© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner


By the following Monday, Lacey had decided that the spell on Moondancer had failed. Troy and some of his friends had been on the beach that weekend and seen the horse alive and well, so she decided she needed to get more help if her plan were going to succeed. That’s when she made the decision to ask Miss Parker about getting some more books for her. She went to the school early, with the excuse that she would offer extra help, since this was the last week of the club, and when she entered the library, Miss Parker seemed glad to see her.

Lacey didn’t want to tell her exactly what kind of spell she had failed to have success with, so she tried to talk in generalities, hoping Miss Parker wouldn’t ask too many detailed questions. While she helped put out materials for the students she asked, “Miss Parker, you know those spell kits that Troy and I ordered through the Internet?”

“Yes, I remember. Have you been having fun with them?”

“Well . . . sometimes . . . but I don’t seem to be able to do everything right, and I wish I could learn more about being a real witch. Are there any other books that could help me?”

Miss Parker stopped what she was doing and looked long and hard at Lacey, as if she were sizing her up somehow. She had recognized the presence of a strong principality in Lacey, and she wanted to make sure it didn’t try to take over her own domain here in Hamsted. Finally, she seemed to come to a decision and spoke. “Lacey, I know something that could help you develop to a much higher level if that’s what you really want, but you would have to be sworn to secrecy concerning everything I tell you or show you.”

“Oh, I can keep a secret, Miss Parker. I keep lots of secrets now that Luna guides me in my life. She’s helped me understand that most other people aren’t able to understand the level that true sorcerers live on, and so I must keep a lot of what she tells me and what I do to myself.”

Miss Parker nodded. “But this would be even more serious, Lacey, because if you told anything of what you learn from what I have in mind, it could be very dangerous for you personally. Do you understand?”

Lacey looked at her silently for a moment, and then, as if accepting a challenge, she lifted her chin a little and said, “You mean I could die if I told what I learned.”

“It’s possible,” Miss Parker said. “You see what you read about in the Sally Stone books really is the way witches and the supernatural forces in their world function.”

Lacey nodded. “I understand, Miss Parker . . . but I want to be a witch. I want to belong to a real coven and practice all the magic arts the way the characters in the books do. I feel . . . I feel like that’s what I was born to do. Luna has helped me see that.”

“All right. I’ll tell you what we’ll do. I know of a real coven that you might be able to become a part of . . . but there will be a price to pay. You will have to be willing to do whatever is asked of you by the leaders,” she added with a warning tone in her voice.

“Oh, Miss Parker!” Lacey scurried over to stand right in front of the librarian. “Do you really mean it? I can’t believe it. You know about a real coven? Around here?”

“Did you understand what I said, Lacey. You will have to do absolutely everything the leaders require of you, and you cannot tell one soul what goes on in those meetings . . . ever.”

“That’s all right. I don’t have any real friends anymore anyway, and, like Luna has told me, my mom and dad don’t understand me or really care anything about me, so I wouldn’t have anybody to tell.” She reached out and touched Miss Parker’s hand, a pleading look in her eyes. “Please show me how to be a part of this coven.” Suddenly a new thought struck her. “Oh . . . are you a member?”

“That isn’t necessary for you to know right now, Lacey, but I am in a position to take you to a meeting and let the leadership decide about you.”

“Oh, thank you, Miss Parker. Thank you so much!”

At that moment, several of the other students began to filter into the library, so Miss Parker told Lacey that she would explain more after the Library Club was over for the day. Lacey could hardly wait. Finally, she felt, she was going to get to do what she wanted to do more than anything else in the whole world: learn how to be a real witch! Now she wouldn’t just be reading about the exciting life Sally Stone lived. Now she, Lacey Dillard, would be living that life too.

So the following Saturday night, Lacey met Miss Parker at the school parking lot. She had told her parents that she was going to a movie and spending the night with one of her friends from school, knowing that friend would be out of town that weekend. Miss Parker had told Lacey that if they were very late, Lacey could sleep over at her house, and go home in the morning. It never occurred to Lacey that she was doing anything hurtful to her parents, or that it was wrong to tell so many lies. She had become so immersed in the Sally Stone way of life that she now saw lying and deceiving as tools to be used to accomplish whatever goal seemed worthy to her, and her conscience had become seared against truths she’d been taught in Sunday School all the previous years.

That night, as she met with the leaders of the coven, she was drilled with so many questions her head was spinning when they were through. But she had evidently answered all of them satisfactorily, because she was received into a training program, which would include her attendance at certain specific meetings of the coven. She would certainly not be allowed to participate in any of the rituals at this point, but she was moving closer, one step at a time, to her highest goal. She did learn that Miss Parker was indeed a member of the coven, and she was turned over to that woman for the major portion of her training.

The next morning at Christ Community Church, Pastor Carlyle announced the special meeting for the following Sunday afternoon. After service, several people asked him what the meeting concerned, but he told them he felt it best to explain everything when everyone could be present at the same time. That was not a very satisfactory answer for some of the members, but they had to accept it for the time being. And Pastor Carlyle was hoping that even those who wouldn’t ordinarily come to such a meeting might come this time just out of curiosity. He smiled to himself as he spoke quietly to the Lord. “You have a sense of humor, God. You’ll even take advantage of some people’s nosey nature to get Your work done. But I’m really believing that most of the people will show up because they really care about this body and what Your will is for it.”

Monday, when he met with Noah, Serenity, and Clint for prayer, he told them that he was expecting a good crowd the following Sunday, so they all got to their knees and prayed for the Lord to prepare hearts to receive the truth that would be presented to them at the meeting. They decided to meet together and pray again on Thursday and Saturday also, and during those sessions of prayer they asked the Lord to guide the pastor and Noah both as they spoke to the congregation.

By 2:00 Sunday afternoon, the time set for the meeting, the church sanctuary was full. Pastor Carlyle walked to the front of the room. He was a tall, handsome man, his brown hair liberally streaked with silver, and he commanded attention almost anywhere he went. That fact was no different among his own congregation. The people in general respected him for his solid stand on the Word of God and his gracious and comforting manner to any of his flock who were hurting. He had proven himself a faithful and loving shepherd over the past eight years, and today, he counted on that fact to help cause his words and requests to find favor with the people assembled before him.

