Chris knew that Michael was not the same. Physically, he was bigger. He was obviously stronger. That run along the passageway and up the stairs was not something his older brother could have done before. And he did it without breaking sweat or having to catch breath.
Lucy had not said anything as yet, but she had spent her time considering his brother. On the surface, she had been friendly, but beneath, she was unsure. In the short time he had known her, he had begun to measure her reactions to people and situations. His mother also appeared nervous around her son.
“It is a concern,” the voice coming from the stairwell said. “I noticed something from the first moment I set eyes upon you,” said Mr. Dale. “I have seen this before and have since persuaded myself that I did not.”
Chris was confused yet Michael looked on resignedly.
“In my previous role as a man of the cloth, I worked in India. India is suffused with the spiritual and their holy men are granted a status very rarely enjoyed by other mortals.
In that country, especially away from the main towns and cities, people’s lives are governed by a profound belief in the worlds that exist alongside our own. Spirits are to be found in everything from a beetle to a bull.
One day, I had the wife of a local farmer come to me for help. They were members of my church, attended every Sunday, but were also believers in Krishna. I was never absolute in my demands upon the church’s flock. I had this belief that most roads eventually led to God or, in some cases to his nemesis. Her husband had been bitten by a snake and was struggling for his life when a strange happening befell their youngest son. The child started to speak in an old language that nobody in the village understood, we found out later that it was Sanskrit, and the child lay with his father doing battle with the demon within for three days. When I was called, the father had made a miraculous recovery but the child was dreadfully unwell. It was as if he had sucked all the poison out of his father and was now suffering the consequences.
The thing that I noticed above everything else was the vague blue light, an ethereal aura, that encased the child. I saw that with you, Michael.”
“What happened to the boy?” asked Chris.
“I’m afraid he died. I tried everything to save him. Just before he went I read him the last rites, my belief was still stout back then, and he opened his eyes, looked straight into my soul and spoke in English. That was the first time I had heard that. He said that the Piper was awake and then he passed away.”
“What’s that got to do with us?”
“You know what it has to do with us. You’ve seen your brother in that other form. You saw what I saw.
We are living in the time of judgement. I denied it to myself for so long, but now it is inevitable. These are the revelations that are in the Bible and there will be battles. You two are as much our weapons as anything we have found in the armoury.”
Outside a blast of winter rain peppered the windows and roof. In the hills to the north, the rain was falling with more vigour, melting snow and ice and swelling the streams that fed the rivers that flowed out of them.
The following morning, a member of one of the scouting parties saw the first line of leathers on the horizon and the alarm went up.