“...nce ...ance ...Lance!”
Lance quickly snapped out of his memory, a sheepish smile plastered on his beet red face. Michael shook his head and smirked at his friend’s often single-mindedness.
“First, I have known you for much longer than that, however we had not officially met till that day. Second, I believe there are better times to reminisce over the past, Lance. There is a more pressing matter to handle as it is.”
“True enough.” Lance replied. “But to finish our previous conversation; I gave the address back to Loranth, so no harm, no foul. Honestly, once he figures, well if he figures it out that I made the whole thing up; he will take that young lady on a date. Who knows; maybe something will come from it. That boy definitely needs a woman’s touch.”
“As do you, my friend.” Michael responded with a smug tone.
“Yeah, I agree with you there. Speaking of which—”
Lance quickly turned, walked over, and knelt beside Rose who was still in the process of giving birth. Her hyperventilation was often interrupted by brief cries of agony and pain as she continued to deliver. The doctor peeked above the blanket that covered her legs.
“Mrs. Pyro, you are doing a great job. The baby is almost out; I just need you to push a little more.”
Lance held Rose’s hand as she nodded in understanding and prepared for one last push. She looked to Lance and chuckled through her shallow breathing. “For the record, I blame you.” To which he could only chuckle and nod back.
What followed shortly after was a mixture of a blood-curdling cry and a banshee scream that could have shaken the mountains down to rubble. Lance was suffering almost as much pain thanks to Rose who had suddenly gripped his entire hand and squeezed it with almost enough force to break it in half.
“It’s out, it’s out! I have it!” The doctor barely made out through the ear piercing screams. “It’s a boy!”
The doctor went silent as he held the baby in his arms; he stood up slowly as he examined the newborn. “He’s out. But—“
Rose’s screams slowly died into short breaths of relief as the doctor cut off the umbilical cord and walked over with the baby in his arms.
“Is everything ok, Doc?” Lance asked with concern.
“Of-of course, Commander. Allow me to just clean him and wrap him up. Nurse, may I get some assistance?”
The doctor walked into the bathroom to the right just before the bedroom door. The nurse followed behind and brought soft, white rag with her. The bathroom was simple, yet elegant. The wooden floors and two tier cabinets polished and organized with various personals. The tub was a shiny cast iron tub that was placed against the wall within the squared off divot of the bathroom. Every faucet, shower head included, matched the bathtub perfectly. It wasn’t the most glamorous, but it was comfortable for Lance and Rose.
The nurse set down the rags next to the porcelain sink as the doctor was carefully removing the larger blobs of placenta from the baby. She turned the iron handle on the wooden counter and wet the rags. The two began to clean the newborn as gently as possible.
Lance looked and smiled at Rose with a gleam in his eyes as he continued to hold her hand. He gently kissed the side of her head and comforted her in his arm.
“Do you hear that sweetheart? It’s a baby boy. We have a son.” Lance spoke with controlled excitement as a smile that mimicked a child on Christmas morning was glued to his face.
“Yes, my dear, but doesn’t it seem weird to you?” Rose replied with skepticism in her tone.
“What do you mean?
“Our son hasn’t cried yet. We both know that the every child cries when they are born. It’s a sign of health and life, yet our son hasn’t made a single noise. I’m a little worried.”
“Don’t worry, Rose. He’s probably just a little bit different.” Lance chuckled and grinned. “I mean, think about how our Creator’s Son was born. He didn’t make a single sound when he was born, at least not according to the song. I’m sure he’s just a special case.”
“Well if he has your side of the gene pool, I’m certain he is very special, darling.”
Rose giggled and gently nudged Lance who stood with his jaw open in slight enjoyment and sarcastic shock. She kissed him gently and cradled herself in his arms, but no matter what she told herself, she still could not shake a faint feeling of gloom.
Michael slowly stepped over to the nurse and the doctor who had finished cleaning the baby. The air around the two was thick and full of fear and sadness. Michael could make out a few words in their faint conversation, but it became clearer as he approached them from behind.
“Doctor, I do not . . . the baby is cold. . .” The nurse’s words expressed sadness and confusion, while the doctor tried to control himself though he fumbled with his words through his quivering lips.
“. . . There is no heart, why. . .”
“I do not . . . should we say something, Doctor?”
“They will be hurt . . . no choice. . .”