“Good afternoon everyone. I’m so glad for such a great turnout. I’m sure you’ll find that this meeting was well worth your time. Let’s begin with prayer, shall we?” he said, bowing his head, and everyone in the room followed suit.

“Dear Heavenly Father, we are gathered this afternoon in the name of Jesus to make ourselves available to You and what You have to tell us. We want to be obedient to all that You require of us, Lord, and we may need extra help from Your Holy Spirit in order to do that. But we rest assured that all the help we need will be forthcoming. Please give us spiritual eyes and ears to see and hear and understand, Father. We want to please You above all, and we ask that You be in control of this entire meeting. In the name of Jesus we ask it, and we thank You. And every believer here says . . .”

Everyone spoke with him . . . “Amen.”

A large contingent of the Hosts of Heaven were also in attendance in the sanctuary. They were not visible to any human beings in the room, but they stood shoulder to shoulder around the perimeter of the sanctuary, with at least one angelic being standing beside every believer who was assembled there. Two huge warriors stood on either side of Noah and two more on either side of Pastor Carlyle, as extra protection, and outside the church building, another company of warriors stood shoulder to shoulder around the entire building and across the roof.

A few of them were almost late in arriving, because they had been working faithfully up to the last minute making sure their charges made it to the meeting. Some of the people could be convinced only by words spoken into their minds by their invisible angels. Some of them had to have words quickened to them that would combat the demonic voices that gave the hearers all kinds of excuses not to go. And a couple of them had to even be tugged along by the arm until they finally got going under their own steam and started toward the church. Then there were a couple of them who had run into legitimate hindrances that their angels had been required to fix in a hurry. But now all were present and accounted for — both in the human realm and in the angelic sphere. Prayer had paid off again.

Pastor Carlyle continued: “Well, we’re here to pass on some important information to all of you and then to discuss what our responsibility is concerning an evil spiritual attack on our whole community. But I think we need to begin by looking at what the Word of God has to say concerning the subject at hand. I did suggest that you bring your Bibles with you, so if you would turn to Leviticus, chapter 19, verses 26-28 please.” He paused while the congregation found the passage, and then he turned to one of the elders who sat on the front pew. “Howard, would you read those verses out loud please?”

“You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying. You shall not shave around the sides of your head, nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.”

“Thank you,” Pastor Carlyle said and looked out over the congregation. “Is there any question about what this verse is saying?” He waited for a minute, and since no hands went up, he continued. “Good, then let’s turn next to chapter 20 of Leviticus and read verse six. Howard, if you will ….”

“And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.”

Pastor Carlyle looked out over the people again. “Okay, any questions concerning this verse?” He waited a reasonable time and then spoke again. “I think when I included some of these verses in a sermon or two last year, most everybody got a really good understanding of them then, but if you do have a question of any kind, please ask it now.” One lady’s hand went up. “Yes, Mrs. Tennison.”

“I wasn’t here last year, so I’m not quite sure about one thing. Exactly what is a familiar spirit?”

“Very good question. I’ll give a simple answer for now, and if you would like more information later, I’ll be glad to enlarge on my answer for you. Basically a familiar spirit is an evil spirit that is familiar with a human being and his habits, strengths, weaknesses, etc. Often, when people go to mediums to try to contact a loved one who has died, and the medium tells them that they can speak to that loved one, what actually happens is that the medium calls up an evil spirit that knew the person well. A familiar spirit will know how the person spoke, how he acted, and any number of other things about him, and can emulate the person quite well enough to deceive someone who doesn’t have the Lord’s protection and who wants to believe what the medium tells them.”

Mrs. Tennison’s eyes were wide. “You mean there really is a way for someone to call an evil spirit and have it come to them!”

“Yes, there certainly is. And that’s why the Lord is warning His people to stay away from all of that. The Lord’s power is the greatest power in the universe, but the devil can use spiritual power also to bring a great deal of evil and harm into people’s lives and into God’s creation. So God is telling us to stay away from all of it.”

Her eyes were still wide, and her mouth was open slightly. But she answered him in a somewhat subdued voice. “Oh . . . I . . . I see.”

“Anyone else have a question?” Pastor Carlyle asked, and when everyone seemed to be shaking their head, he continued. “Very well, now let’s turn to Deuteronomy 18, verses 9-14.” He nodded at Howard again, who began to read.

“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abominate to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.”

Pastor Carlyle spoke again. “I’m pretty sure these verses are clear enough. However, I want Howard to read one section of the passage again.” He looked at his elder. “Verses 10-12, Howard.”

“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abominate to the Lord —”

“I think that’s far enough, Howard,” the pastor interrupted. “Thank you.” Then he turned his attention to the group as a whole again. “Now . . . what I want to ask you is this: How many of you believe that these verses that we just read are the Word of God? Raise your hand if you believe that they are.” Everyone raised his hand. “Next . . . how many of you believe that the Lord meant exactly what He said here in these verses?” Again everyone raised his hand.

Pastor Carlyle nodded his head and smiled at them. “Good. I felt sure that you believed that, but it’s important that we get that truth firmly established before we go on.” He had been standing in front of the pulpit, on the same level as the rest of the congregation, and now he walked up beside the front pew and leaned his weight against it as he continued. “What we need to talk about today is the rampant increase of a great deal of literature and other media that is being loosed on the public, and especially our children, that is intended to draw people into practices such as these that we’ve just read about in God’s Word. The plan is to deceive the general public into believing that all of these books and games are harmless entertainment, when, in fact, they are precursors to more intense interest in the occult and open doors to demonic possession.”

“Are you talking about stuff like the Sally Stone books?” one young mother asked.

“Yes, Linda, I am, in fact, referring to all of the Sally Stone materials, and a number of other things like them . . . some of which have been around for generations, but have become more popular recently because of all of the newer occult subject matter coming onto the market.” There was a general stir among the people seated before him, and the pastor could sense a slight current of something negative as well as just curiosity in the crowd. He knew there was bound to be some degree of defensiveness on the part of the people who had been reading the material and seeing the movies, but he was hoping that it wasn’t to the point of being a feeling of animosity toward the stand he was taking. There were a few whispered comments in scattered areas, and he put his hand up to quiet the congregation. “You will all be invited to say or ask anything you want in a little while, but first, I need to finish my main point.”

