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The Call

Once in a lifetime, perhaps, a king’s knight would ride over the hill to the south of the village. His armor would be gleaming, his clothing immaculate, and his weapons beyond the comprehension of the villagers.

He would come to the center of the village, order that all the young people be assembled, and then he would look from one to another. If he saw one he liked for the king’s service, he would call that one. He would say that the one called could refuse, but few believed that. Even fewer believed that the one called would ever be seen again, though they couldn’t agree on precisely how long ago anything like this had actually happened.

Even more rarely, never in living memory of the villagers, a king’s knight would appear, it was said, to settle quarrels between neighboring lords, to deal with bandits, or to administer the law.

They assumed that the one called would be trained to fight the king’s battles, and none of them particularly cared for that. It was hard enough fighting for their local lord, who required his tenants to carry spears and march to battle with neighboring lords if there was a dispute. These disputes were always short, because it was said that if they got too wild or too long, the king would intervene.

But nobody could remember that ever happening, and there were many who believed it was all a lie, a story told and retold to keep people in line.

But one fine spring day while planting was in full swing and nobody was happy for the interruption, over the hill came just such a knight. His armored gleamed like a mirror, and he had with him three riding horses, though he wore his full armor and rode his war horse as he entered the village.

He found the headman and told him to assemble the young people of the town from age 15 to 25, both boys and girls here in the center of the village. The headman didn’t want to do this, and the farmers didn’t want their children brought in from the fields. They certainly didn’t want one of them to ride away on one of those empty horses.

But tradition was strong, and fear even stronger, so the young people were assembled. The knight passed from one to the next, looking and then passing on. He stopped in front of Hedder, a young lady of 17. Hedder had fine, golden hair but otherwise she looked too heavy duty to be considered pretty. Handsome, yes. Pretty, no.

She also asked too many questions and frightened her parents and the headman who liked their world orderly and secure. She was a good babysitter, and a fine farm worker. In fact, other than all those questions, few could find fault with her, though it was said that many young men of the village had begged their parents not to arrange a marriage with her, which explained why she was not betrothed.

“Come, follow me,” said the knight to Hedder.

“No!” cried the headman, thinking of what this apparent honor might suggest to the other girls of the village. He had never imagined that the order to include the girls meant that one actually might be called in this way.

“No!” cried Hedder’s father, thinking about all the planting to be done and how fast his large and heavy duty daughter was at this work.

“No!” cried her mother, half for her daughter, and half for the girl who took care of all the children, allowing her to accomplish her household work.

But Hedder simply let the hoe she had carried form the field fall on the ground and stepped toward the knight. Before most of he villagers had time to recover from surprise, she was seated on one of those horses, riding out of the village.

Many years passed, and the call of Hedder became legend in the villagers. There were those who had been young when it happened who openly questioned whether such a thing had ever occurred. Those who had been there assured them it had, but they didn’t believe.

“It’s much like the intervention of the king,” they would say. “Everybody talks about it, but it never happens. Nobody can even remember it happening.”

“The king will intervene if it’s necessary, we know he will,” said the elders. But deep inside they doubted as well.

“There is no king,” said the younger folk, “and even if there is, he just calls our young people. He doesn’t intervene.”

It happened that very month that the local lord felt that his neighbor had overstepped his bounds, and had moved boundary markers, giving himself more land. Words were exchanged, and finally blows. Then both men went back and summoned their tenants to get out their spears and come to war.

The two armies moved boundary markers back and forth, and occasionally killed one another with spears. The men needed to go to the harvest, but the lords would not allow them to leave.

“Not until all the boundary markers are restored!” said the one.

“Not until my enemy is hanging from a tree for all the damage he’s caused!” said the other.

Nobody knew that one of the village headmen had sent a messenger to find one of the king’s knights before all the harvest was ruined in the field. He didn’t tell anyone, because people would think him foolish. If the messenger returned with help, he would be vindicated. If not, he thought, perhaps the messenger would never return.

Finally one day the two sides gathered across a field from one another. It looked like finally there would be a big battle and one side or the other would win decisively. As they got in formation, lowered their spears and prepared to charge at one another, there was a commotion to the south.

It was a knight, with armor polished and shining, but with a sword out in his hand. Slowly the knight rode between the battle lines. The men looked at their spears and thought that there was really no use trying them against that armor.

As the knight reached the center, both lords came out to meet him.

“I have a right to defend my land!” said the one.

“I have a right to defend myself against this maniac!” said the other.

The knight removed his helmet. Golden hair flowed out. In a feminine voice, soft but firm and authoritative Hedder said: “I would suggest you reconsider. I am called by the king, and he likes his servants to live in peace.”

“Follow me!” — Mark 1:17 (and many others)Mark

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  1. Hi

    I was just reading over the story 'The Call', does this story convey the message that God as King wants us to follow him, and when we come up against difficulties He is always there and will bring us through?

    1. Samantha – in a way, as a writer, that is a question I should ask you, since the message is not conveyed unless it is also received. But your question does suggest to me that you did hear that message in there.

      I actually had several things in mind in writing that story. And yes, I did have something allegorical in mind.

      1. The king might call anyone, whether we think that person is qualified or not.

      2. When the king calls, it's not the time to argue, it's the time to go!

      3. When the king calls, we don't listen to the nay-sayers who would stop us. We listen to the king (or his messenger).

      4. Of course, what you said, when we come up against difficulties, he's there for us.

      5. But also–even if the king seems distant, he, or his messengers, may show up at any time.

      But saying it that way would be boring, so I wrote a story. 🙂

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