“FLAME!” bellowed Narok.
Beads of sweat covered Joshua’s face. Torn between fainting and vomiting he did neither.
“Are they retreating?” asked Izaya.
Joshua, unable to answer, watched as the arrow burst into flames and drew back for launch. While his mind raced in all directions searching for another solution, his grandmother’s words echoed through his head: “…when you trust Jesus, there is nothing that the enemy can attack you with that your shield will not deflect.”
The scene was all too familiar. The skewered fireball blasted towards Joshua creating the sound of thunder in its wake. Joshua collapsed, pulling Izaya to the ground.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield,” he whispered.
The air around the boys ignited with a crash. Shivers of wood and embers scattered in all directions showering down cinders upon the cringing youths. Joshua lifted his eyes to watch falling sparks and rising smoke outline a shield unseen by human sight. Led by the outline of swirling vapor, Joshua slid his arm into the brace and grasped the handle of the shield his faith had produced. Narok had already dispatched the second arrow. One after another he fired until his quiver was empty. Each fiery dart the evil ruler delivered was extinguished without effect. All that remained was the smell of smoke and pieces of burnt shaft scattered across the ground. The impenetrable shield in Joshua’s hand had turned Narok’s ruthless attack into nothing more than a display of fireworks.
“Why are we still alive?” asked Izaya.
“Because the Lord God has given us a shield that Narok’s arrows have no power against,” explained Joshua.
“All that you did was to call upon his name,” Izaya asserted.
“That is all that you have to do, Izaya. The Bible says, ‘…whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,’” exclaimed Joshua.
Suddenly Joshua could feel warmth radiating around his feet and ankles. He stood to his feet. Forgetting the battle that raged around him, he watched as his tennis shoes transformed into sandals before his eyes. Leather straps crept up like snakes from wooden soles and attached themselves to one another above his feet. Bracing straps circled his ankles and latched together under shiny brass buckles.
“The gospel,” whispered Joshua. The cross-shaped buckles shimmered in the sunlight now breaking through the clouds. “Izaya, do you believe that Jesus can save us?” Joshua was compelled to ask.
“He already has,” confessed Izaya as he raised his head from prayer and gently wiped the tears from his unshackled eyes. Izaya squinted his reborn eyes tightly as he adjusted to the brightness of the day. An unskilled smile made its way to his mouth as he said, “Thank you, Joshua, … now let’s get that key.”
Seeing that Izaya’s eyes were no longer bound, Narok stepped back from the line of battle. Turning to mount his stallion he found his army retreating from the mysterious encounter.
“Superstitious fools! These children have melted your feeble hearts with tricks and illusions!” shouted Narok.
Mounting his horse, he charged the boys’ position drawing his sword from the sheath on the horse’s side. Within seconds he had closed the gap that had separated the combatants. Joshua and Izaya raised the faithful shield together as Narok slashed with deadly intent. Despite being saved by the shield from decapitation, both boys were lifted off their feet by the force of the impact. Plunging to the ground several yards back from where they had taken their stand, Izaya cried out to Joshua.
“How do we fight back?”
“With the sword of the Spirit, with the Word of God,” he replied. “Hold the shield in front of me, Izaya.”
Narok circled the field of battle to align his next attack. Lifting his hands above his head Joshua took hold of nothingness as if it were the handle of an invisible saber. At Narok’s command, his horse dipped its head and began the second invasion. With words and action in sync Joshua sliced through the air towards his aggressor and shouted, “The Lord is my hiding place and my shield; I hope in His word!”
In mid-thrust Joshua’s grip solidified to the hilt of a sharp, two-edged sword that had suddenly materialized. The blade, honed to razor sharpness, sliced through the girth of Narok’s saddle, sending him airborne and earthbound. The impact of his massive form cracked his helmet and split his breastplate. Joshua and Izaya observed with caution, as his wearied hand released the sword he had wielded for their destruction.
Joshua leaned forward like a fencer, daring his opponent not to yield. He slid his sword tip through the horsehair necklace that held the key at Narok’s throat. With one motion he severed the cord and catapulted the key to Izaya. Narok sat up with a roar, grasping at his neck to find his trophy had been removed. Joshua reared back his sword as Narok recovered his own. A howl of laughter rose from Narok’s throat as he rose to his feet, and pointed above Joshua’s head.
“What do you plan to do with that, boy?” he questioned through sneering laughter.
Joshua looked up to find the sword had transformed without warning into his Bible. Lowering his hands quickly, he opened to the passage book-marked by his thumb tips. The words of the second book of Corinthians Chapter 10 Verse 4 shimmered with golden light.
Narok drew back his mighty sword to strike.