“I know Mrs. Pyro will be beyond upset, but what about the Commander?”
“I am not sure, but we cannot withhold this from the parents. They need to know their child is dead.”
Michael stood behind the two as they turned around with the lifeless, swaddled child in the nurse’s arms. Tears were rolling down her cheeks, while the doctor was grim and ready to shed tears himself. Michael said not a word to the two, but simply looked into their eyes, smiled, and nodded his head.
Suddenly; a peace came over the two. The tears stopped falling from the nurse’s eyes and the doctor felt as if a burden had been removed off his shoulders. Michael slowly stepped to the side as the nurse and doctor walked to Rose’s bedside. Lance stood to his feet as the three walked back into the master bedroom.
“Mrs. Pyro, Commander—“The doctor struggled to say the words. Suddenly, the nurse blurted out.
“I’m so sorry, we tried everything, but there’s nothing we can do.”
Silence filled the room as if it was the calm after a terrible maelstrom. Lance and Rose’s faces slowly shifted from comfort to darkened anguish. Lance looked at his wife with concern, and then shifted his gaze back at the doctor. “What do you mean? Is something wrong with our son?”
“I’m sorry, but your son has no heart.” The doctor lowered his head and spoke so softly that his words were almost unheard.
Lance’s heart sunk and he felt as if his strength was sapped away as he was barely able to stay standing. Rose cupped her hands over her mouth as sudden shock and sadness overtook her entire being. Though she stayed in bed, she could still feel her whole body shaking as if she was morbidly afraid.
“That, that’s impossible, we did checkups with other doctors at the infirmary.” Lance, in confused anger spoke out. “Every time, my wife and I both heard the heart beating through the stethoscope.”
Rose quickly interjected as tears began welling up in her eyes. “But, but that can’t be. That doesn’t make sense. I felt the baby kick numerous times during the pregnancy.”
The doctor stayed silent as he tried to come up with a logical reason behind this miraculous tragedy. The nurse stood at Michael’s side as she cradled the boy in her arms. Michael stood and silently watched from the small table in the far corner of the bedroom away from the bed.
The doctor prayed within his mind for a reason behind why the Creator would allow a child to live in his mother’s womb, but suddenly lose his heart in the middle of the birthing process, but he heard nothing from Him.
“I am very sorry; Commander, but I cannot explain why the Creator has done what He’s done.” The doctor hid nothing from the couple, though regret and grief riddled his every word.
Tears began to flow from Lance and Rose’s eyes. Lance set himself down onto the bed at Rose’s feet. Rose, who was still shaking from a mixture of fear, a lack of understanding, and a hint of anger, looked to him as he was kneeling on the ground. He slowly regained his composure and spoke, though he stuttered terribly as he couldn’t stop his core from shaking.
“Can we at least hold our son, doctor?” Lance asked with a darkened tone. “I know my wife and I haven’t known him for very long, but at least grant us the opportunity to say goodbye.”
The doctor nodded and motioned the nurse to give the parents their child. The nurse came around the bedside and gently gave the swaddled child to his mother. Rose could feel a gentle cold coming from the soft, blue blanket that helped cradle the child. The baby boy lay still with his eyes closed as if he was simply asleep. Her tears continued to fall as she gently ran her finger across the boy’s soft, cold cheeks and as she stroked the thin patch of black hair on his head.
“Look Lance, he has your chin.” Rose chuckled as she attempted to relieve the tension in the room, but it seemed only to have made matters worse for her.
Lance summoned what strength he had to stand, and slowly moved his way onto the bed beside Rose and the baby.
“Yes, but he has your beauty and your hair, Rose. He’s perfect in every way.” He spoke softly as he gently brushed the boy’s cheek with his finger as he smiled through the tears streaming down his cheeks. He leaned in and gave a gentle kiss to the boy’s forehead, from which his lips were cooled.
Lance wrapped his arms around the two as their tears continued to fall onto the child’s blanket. The doctor and the nurse stepped over to Michael.
“We’ll just excuse ourselves. We will be by later with something to help comfort the two. Please give our condolences, Sir Michael.”
Michael silently nodded again and escorted them through the bedroom entrance and out the door. Michael closed the door, turned, and walked back over to the foot of the bed where the couple were trying to control themselves, but to no avail.
“Rose, Lance.” He addressed them with curious compassion. “Why are you saddened by his sleep? Truly, there must be something else you can do.”