He took a long, slow, deep breath. “Now all of these materials involve the readers, or movie audience, or game players in all of the kinds of activities that the verses we just read explicitly describe as being an abomination to the Lord. And since He tells us to stay away from all of them, I believe that we really need no other reason to throw those materials away and abstain from participating in them in any way. However, there are some first-hand experiences connected with those materials that will give some of us concrete, present-day reasons to stay away from them also, and that’s part of what we’re here to share with you.

“Now, as we discuss all of this, I want you to be thinking, not only about what you should do concerning your own involvement, and your children’s, but also how we can help rid our whole community of this evil before we have some of the horrible consequences that the Lord wants to protect us from . . . and which other people have had to suffer as a result of not obeying God’s Word on this subject.”

One of the young fathers raised his hand. “Yes, Brent?” Pastor Carlyle said.

“I just want to make sure I understand. Are you saying that we should totally refuse to read any of these books or let our children read them . . . or see any of the movies . . . for any reason?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“But I’ve read an article or two written by other Christian leaders saying that anyone who refuses to let their children read them is just trying to shelter their kids from the realities of the world, and that unless we expose our kids to these kinds of things, we’re going to cause them to grow up handicapped in some way.”

“Yeah,” one of the young woman added, “and I read an article the other day that really made a lot of sense . . . that said if we’re going to decide what we’ll read or allow to be in our libraries or schools based on whether the author believes the way we do about the Bible, then we’re going back to the way people acted in the Dark Ages.”

“And besides,” the woman beside her piped in, “we don’t want our kids growing up thinking that the devil and spiritual forces don’t exist.”

“You’re right,” Pastor Carlyle responded to her first, but hoped what he said would cover all their questions and comments. “We don’t want our kids failing to understand about the devil and all of the demonic spiritual forces at work in the world they live in. But that’s just my point. If they continue to read these books and watch these movies, they are going to be living in deception. They won’t really understand those forces and how to deal with them at all.

“Now listen to me carefully. I’m not suggesting that our children should be sheltered from knowing about Satanism or witchcraft. What I’m saying is that they should be taught the truth about them by their church and their own Christian parents. Our kids should be made to understand that witchcraft and Satanism are real and that they are forces of total and unrelenting evil that came from the rebellion of Satan in Heaven and then moved into the earth as he gained authority here, through man’s sin.

“They need to understand that there are only two sources of supernatural power and activity. One is from God and always glorifies Jesus Christ, no matter how it’s used. The other is always from the devil, and no matter how it’s disguised, will always wreak evil and eventually destroy everyone who uses it or takes part in it.” He could see that he had their attention completely, and he thanked God that he recognized some expressions of agreement on several of the faces before him. So he shifted his weight against the pew a little and continued.

“They also need to be taught that even though the devil, because he is a spirit, knows how to use the spiritual power that is available — it isn’t his power, you understand, but he knows how to appropriate it for his evil purposes because he is from the spirit realm — but the important thing is that even though the devil can use the spiritual power, Jesus alone has supreme power and supreme authority. So even when the devil uses the power that is available to him, Jesus and His Church can defeat him. As our Lord says in Matthew, all authority has been given to Him. And make no mistake about it, beloved saints of God, nothing except Jesus and His authority can defeat these evil forces. We, as the church can do so only as we are in submission to Jesus and acting as His representatives on the earth.

“But these Sally Stone books, and all the other books and movies and games similar to them, even some of those that have been considered classics for generations, don’t teach those truths. Some of them teach that all of this is like some game people can play and not be affected by it for the rest of their lives. Others teach that all supernatural power is the same, and that there is a way to use that power for good without being connected to Jesus Christ. Both of those teachings are lies, and it’s our duty as parents and the church to safeguard our children from those lies and deceptive snares.”

“I don’t understand,” one of the other men said. “I just heard a pastor on a radio talk show the other day saying that he encourages his young people to read the books because they teach the ideals of friendship and courage, and show how people can fight oppression and prejudice.”

Noah raised his hand at that time, and Pastor Carlyle acknowledged him. “Noah, would you like to respond to that question particularly, or did you want to share your experience right now?’

“I’d like to respond to this brother’s question, if you don’t mind, Pastor.”

“Come on up here,” Pastor Carlyle said, and as Noah came forward, the pastor explained to the congregation. “Most all of you are acquainted with Sheriff Noah Bennett by now, and I’ve asked him to come here today to share his own personal experience as a law-enforcement officer concerning the horrible events that can result from an involvement with these kinds of materials. So I think I’ll let him respond to the question on the floor and then go ahead and tell you his story.” He turned to Noah and stepped back a little.

“Good afternoon, everyone. I’m glad to see so many of you hear today to discuss this problem and hopefully help solve it. First of all, in response to this brother’s question, let me say this. These Sally Stone books and movies, and all of the others like them that have been around for several years have absolutely no value! All this talk about their holding forth ideals of friendship and courage is a lot of smoke-screen! There are thousands of examples of true friendship and courage in the stories of the Bible, as well as the millions of pages of wholesome literature that have been written for generations. The same goes for teaching people how to fight oppression or prejudice, or any other evil of society. There’s wonderful literature out there that covers all of that thoroughly. And there are many such stories that are being written right now that do the same, but none of them requires entering into the realm of sorcery and Satanism in order to get those messages across.

“What I’m trying to say is that there are plenty of books out there, for all ages, to teach those ideals without drawing the readers into the powers of darkness that will have a lasting evil effect on them. Why let your children read these stories that could eventually destroy them or someone else in their lives . . . why even risk it . . . when they can choose from all kinds of literature that is really good for them?”

A middle-aged lady spoke up then. “You and Pastor Carlyle keep referring to something in these books and movies being able to cause evil consequences and destroy people. What exactly are you talking about?”

