. If the giant was aware of me, it could not be bothered to swat me; and by good fortune, no dragon bathed me in its breath. It must have been about two in the morning when I came clambering up the Anak’s lobe and bellowed into the cavernous depths of its ear.
“Ho there! Vissarion Tulurieth, I. On behalf of the Elvish High Council, I bid you state your business in these lands.”
The Anak seemed unperturbed. “We go to Goblin Land.” A voice like a hurricane. “We go to raise a tallness.”
The tower, no doubt, of which our spies had spoken. Odd indeed. “The Elves have no quarrel with your people. Why do you take the side of the Goblins?”
“No side. We wish only to slumber. But our father called. Must answer.”
Their father? “You mean—one of the fallen ones? But why would they—”
“No more talk now.”
Curse you for a fool, Tulurieth. So distracted was I by the giant’s words, I did not sense the giant’s finger. A single flick, and I went sailing into empty space.
Didn’t take long to bring the old man up to speed. Grack seemed disinclined to believe me at first, but another dwarf came banging on the door a minute later, shouting about something called a Seal of Warding. Some kind of magic alarm system, I guess. Apparently they had a sentry posted up by the polar sea, who had just sent word about the giants.
Santa brooded, chin on fist. I felt like I should be more focused on the problem at hand, but I was a little busy staring at—you know—frigging Santa Claus. He looked pretty much like you’d think, except way more solid and real. The sense of presence coming from him, it was like standing in a cathedral. And that’s not even counting his qi, which was an avalanche.
It slipped out: “So you’re seriously St. Nicholas.”
He looked up and gave me the kindest smile in the world. “No, Tommy, I’m not—though he was a good man whom I was proud to call a friend. We’re two separate folk, but I’m afraid the short memory of your people causes you to conflate things quite a bit.”
“Huh.” Dill had said basically the same thing regarding the popular mash-up of Nephilim and Anakim. “So. . . .”
I was about to embarrass myself with a question regarding chimneys and cookies, which my six-year-old self had vowed to ask if I ever met the guy. Happily, I was spared by a sudden commotion in the corridor.
Grack stuck his head through the door. “Your pardon, sir. Yet another intrusion. I wouldn’t allow it, but she too has news of these damnable Anaks.”
“Thank you, my dear fellow. Admit her, please.”
In walked an elf. Made of silken gold, beautiful like nothing I’d ever seen. Her smile was the rose of sunrise.
“Master Claus,” she said with a fetching curtsy.
“Ah, Miss Mirielavay. A delight unlooked-for! Allow me to introduce Mr. Thomas Belmont of Boston town.”
She curtsied to me as well. Reflexively, I gave her the martial artist’s bow.
“Boston where the beans reside,” she said. “It chances I’ve just come from there myself.”
“Do sit, my lady, and speak the tale,” said Claus.
When she had told us of her strange poetical chess match with Goblin McGreth, I had one question: “I’m sorry, but why in the world did you run off to the Mystic Gate instead of just telling Dill what you’d found out?”
She hesitated. “Dill is your friend, I expect—and mine too!—but there are many stories of his deeds. In some, it is said that he’s done dark things for his vision of a higher good.”
I thought of Norman Grey, an innocent man whom Dill nearly sent to Hell in order to contain a demon. “Yeah, I’ve—heard the same thing.”
“Therefore I entreat you, Master Claus, to inform the Elven Council as soon as may be. I trust you have some eldritch means to do so, up your capacious red sleeve?”
He smiled—or rather, it seemed like his smile was ever-present, and sometimes came into sharper focus. I thought it must be terrifying to see him angry, and a part of me immediately hoped I’d get to see it.
“I have indeed such means,” he said. “Be comforted: when my polar sentinel activated his Warding Seal, the Council was alerted as well as myself. You’ll remember this sentinel, incidentally—you tried to buy my Key from him not long ago.”
“Gar son of Thrug! I hope he’s well.”
“It remains to be seen, I fear. If he has fallen, be sure it was with honor. But our immediate task is to consider the peril that is now upon us.”
“You know, Santa, I’ve got a buddy that could prob’ly get us some military-grade ordnance inside of two hours. No matter how big these things are—”
“Nay, friend, the Anakim cannot be harmed by such means. Like their cousins the Nephilim, they can only be destroyed by one device.” And he paused.
Slowly, with an air of overcoming some cryptic reluctance, he answered, “The Spear of the Seraphim.”
“Neat! Where do we get one of those?”
“There is only one. And if my information is correct, it is held in a place of deepest secrecy by—
The realm between realms, the strange non-world you enter when you pass through the Cherub’s Gate, has many names. The Astral Plane, the Kairos Field, the Shoreless Sea. It is the nothing-stuff of which the worlds were forged, the void where the Power of Creation has not yet come. It’s there, in a house which cannot be, that I keep my greatest treasures.
In that house there is one door only. It opens to one key only. And on the day the Anakim returned, I stepped through that door once again—for the first time in a very, very long time. And I trod the echoing corridors of dark and nameless stone.
Through silent chambers I passed, chambers holding cornucopias of neverending bounty. Down winding stairs I went my way a-wending, stairs lit by lamps whose energy could never die but grew brighter, by tiny increments, with every fading aeon. At last I came to a room with no floor, where the endless wind arose from nothingness, and I stepped out into the bottomless gale. Upward sailing, borne on wailing gusts, I came at last to the small circular room where the God-wrought metal hung upon the wall. Beneath it leaned a simple oaken pole. I touched the blade with veneration, lifted it, affixed to the shaft.
And held aloft the Spear of the Seraphim.
J.B. Toner studied Literature at Thomas More College and holds a black belt in Ohana Kilohana Kenpo-Jujitsu. He currently works as a groundskeeper in New Hampshire, and he and his lovely wife just had their first daughter, Sonya Magdalena Rose. Toner blogs at jbtoner.blogspot.com and tweets at AntiheroCouplet@twitter.com.”