“I’m sorry Michael, I should know better.” Lance said as he wiped the tears and stood to his feet. “Can I get you something to eat, something to drink?”
“That is not what I was referring to, my old friend. The Creator deemed you two the head leaders of this town, not just because of your blessed intelligence, or your God-given capability to lead, but also because the faith you two hold is great enough to resurrect a city. So why is it now that you allow your faith to slowly, but surely falter? Do you know not that the Creator is great and mighty and can do all things?”
Rose and Lance looked at each other and smiled as they remembered that their Creator was good and that He has done everything and could do anything He wished. Rose looked at Michael with her faith slightly restored.
“You’re right, Michael. God is good all the time.”
“And all the time, God is good.” Lance responded back with his spirits ever so slightly lifted.
“I implore you to never forget that.” Michael moved to the edge of the bed closest to them. “Do you remember the story of the Creator’s Son; do you remember what happened to Him three days after He was killed on the cross?”
“Of course, He was resurrected.”
“And do you believe that to be true, Lance?”
“With everything I have in me, yes.”
“And do you believe that as well, Rose?”
“Our lives wouldn’t mean a thing if it wasn’t.”
The two answered Michael’s question with confidence, but were still unsure as to why he would ask such a question now.
“Now, if you believe that He raised Himself from the dead, do you believe that He could raise your son to life again?”
“I’ve no doubt He could. I mean, Lazarus was dead for four days and He still brought him back.” Lance spoke, his spirits rising as Michael continued to comfort them.
“Your memory serves you well, Lance. Now remember what His Word says? ’Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray—”
Rose finished the passage, her eyes closed to help remember correctly. “‘Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.’ Mark 11:24.”
“Good Rose, you have been keeping up with your studies. I am pleased to hear that.”
Lance responded reluctantly. “We’ve been slacking off a little, I won’t lie. But, what He’s taught us has stuck with us through everything so far.”
“Hmm, while I am well aware that you do not need a babysitter, Lance, you should get back into those studies again. But I digress.”
Michael walked to the opposite edge of the bed, the broach still glowing within his hands like a star in the sky.
“Michael, I know I was ordered by the Creator to order them to bring you here, but why exactly are you here?” Lance asked curiously. “And are you ever going to remove your hood? You’ve been all mysterious ever since you arrived.”
“I suppose you are right, Lance.” Michael laughed and removed his hood and undid his cloak and allowed his armor to show.
Michael had an angelic build from head to shoulder. His face had a gentle touch, yet had a solid build. His eyes were deep cobalt blue like the calmed sea after the most violent of storms. His blonde hair carried a golden color that exceeded any treasure found on the earth. He stood shoulder to shoulder to Lance and had the perfect body build that was protected by golden armor pieces. His breastplate carried a silver cross in the center of his torso. Sheathed on his right hip was a double-edged great sword. Everything from the pommel to the cross guard was covered in gold and looked as if it was brand new. His shins were well protected by golden guards that carried the same silver cross that was on his breastplate as well. The only pieces that seemed out of place were his boots, but Lance and Rose weren’t about to judge.
Michael walked over to Lance’s side and shook his hand in confidence. “To be clear and honest with you Lance, I’m here for your son.”
“But why though?”Rose looked to Lance curiously.
Michael walked back over to them and knelt down next to Rose. He extended his hands and revealed the broach to her. The light was still unbearable to look at and caused Rose and Lance to shield their eyes.
“I asked if you believed earlier, and I will ask again. Do you believe in the Creator, and that He could bring your son back to life?”
The two looked at each other, turned to Michael, and responded in perfect unity. “Yes.”
Michael gave the glowing broach to Rose who held it close to her. “Very well then, you will need this. Think of it as a gift.”
Rose held it in the palm of her hand while slightly closing her eyes from its bright rays. “It’s so warm, and it feels alive. I can feel it softly pulsing in my hand. It’s like a heartbeat.”
Michael stood up and looked to the both of them. “If you prove to the Creator that you have enough faith in Him, and if you ask Him, He will give your son the light from that broach.” Michael stepped back away as his tone deepened and carried a sense of graveness. “But you must be warned, if your son receives that light and receives life again; the light will transfer into him from the broach and become his heart. Light, just like a human’s heart, is handcrafted by the Creator Himself. However, if the person misuses it, or allows it to dwell in darkness long enough, that heart will become corrupt and that will change the person drastically.” Michael turned to look out the window.