Noah looked at the pastor, who nodded his head to indicate that it was time to tell the story, so he turned back to the congregation. He took a deep breath. “I think if I tell you what I experienced last year, along with all the people in my county, it may make it a little easier to explain what we mean. But before I begin, I’d like to make sure you understand that a lot of what I have to share will be horrifying to hear about, and that’s why the pastor limited this audience to people only over the age of twelve. However . . . if any of you have children in here today who, although they’re older than twelve, still might be likely to have nightmares or emotional problems from hearing about real-life satanic sacrifices and the activities that accompany them, you might want to send them out until we’re finished with this part of the meeting.” He looked over the congregation and waited a minute. He saw a couple sets of parents confer with each other and then ask their teenage children a question. But after a couple of minutes, when no one left the room, Noah figured he’d given them enough warning and could proceed with his story.

As Noah retold his story, exactly as he had told it to the Lawrences and Pastor Carlyle, he felt a continuous flow of grace and courage from the Lord. His voice faltered a couple of times, and he had to stop twice to fight back the tears that had filled his eyes and threatened to spill over, but he didn’t break down. There were a few gasps from some of the members as certain details came out, but there were no interruptions. The people could see that telling the story was causing him pain, and their compassion for him was obvious. The fact that he was allowing them to share his emotions made them even more receptive to the truths he was presenting to them, and when he had finished, there was absolute silence throughout the room.

Noah let it hang there for a while, and then he spoke again. “The reason all of this has come to a head right now is that a number of things have happened in this immediate area that are similar to the way things began out in my home county.” He proceeded to tell them about the two ritual animal sacrifices in the Barclay area and then about the whole episode with David and Moondancer after Lacey’s abnormal behavior.

“Now, I can’t prove to you that everything that happened with David and Moondancer is the result of witchcraft, but all of my experience, as well as my spirit, tells me that it is exactly that, and that if we don’t move now to put a stop to this, the people here could find themselves facing the very same thing we faced last year, maybe at the same level . . . maybe worse. I’m planning to talk to Chief Weston tomorrow, but we wanted to let you know what’s going on first and hopefully enlist your prayers and your faith in this battle.”

After a couple of minutes, Pastor Carlyle stepped forward and said, “I think the best thing for us to do right now is spend a few minutes in personal prayer. If you want to come to the altar, you’re welcome, or if you want to just sit or kneel right where you are, that’s fine too. Let’s each spend some time talking to the Lord about what He’s wanting from us concerning all of this situation.” With that, he turned and knelt before the altar, and Noah, Serenity, and Clint joined him there. After another minute, all three elders knelt beside the others at the front of the church, and almost everyone found a place to bow before the Lord.

The Hosts of Heaven waited. Some of them were bowed before Jehovah also, and the others stood with their heads bowed in worship, waiting for the results of the meeting to become evident. They hoped these people would be able to see the truth and accept the responsibility of doing something about it. It would make their own job easier, because faithful prayer and obedience by Jehovah’s people always opened the way for the spiritual warriors to fight and win against the evil kingdom.

Gradually, as the people continued to pray, some of them silently, but most in subdued voices, the Hosts of Heaven began to feel a rising energy within themselves. They knew that was an indication that the prayers of the saints were reaching the throne, and Jehovah was releasing the power to bring forth the answers. One by one, the captains of each detachment of Heavenly warriors called their troops to attention and began to give them their orders.

The warriors surrounding the outside of the church came to attention, each one clasping the handle of his golden sword. There was new activity in the spirit realm. The demonic powers that had been prowling around the perimeters of the well-guarded territory during the earlier part of the meeting were now pulling in reinforcements and obviously preparing for warfare. They were aware of the prayers of the saints within the church, hearing some of the words as they passed through the airways, and they were now on alert to find an opening through which they could attack and turn the Godly forces back before they got any farther in their plan to overthrow the carefully devised strategies of the demonic kingdom in this region.

But Serenity and a few of the others were praying specifically for God’s protection on all of them as they moved forward to lay out a plan to defeat all of this evil. And with those prayers, Jehovah had a way open to send his mighty warriors into the enemy troops to rout them and hold them at bay until the saints could implement the plan He would give them.

Inside the church, the people were rising and taking their seats again, and Pastor Carlyle spoke to the whole group again. “Now I’m not going to ask each of you individually what you’ve decided to do about all of this. But . . . if you feel that you want to stand against this evil, and you’re ready to rid your own home and your own life of all of this stuff . . . because unless you do that, you can’t fight it anyway . . . if you want to make that stand, I’m asking you to remain for a few more minutes to plan another meeting where we can decide how we can help our whole community get free from this evil. If you don’t feel that you can commit yourself to taking that kind of stand right now, then you are free to go at this time, but I ask that you do so quietly and without any extended conversation. Since this meeting has lasted so late, I believe we need to set aside our regular evening service, and you can use the time to spend with your families this evening.”

There was a slight stirring through the group, and six people got up and slipped out of the room without saying anything else. The rest turned their attention back to the pastor, and after he had breathed a deep sigh of relief, which in itself was a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, he began to suggest possible meeting times during the following week. They decided to hold a meeting the following Tuesday evening and pray that the Lord would give them His own ideas to share with each other at that time. Pastor Carlyle closed the meeting with a prayer that the Lord would keep their body of believers in love and unity in spite of some differences of opinion on this subject, and he prayed again for the protection of all of his flock as they prepared to take their stand in faith for the Kingdom of God.

Tomorrow: Chapter Sixteen



© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner


On Friday afternoon, Lacey and Troy and two other children came to the beach not far from the lighthouse, brought there by their mothers to swim and have a picnic. After swimming for a while, they all sat down to eat and then put up a badminton net where the children began a game. While they were playing, David and Trent came riding down the beach on Moondancer, and when they got close, Troy recognized them.

“Hey,” said Troy, “isn’t that those two scaredy-cats that quit the Library Club?”

Lacey and the other kids looked that direction, and Lacey answered “Yeah, that’s them. Wow! Is that their horse? He’s gorgeous!” She had stopped playing now and began to walk over to where the horse was slowing to a walk. David pulled Moondancer to a stop when he saw Lacey getting close, and then she spoke to them. “Is that your horse?”

“No, he belongs to Noah Bennett. He lives back that way,” David said pointing in the direction of Noah’s cottage. “He just lets us ride him.”

