The terrace was very crowded with nearly sixty goblins and another two dozen centaurs. Fortunately, the Atlanteans built on a grand scale. Justin looked for his father and sister but found neither although Dog was running for their rooms. Dog would have been useless in explaining the sudden invasion in any case so it was left to Justin to explain why there were a troop of goblins and centaurs on the monastery grounds and why it was a good idea to keep them separate from each other.
After their long time lost in the deep forest both the goblins and the centaurs were stunned by the sunshine and the open spaces around them as well as the people and buildings.
More and more people kept arriving. The centaurs were looking particularly nervous with all the people and being cramped in a tight spot. Justin spotted Bishop Hoel who was in charge of the cathedral and the order here and he asked for help.
“Your Grace, would you be so kind as to arrange for quarters for my friends?” Justin asked Bishop Hoel.
The clergyman was nonplussed for a moment but recovered quickly, “Certainly, My Son, you have returned safely and with at least one surprise. No doubt more will be forthcoming.”
“Brothers,” Hoel addressed his subordinates, “Let us find food and lodging for all.”
“Do not worry, Chieftain,” Hoel said in unaccented Centaur to Sunwolf, “We have lodgings fit for all manner of folk. I am certain you will be pleased with what we can provide.”
“Feeling the light giver is gift enough for any man after an eternity in darkness,” Sunwolf replied in the common tongue although his pronunciation was clearly from lands around the Cold Belt and a bit archaic. “Please, we would be happy to go wherever you might find a place for us.”
The goblins were equally uneasy but were obviously happy to see the centaurs leaving. They were also equally out of place on the terrace of the cathedral grounds.
“I have not forgotten you,” Hoel smiled at the goblin leader.
“Tolbiac, son of Peppin,” Tolbiac introduced himself.
“Bishop Hoel,” Hoel smiled and offered his hand.
The way Hoel had offered his hand allowed to Tolbiac to kiss the bishop’s ring or to shake the proffered hand. Tolbiac bowed to kiss the ring.
“Your Grace,” he said politely.
“Christ’s blessing on you and all your folk,” Hoel replied with a gentle smile. “For you there is no problem in finding accommodations. We have a whole wing that is empty since this is not the season for pilgrims.”
Justin had started to head for his family’s suite but stopped short. When he left it was the middle of the pilgrim season and many came to be baptized or for their confirmation, or knighthood ceremonies.
“What day is it?” Justin asked an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“It is the feast day of Saint Valeria of the Isles or Saint Anthony of Padua according to the time of the Earth that is lost,” Bishop Hoel said gently.
“That is more than half a year!” Justin exclaimed.
Overcome with a sudden panic he followed Dog’s path to their suites and found Shandra and his father sitting up on their beds while Dog ran from one to the other and his mother was weeping for joy.
“You did it!” his mother jumped up to hug Justin fiercely. “You brought them back. I knew you would. I never lost hope!”
Hoel had followed at a more dignified pace, “No indeed she did not our Paladin was ever faithful. She had faith in God and faith in you, my Son.” Hoel patted Justin’s shoulder.
At that moment everyone heard a loud crash like a granite block split by giants. Justin felt something raise the hairs on the back of his neck and noted that everyone looked surprised or uneasy.
“What was that?” they all said together.
Shandra and her father tried to get out of their respective beds but Dog sat on Don and Michelle held her daughter.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Michelle scolded both of them, “I just got you back. Someone else can go look. Justin you stay right here too. The Bishop has plenty of men who can go look for a loud noise.”
“That was more than a loud noise,” Justin replied but when he saw the determined look on his mother’s face he relented. “Okay, I could use a bit of rest as well.”
“And I can trust that my people will be investing thunder from a clear sky,” Bishop Hoel said firmly sitting himself at a table with tea and cookies.
Justin realized he was famished and figured that his father and sister probably were as well. “Please, let me serve,” Justin said as he poured tea for the Bishop and offered the plate of cookies.
“Chocolate chip, Dad’s favorite,” Justin said with a smile.
“We might as well eat them,” Michelle replied, “I was saving them for the funeral.”
Shandra made a rude noise and threw a pillow at her mother while Don just laughed.
“Yes, well that does spoil my plans for the next Mass as well,” Hoel replied with a dry smile.
Justin found the cookies were just what he needed. His training as Kantrus had given him the discipline to survive in the shadow lands where hunger and thirst were real but not physical. The more you gave into those feelings and impulses the greater the effects would be upon you. You could starve by believing you were starving. Justin enjoyed the cookies and tea because he could. He could allow himself to feel the hunger and thirst without fear that his own feelings would wind up killing him. Giving in to the sensations of hunger and thirst in the shadow lands could lead a man to become linked to the shadow lands permanently. The mental and spiritual sensations could lead to actual physical changes dooming the victim to wandering the shadow lands until you finally convinced yourself you were dead and died.
While Shandra and Don were obviously weaker they were not as weak as nearly nine months in the shadow lands should have left them. Strong magics had been keeping them whole far longer than Justin had thought possible. Their time in the shadow land versus the real world was the longest Justin had ever read about. Indeed, usually no time passed for a traveler through the shadow lands that meant they had been in realms so far from this plane of existence that the transitions were taking time or perhaps time ran at different rates in different realms.
A brother came bustling in and spoke in quiet tones with the bishop. Justin watched while Bishop Hoel’s eyebrows rose higher and his face took on a look of surprise and wonder.
“I believe that a major miracle has just occurred. Here and now,” Hoel was attempting to maintain his composure but his curiosity and excitement were getting the better of him.
“What happened, your Grace?” Justin asked.
“The grave of one of the Orc attackers has opened and a man, a human man has stepped forth!” Hoel replied. “I need to see to this.”
“Of course, your Grace,” Michelle replied, “I can watch over my family.”
“It might be Myntimur,” Shandra told Justin. “You should go see. If it is him, we’ll want to see him.”
“Myntimur?” Hoel asked Shandra, “Who is he?”
“He was the Orc that almost killed Dad and me,” Shandra replied. “He converted and found a path we believe, to Purgatory while in the shadow lands.”
“Oh, my!” Bishop Hoel quickly crossed himself than rose and strode as quickly as dignity allowed (or perhaps even a bit quicker) towards the graveyard followed closely by the brother that had brought the news.
“Even if it isn’t him, whomever he is just walked out of a grave. I think we’ll be wanting to speak to him. Once everyone else has,” Don chuckled, “I do believe that he’ll have more than a few people wanting to speak to him. This is after all one of the greatest cathedrals in the known world and is famous for its outreach and evangelization of non-humans. It has more than a few scholars, clergymen, and church fathers whose whole life has been spent reading and contemplating just such an event. I’d be surprised if he gets a chance to speak at all for the next few days.”
Justin quickly hugged his family before going to see the miracle, if it was one, for himself.