“This light is no different. His heart will be tested, and if he fails, his heart will darken beyond the deepest shadow and he will bring this world to ashes. Do not forget my words. If you accept this fate, the responsibility will be on the two of you to train him in the admonition of the Creator. The fate of this world will rest entirely on your family’s shoulders.”
“We understand. We’ll pray and think about it and we’ll make our decision in a while. Thank you Michael, we certainly owe you one.”
Lance stood and walked Michael over to the door with his hand on his shoulder in appreciation.
“Do not thank me, Lance. I am merely a servant going about my Father’s business. Remember my words, old friend. Farewell.”
“I will Michael, Thank you for everything. Give the Creator my love and my thanks.”
Michael chuckled as he pulled his hood over his head. “Come now, Lance. Our Creator is great and powerful, but He would love nothing more than to being thanked personally. Why don’t you do that yourself? Knowing Him, He would find it more meaningful coming directly from you than through me.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. I’ll do just that.”
Lance felt comfort in his heart as a small, round window of light spontaneously broke open behind Michael. The light was just as bright and pure as the light in the broach and caused Lance to shield his eyes once again. Michael nodded and reached into the orb of light, and in a flash, both Michael and the light vanished instantaneously.
“I’m never going to get used to that.”Lance laughed as he walked back over to Rose who had finally gained control of herself and stopped the tears. She held the broach in her hand and she saw the light seemed to react and be attracted toward the child.
Lance sat down beside Rose and held her in his arms. “Let’s pray together, sweetheart.”
Rose merely nodded as she closed her eyes and prepared her heart. Lance wrapped his arm around her as she held the baby close. Lance reached and gently cupped his hand under Rose, which tightly gripped the broach.
“Father, You are a mighty Creator. You hold the universe in the palm of Your hand and watch over all that live within it. We thank You for all that You have done for us and we humbly come before Your throne of grace today. We know that You work all things together for good for those who are called according to Your purpose. We humbly ask that if it be Your will, that you will grant our son new life.”
Rose stayed silent as tears began to fall anew. Lance continued to pray with a growing faith that could have moves planets.
“We ask You to please grant our son a chance to serve You and a chance to further Your Kingdom, if it be Your will. But altogether Father, not our wills, but Your divine will be done, Amen.”
Rose slowly opened her eyes and noticed that her hands were no longer glowing. She opened her hand and saw the broach in its dormant state. The glass orb no longer shined, she could no longer feel its warm pulse.
Rose began sobbing uncontrollably as her baby still showed no sign of life. Lance gently kissed the side of her hair and rested her against his chest. He closed his eyes and stayed silent, for he could not speak a word as he struggled to hold back his own tears.
No, no, I can’t lose it. I don’t get to get upset. Lance struggled to keep his composure as tears dripped through his clamped down eyes. This is your will, Father. Give us Your strength and peace.
The two grieved for a minute, until the blanket within their arms began to move slowly. Rose opened her red, tear filled eyes as the blanket began to come alive with movement. Hope filled smiles slowly crept across both of their faces as the baby begun to stretch its arms and legs. Tears of joy flowed freely from both parents as the little boy began to cry.
Rose began to laugh through the tears in astonishment. “Look Lance, he’s alive! Our baby boy is alive!”
Lance had a mile wide smile across his face as Rose held the baby closer. Thank you Father, thank you so much.
Rose gently handed the boy to Lance, who lovingly cradled the newborn in his arms. The little one stopped crying when his eyes met Lance’s. The baby cooed and smiled as he reached up with his little hands and gently felt his father’s prickly face. A tear fell from Lance’s eye as his little boy’s soft, silver eyes pierced his soul and warmed his heart. The baby and Lance laughed together; Rose’s heart began to flutter from the adorable sight of her husband and her newborn son bonding.
Lance leaned down and gently rubbed his nose against his son’s. “He’s perfect in every way, Rose.”
“Yes he is. What shall we name him?”
“Umm . . . I’m not sure. Did we picked a name out for him yet?”
“Lance, sweetheart, it’s been nine months and we haven’t discussed the name once? What have we been doing this whole time?” The two chuckled as they thought about the past nine months and how frantic and crazy they were.