“I ride horses a lot when I go to my grandpa’s farm. Can I ride this one?” she asked, getting close enough that she reached out a hand to pet Moondancer’s neck. The horse instantly shied away from her, surprising David with the sudden move. Lacey stepped closer and started to touch the horses nose, saying, “I won’t hurt you, Boy,” but Moondancer snorted and backed away from her again, becoming more agitated. “What’s wrong with this stupid horse, anyway?” Lacey asked, looking at David.

“I don’t know. He’s never acted this way before. But Noah says he doesn’t usually let other people ride him.”

“Well, if you two babies can ride him, I know I can. Get down and let me get on him.”

“We can’t. You’ll have to ask Noah. And we have to go back now,” David said. Trent nodded his head in agreement. “Yeah, we got to get Moondancer home,” he added. “Bye.” And David steered the stallion back toward Noah’s cottage.

“Stupid horse!” Lacey said as she rejoined her friends. Then she looked after the boys. “I think we’ll just go down there and see where he lives. I bet I can get a ride on him after those two little scaredy-cats leave.”

“Aw, finish the game first, Lacey. You’re holding up everything!” one of the other two children said. “Yeah,” her brother added. “When we see who wins this game, then we can go find the horse. They said he lives down that way.”

So they finished the game and then told their moms they were going for a walk. “All right,” Gloria Dillard said, “but keep an eye on your watch, kids. We need to leave in another hour.” Lacey and Troy both looked at their watches and nodded. “Okay,” they said, and all four kids took off. They weren’t expecting to have to walk quite so far, but they were all in good health and very active, so they didn’t really mind, and Lacey kept prodding them along because she definitely wanted to find that horse.

In the meantime, David had told Noah about the encounter, and Noah hadn’t found it too surprising that Moondancer shied away from a stranger, but the extent of his agitation . . . at least as David explained it . . . did surprise him a little. Well, thought Noah, maybe David had considered it worse than it really was, since he had never seen Moondancer do that before at all. And the fact was that this horse was particularly sensitive and intuitive. That was one of the things that endeared him to Noah so much.

Noah had invited the two boys in for some lemonade and popcorn, and while they were all enjoying that, Lacey and her friends walked by the cottage and spotted Moondancer in the corral. They went running up to the fence and climbed up on it. Noah had glanced out the window and seen them pass, but he didn’t think anything about it until he heard Moondancer. As soon as the kids had mounted the fence, Moondancer, who had been standing right beside it, began to neigh and snort loudly and back away. Noah thought he needed to check on the situation, so he told the boys to go ahead and eat, and he stepped out to check on his horse.

When he saw the kids on the fence and saw Moondancer’s agitation, he knew there had to be some connection, but, for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out what it was. He approached the kids, who hadn’t paid any attention to him until he spoke. “Hello there. Are you kids from around here?”

“Hey mister,” Troy said, “is this your horse?”

“Yes, he’s mine. What can I do for you?”

“I want to ride him,” Lacey said, getting off the fence and walking right up to Noah. She seemed a little cocky in her attitude, Noah thought, but kids today sometimes were so undisciplined at home they couldn’t help turning out that way. Noah shook his head.

“I’m sorry, young lady, but Moondancer doesn’t let strangers ride him.”

“I saw those other two boys riding him, and they’re nothing but big babies. I know how to ride, because I go to my grandpa’s farm once a month, and we ride all the time.”

While she had been talking, Moondancer had still been rearing and snorting in agitation, and Noah knew the horse had to be reacting to these children. There was no way he could allow them to get on his back. He’d throw them off instantly. “I’m sorry,” he said again, “but Moondancer is agitated at your being close to him for some reason, and it wouldn’t be safe for you to ride him.”

“Well, I’ve ridden horses that stomp and rear up sometimes,” Lacey answered. “I know how to ride them. And if you let those other boys ride, you should let me ride too!” she added stomping her foot a little. But Noah shook his head again.

“Not today. If you’re here another time, and Moondancer seems quiet and peaceful around you, we’ll think about it then, if we get your parents’ permission, but there won’t be any riding today.”

“Come on, Lacey,” her brother said. “We’re going to be late getting back to Mom if we stay much longer anyway. You don’t have time to ride today.”

“Oh, Mom won’t care, and it’s not fair if they get to ride and not me.” She turned back to Noah. “It’s not fair!” she shouted at him, stomping her foot again. By that time, her brother was pulling on her arm. “Come on, Sis. Maybe next time.” But as he pulled her away slowly, the other kids turning to leave too, Lacey looked back at Noah again. There was something in her eyes that made Noah think he should know the girl, but he couldn’t place her. He didn’t think he had met her on the beach or at church before. But something . . . .

He turned to go back into the cottage now, and was just opening the front door to do so when Lacey ran back from her group of friends, heading straight for the fence again. Noah didn’t see that she had a big rock in her hand until she was right up to the fence. Suddenly she raised her arm, shouting, “You stupid horse!” and threw the rock right at Moondancer. The rock hit him on the shoulder, sending him into a frenzy of agitation, and Noah ran toward Lacey.

“Hey, you stop that right now and get out of here!” he said, his anger barely under control. “And don’t you ever come back here, do you understand me? I will not ever let you ride Moondancer now . . . not for any reason. Now go on!”

Lacey turned toward him, those eyes that he thought he should recognize burning at him. “You’ll be sorry!” she spat out at him. “You’ll see! You’ll be sorry!” And then she ran back to her little group farther down the beach. Noah stepped into the corral and settled Moondancer, checking his shoulder. It was a minor wound, and quickly taken care of, but something in Noah’s spirit was disturbed far more deeply than was understandable to him. He wasn’t sure what it was, and in the midst of trying to figure it out, he heard David’s voice right behind him.

“Did she hurt Moondancer, Noah?” he asked tentatively. “We saw her from the window when she threw the rock. Is he hurt bad?”

Noah turned to the two boys who had come up beside him by then, and he smiled at the tender concern for the horse in their faces. What a difference in children, Noah thought. No wonder Moondancer took to David immediately, and didn’t like that little spitfire of girl at all. He chuckled at the thought a little and answered David. “No, Dave, he’s not really hurt. I put a little salve on his shoulder, and he’ll be all right. Did you guys finish your snack?”

“Yeah, thanks,” they both answered at once. “I guess we need to go home,” David said then, “but will Moondancer be able to ride tomorrow?”

“I’m pretty sure he will,” Noah answered. “I’ll give you a call in the morning and tell you how his shoulder is, okay?”

“Okay,” he said, beaming. Then he reached up and rubbed the stallion’s nose. “Don’t worry, Boy. Trent and I love you, and we’d never hurt you.” The horse moved closer to David and nuzzled his neck, blowing gently the way he always did when the boy petted him.

“He knows that, Dave,” Noah said, tousling the blond head. Then he reached out and patted Trent’s shoulder. “You boys run on and enjoy the rest of your day together now.”

“Okay,” they chorused and turned to leave the corral. “See you tomorrow,” David called as they started down the beach toward the lighthouse.

“See you then,” Noah called in answer, patting Moondancer once more and turning toward his own cottage.

Gloria Dillard sat in a folding lawn chair with her friend, waiting for the children to return. She had been concerned the last couple of weeks about Lacey and Troy’s attitudes. They seemed to be more impatient and foul tempered than they used to be, and they didn’t mind well at all sometimes. Nick’s mother had said the same thing about her son when she had been talking to Gloria one day. Of course, they knew the children were going through those years when everything was changing, and that meant emotions could run pretty wild at times. Both mothers had decided that the age factor was probably the biggest cause. Still, when Lacey came back to their picnic site looking like a severe storm in the making and wouldn’t talk to her about it at all, her mother felt another twinge of concern all the same.


As Lacey read to her small group on Monday morning, she found herself absorbed by the story again, lost in the world of sorcery, feeling almost as if she were Sally Stone. She liked that feeling. It gave her a feeling of importance — and even better — a sense of power. But suddenly, she found herself reading about the time that Sally had put a spell on a neighbor’s dog because it had barked and growled at her and wouldn’t let her go into that person’s yard. She had called on the forces of darkness to drive the dog out of its mind momentarily and send it running into the street right in front of a truck, so that it was killed.

Lacey stopped reading. She looked up from the book, but her eyes did not focus on the students she had been reading to or on anything else in the room. She was looking away from all of that, envisioning her own revenge — on a horse — and his owner. She laughed gleefully now and whispered to herself, “You won’t dance for much longer, Moondancer. I’ll send you to a watery grave, and then you won’t be able to give anybody a ride.”

The younger students that had been listening to her read just looked at her curiously. They realized she had stopped reading, but thought she was getting ready to explain something to them about the witchcraft in the story, because she often did that. Lacey knew a lot about witches and their spells. A couple of their older brothers and sisters knew Lacey and Troy and knew that they got a big allowance, so they were able to order all kinds of witchcraft things from the Internet to practice with.

Some of the kids didn’t really believe the things she told them about the power of spells and curses, but most of them did. However, most of them, even though they loved hearing the Sally Stone stories, still didn’t want to get any closer to real witches and spells than the book itself. They hadn’t had enough experience to know that if they continued to involve themselves in the stories, they would come under the influence of the forces behind the stories and be drawn deeper into the occult world. So they sat with open mouths and bated breath whenever she told them some of the true things she knew about in the dark world of wizardry.

Later that afternoon, Lacey got out one of her spell books, and the book on incantations and secret potions that Miss Parker had found for her, and by the time the Middle School Order of the Magic Arts met the following night, she was ready to enlist their help to put a deadly spell on Moondancer. They were getting pretty effective at putting spells on animals by now. Most of the time they did it just for fun, because it gave them a feeling of power and control. But this time, Lacey intended for the spell to do some lasting damage.

As the group chanted and called on the powers of darkness, they didn’t really see anything particularly wrong with what they were doing. The six Sally Stone books they’d read had made all of this kind of activity seem normal, at least for anyone who had an interest in sorcery anyway. And although they couldn’t get quite enough information from the books alone to always know which potions and enchantments to use, they had been very successful, since money was no real hindrance to Lacey and Troy, in getting more detailed material via the occult sites on the Internet.

Of course, Lacey and Troy had had to sign up to become members of a secret organization in order to get some of the material from the Internet. And they had had to mail in a personal article of their own to that organization, so that they would be attached to it forever, but that didn’t matter. It opened up a much broader world of sorcery to them, and that’s what they wanted. And then, of course, Miss Parker was so thrilled about how far they had advanced in responding to their inner spirit guides, just as she had taught them, that she encouraged them to satisfy their curious minds by ordering even more books and materials for them through her library connections. Two of the books she’d ordered for Lacey had been written by real witches.

So now they called on the powers of the dark arts to work with them as they cast the spell on Noah Bennett’s beautiful stallion. They called for Moondancer to become totally confused in his mind and to be driven straight into the ocean, not stopping for any reason until he had drowned and was dead.

The next afternoon, David walked down to Noah’s cottage, as he was in the habit of doing now, and Noah helped him saddle Moondancer for their ride. Serenity had given her nephew perimeters for his rides, and David was always willing to obey those perimeters, because he knew that it meant he’d be allowed to ride Moondancer all summer. He wasn’t sure what he’d do when Noah left. He didn’t like to think about that because he’d not only come to love this horse; he’d come to love Noah too. But today, he was able to put all of those worries out of his mind as he prepared to mount the stallion.

For some reason Moondancer seemed a little skittish today. Noah noticed it, but he didn’t credit it as having any particular cause, and the horse nuzzled David’s hand and shoulder just like he always did, so David wasn’t the problem. He decided he’d walk along with them for a while, though, just to be sure. “Have you noticed that Moondancer is a little skittish today, Dave?”

“Yeah, he’s not sick though is he?” he asked with genuine concern in his eyes.

“No, he doesn’t show any signs of being sick, and he obviously still considers you a friend. But I think I’ll walk along with the two of you for a bit and make sure everything’s normal.”

“Okay,” David agreed readily. “Do you want to ride too?”