“Well . . .” Lance looked to her curiously. “Was there any particular origin you wanted the name to have, sweetheart? We could do Greek, Israeli, or maybe just Bob.”
She laughed and shook her head, brushing off her husband’s goofiness. “Hmm, I was thinking something that had a royalty ring to it. I was thinking . . . how about Reginald?”
“Dear, if we name him Reginald, I will bully him in the Academy.” Lance emphasized and laughed as Rose cocked her head and stared at Lance. He smiled sheepishly, kissed the side of her head, and laughed. “I love you. How about . . . Dante? It’s tough, intimidating, and it’s totally royalty.”
“Yeah, how about no.” Rose again chuckled and shook her head at her husband’s tenacious, yet often misguided thought process . . . or the lack thereof. She looked at the baby boy who had fallen back asleep in Lance’s arms. She reached out and gently stroked her fingers across his head.
“I want something strong, yet soft-hearted; a name that gives off a feeling of comfort and encouragement. Something that would make you think of a strong leader.”
“A name of a leader; Hmm. . . Let me see if I can find something. Here, sweetheart—”
Lance gently placed the boy in Rose’s arms and went over to the small wooden bookshelves in the corner of the room. The books ranged in size, color and design. Three of the four shelves were lightly blanketed with dust, while some books showed signs of recent usage while others showed signs of having never been open.
He reached up to the top shelf and pulled out a small, brown, leather book. The layer of dust on the shelf was thick and flew into the air, causing Lance to sneeze and sniffle. He ran his hand across the worn leather cover to clear the remaining dust off. The once smooth leather was now wrinkled and ready to tear apart. He opened the palm-sized book and flipped through the parchment paper pages, looking intently at the contents of the first few pages.
“Is that the Multilingual Dictionary you used to ask me out to our first date, dear?” Rose asked with a playfully curious tone, a teasing smirk peeked across her lips.
“I don’t have a single clue what you’re talking about sweetheart,” Lance replied embarrassed as the memory played in his mind, his face buried in the book. “You’re probably still high from the medications the nurse gave you.”
Lance continued looking through the book intently, the pages shifting continuously. He walked back over to the bedside, his eyes not once leaving the books contents. He sat down as he flipped a page and ran his index finger across the smooth page, stopping midway through the black, handwritten calligraphy text.
“Oh here’s a good one,” Lance exclaimed with excited triumph in his words. “How about we name him Christopher? It says here that it comes from the Greek word ‘Khristophoros’, which translated means ‘bearer of Christ’. What do you think, sweetheart?”
“Hmm, I don’t think that name sounds very strong, baby,” Rose giggled as she thought about the name. “I’m not sure it fits the firstborn of the Commander of Magna Castellum and the Head Instructor of the Weapons Division in the Academy. I was thinking a name worthy of a soldier.”
“A soldier, huh?”
Lance looked up with a pondering expression on his face, smirked deviously, looked back into the book, and started flipping the pages toward the middle of the book. He stared with such intensity he nearly burned a hole into the book.
“. . . Ah-ha!” He exclaimed, “If we’re looking for a name for a soldier, how about we call him Me-les?” Lance spoke with an obvious tone of sarcasm as he had the sheepish, semi-open mouth smile, for which he was well known. “It means ‘soldier’ in Latin. I think it’s perfect.”
Rose rolled her eyes as she giggled and readjusted herself carefully, the child still asleep in her arms. “How I ever fell for that goofy and cheesy charm of yours is beyond me, dear. Now I wouldn’t love you if you were any different, but me-les?” She looked down toward the sleeping boy as she repeated the name in her head like a broken record. “I don’t think it really works dear. How about . . . Miles? I mean it technically still has the same meaning, though it’s a different spelling, right?”
Lance gave it some thought for a brief moment. He smiled, closed the book and set it down on the nightstand next to the bed, and turned back toward Rose. Lovingly, he wrapped his arm around her and he reached out and gently held his son’s head.
“Miles. . . I like it, sweetheart.” Lance could feel his heart welling up with joy; a single tear fell from his eye as he smiled. He leaned down and gently kissed Mile’s soft forehead. He looked over into Rose’s eyes who returned it with a soft, angelic smile of her own. They leaned closer and gently kissed. As Rose rested her head on his shoulders, he looked down at Miles.
“Welcome to the world, Miles, welcome to the Pyro family.”