“No, I don’t think that’s necessary. It’s probably nothing more than the fact that he senses some unpleasant weather or something. We do have a bank of clouds a few miles out that could bring us a thunderstorm or two. But it doesn’t look like anything dangerous, and it’s a long way out yet. May not even get this far,” he answered as he lifted David to the saddle. They walked along together to the end of David’s territory on one end and then back as far as Noah’s cottage. Moondancer seemed to be himself, so Noah told David he could go ahead and have a good ride back the other way, and he would follow them, after talking a few minutes with the man who lived in the cottage next door.

David gave Moondancer his customary signal to go for a run, and the stallion took off. Not quite a quarter of a mile down the beach, though, Moondancer stopped suddenly, almost dislodging David, and Noah, seeing it, instinctively began to run that way. But in the next instant, Moondancer had reared back, almost like a wild horse, and David fell off into the sand. He seemed to have landed on his bottom, so Noah had hopes that he wasn’t seriously hurt, but he couldn’t believe what was going on with his horse.

The stallion kept rearing and making wild noises; then suddenly, he took off straight into the ocean. He ran as if he were being driven. By that time, David was back on his feet and calling for the horse, running after him straight into the ocean. The surf was making a good deal of noise periodically, but Noah was close enough now to hear David’s shouts for Moondancer to come back. Noah, in his turn, shouted at David. The boy was already swimming beyond the depth where he would be safe, and the sea was becoming choppy.

Suddenly, panic seized Noah. His midsection tightened with a fear that he hadn’t known since last year. He loved this little boy, and he was about to see him drown before his very eyes if he couldn’t get to him. His immediate response was to pray, of course, which he did fervently, but he also ran like the wind. He’d always stayed in good shape physically, and he’d had to literally run down a criminal or two in his time, but this run was even more critical to him. This run was life or death for David. “Please, Lord, keep him safe. Please, let me get to him in time.”

Noah didn’t even try to follow Moondancer. David was all that mattered to him. But out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Serenity was running toward him where he was just entering the water himself. He half turned back toward her and yelled above the surf. “Stay there! I’ll get him; I promise!”

His next words were in prayer. “Oh, dear Jesus, help me keep that promise!”

David was floundering now, unable to fight the strength of the waves that far out. It had been only a couple of minutes, but he had gone much farther than he could have realized, his eyes focused only on Moondancer. Noah saw David’s head go under, and he plowed through the rough waves with everything in him. Finally, after what seemed a horrible nightmare, he reached the boy. David’s head had gone under once more, but he was bobbing up again, barely. Noah reached him and grabbed him, holding him so tightly that it must have been a miracle, he thought later, that he hadn’t cut off the rest of David’s breath.

It was a struggle, but slowly, finally, Noah got them back into easier waves, closer to shore, and then at last, he was close enough he could stand in the surf and carry David normally. By that time, Serenity was that far out herself, soaked to her waist, tears streaming down her face. She met Noah and David, throwing her arms around both of them, panting for breath. Noah was panting too, so much so that he could hardly speak, but he managed to at least reassure her. “He’s alive, Serie. And he’s conscious.”

They made their way back to the beach, and Serenity grabbed the one towel she had had around her shoulders as she had been walking toward Noah’s cabin. They laid David on his stomach to help him get rid of as much water as possible, and then wrapped him in the towel. He was shivering, but Noah held him. Serenity looked at him, her eyes still filled with shock. “What happened?”

Noah just shook his head. “Moondancer . . .” he stopped. He had forgotten his horse in his desperate fight to save David. He looked back out to the stallion now. The beautiful white horse was beginning to flounder, being much farther out than David had been and in much more dangerous waves. “Dear God, please,” he said in anguish now, “please help him! . . . help us! What can I do, Lord?”

Serenity was praying too. “Please Father, Moondancer is one of Your creatures. And he belongs to your faithful servant. Please save him!”

Suddenly Noah sprang to his feet, and shouted, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I break this spell on Moondancer, and I break the power of these demonic spirits that have been assigned to kill my horse! I command every one of you spirits to stop this attack now! Moondancer belongs to me, and, in the name of Jesus, I command you to leave him right now and never return!” Serenity looked at him with her mouth open. Was that what had happened? There had been a spell placed on the horse? She knew witchcraft was real, but she had never had any firsthand experience with it. How did Noah know?

But she didn’t have time to voice any of her thoughts because, suddenly, Moondancer turned around. He was still floundering somewhat, but he was at least making an attempt to swim toward shore rather than farther out into the ocean. Serenity kept praying, and she could hear David’s shivering voice praying also, as she held him tightly in her arms. Gradually, the horse gained momentum. He must surely be exhausted, thought Serenity. Only the Lord could give him the strength to swim back all that way.

But by now Noah was wading out into the water again. He couldn’t just stand there and watch this horse that he had bonded so closely with struggle all the way back to shore — if he could get all the way back. He could hear Serenity shout at him, “Please be careful, Noah!” But he kept going. He was swimming now, moving steadily toward Moondancer, and finally, by the time the horse was far enough to shore to have his shoulders above the water, Noah reached him. He knew he wasn’t strong enough to physically help the horse make it in, but he could talk to him and pet him and give him the encouragement to keep trying, so that was what he did, as he swam beside the flagging horse.

At last . . . solid ground. Noah dragged himself as far as he could before he collapsed on the beach. Serenity and David were right there, helping him up onto his hands and knees, so that he could at least crawl all the way out of the water. Moondancer stood beside him now, panting and snorting, obviously exhausted, but seeming to be his normal self. Finally he sidled up close to Noah and nuzzled his shoulder. Noah reached up and patted the horse’s nose. “Good boy, Moondancer. Good boy,” was all he was able to get out, and that in a breathless voice.

When he had recovered more of his breath, he straightened the upper part of his body, although he was still kneeling in the sand. “Get David inside, and get him warm, Serenity. I’m all right. But David’s body has been through a shock. You need to get him dry and get him something warm to drink. Take him to my cottage. It’s closer than the lighthouse.” He could see the deep concern in her eyes, and the gratitude — and perhaps — he’d like to believe he saw love there — but he was too exhausted to be able to know for sure. “Go on,” he said to her now. “I’ll follow as soon as I get more breath back.”

She dropped to her knees and embraced him, kissing him on the cheek, her tears mingling with the salt water on his face. “Thank you, Noah,” she managed to say through the tears. “You saved David’s life! How can I ever thank you?” Suddenly she was kissing one cheek and then the other, and then his lips. It wasn’t a romantic embrace; it was all the overwhelming emotions inside of her needing an outlet, but it was like new life to Noah. “Thank you,” she breathed out one more time and then turned to David again. He was still shivering a little, so she wrapped the towel more tightly around him, holding him to her side as they began the walk back to Noah’s cottage.

When they got there, Serenity grabbed two more towels. She dried David thoroughly, rubbing him briskly, and then found one of Noah’s heavier shirts to put on him, just as Noah had done the night of the storm. Then she dried herself as well as she could and moved to the phone to call Gramps. She told him as briefly as possible what had happened, and he promised to be down in just a few minutes with dry clothes. Then Serenity put milk in the microwave for David and began a pot of coffee for her and Noah.

When it started to perk, she glanced out the window and saw Noah leading Moondancer across the yard toward the corral. She knew Noah wouldn’t come inside until he had made sure Moondancer was all right and had gotten him warmed up too, so she grabbed the two heaviest beach towels she could find and ran outside with them. Noah was just removing the saddle from Moondancer when he saw her coming toward him with the towels. “Serenity, go back inside. I’ll be in shortly.” But she ignored his words and reached up and threw one of the towels around him, pulling it tightly around his chest. Then she threw the other one across Moondancer’s back and turned and ran toward the cottage without saying a word.

Find Chapter Eleven here tomorrow.



© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner


When they went inside, Noah decided maybe it would be best to have David get ready for bed before the movie, figuring it was late enough that his guest would probably be asleep before the end. But within a few minutes they were sitting on the sofa with their feet propped up, watching a good old-fashioned cowboy show. Halfway through, Noah put a bag of popcorn in the microwave, but before David’s bowl was empty, he was sound asleep, still in a sitting position with the bowl on his lap. Noah relieved him of the bowl and picked him up carefully, carrying him into the second bedroom and putting him into the twin bed.

Back in the living room, Noah sat down in front of the movie again, but he wasn’t watching it. His mind had gone back to the things David had told him about his day. Noah leaned over, resting his elbows on his knees and putting his face in his hands, letting out a painful sigh. Finally, he reached over and turned off the video and the TV. He stood and walked out onto the porch. He was too restless to sit still. He stepped off the porch and looked up at the night sky. The moon was almost full, and the stars were so brilliant they seemed almost within arms’ reach.

Usually looking up into that vast panorama filled him with a special kind of peace, but tonight, he couldn’t capture it. There was no peace for Noah Bennett. Not now — not after what David had told him. “Why here, Lord? Why now? You know . . . You know I can’t deal with it again!” He spoke softly, but his words carried pain in them. He took a few more steps into the yard. “Don’t expect me to get involved this time, Lord. I can’t. . . . I can’t!” He turned and walked out to the corral to check on Moondancer. The horse had been for the ride with David, but Noah could tell that he was eager to go for a moonlight run with Noah.

“Not tonight, buddy. We’ve got company, and I don’t want to leave David alone in the cottage.” He stood there petting the horse’s nose and then his neck. He finally leaned his head against Moondancer’s neck as if to draw some kind of solace. The horse whinnied softly, nuzzling Noah’s shoulder, sensing his master’s mood. At last Noah chuckled a little and pulled his head away from the horse. “You know me pretty well, don’t you, Boy?” He patted the horse’s nose once more. “We’ll go for a run in the moonlight tomorrow night. I promise,” he said and turned back to the cottage, hoping, somehow, he could get himself to sleep before dawn.

The following Wednesday morning, at the Library Club, David was upset to find out that they were going to hear more from the same book that Lacey had read from on Monday. This time the events she read about were gruesome as well as evil, and after several minutes, David covered his ears so that he couldn’t hear it very well. He noticed that Trent was listening, but he didn’t want to say anything to him and cause Lacey to stop and scold him for talking, so he just tried to put his mind on other things.

After the snack, Miss Parker sat them down and explained a new game she said they would really like. “The name of this game is ‘Inside Myself,’ and when you play it, you get to find out what all kinds of interesting things there are inside of everyone of you.” She told them about some other students who had played it and met some special spirit guides who lived inside of them. “It’s been very exciting,” she said. “You just have no idea who or what you might meet until you play the game a few times.”

David and Trent looked at each other with a look in their eyes that suggested maybe Miss Parker had lost her mind. And David was surprised that three other kids from his church were in the club and seemed to be agreeing with everything Miss Parker said.

“Now,” she continued to ease them into the game, “I’m going to turn off the lights, and I want you to lie down, close your eyes, and get completely still.” When the students had all complied with her instructions, lying on little rug mats that she had provided, she spoke again. “Now I want you to try to picture all the thoughts in your mind and all the feelings that you are feeling right now as little birds or butterflies. . . . Concentrate. . . . Can you see them, flitting around in your head?” One or two of the children answered, “Yes.”

“No, don’t talk,” she said. “Just listen and do as I say, and when I ask you something, just answer in your own mind, but don’t make any sounds. Now, I want you to picture every one of those little birds or butterflies flying out of your head one at a time, and then your mind will be empty. Make sure you imagine any anger or fear or any other feelings the same way and see them fly away.” She paused for several minutes and then continued.

“Now I want you to listen to this word that I say over and over, and then I want you to begin to say it with me.” David listened, but what Miss Parker was saying didn’t sound like any words he’d ever heard. It was some weird sound, between a word and a sort of loud humming sound. He sneaked his eyes open and looked at Trent. His friend was lying there with his eyes closed, but he wasn’t trying to say the word either. And David certainly wasn’t going to do so. He didn’t feel good about any of this. He didn’t really know why, of course. He was too young to really understand that the Holy Spirit inside of him was guarding him from all of this. He just knew that it made him uncomfortable, and that his Aunt Serie wouldn’t approve of it.

After a few more minutes, Miss Parker said, “Now as you are saying this word, begin to imagine a being coming from deep inside of you, taking shape and coming into focus in your mind. This being will smile at you and may even reach out a hand toward you, and if you’ll concentrate really hard, you may even be able to hear it speak to you. . . . I want you to concentrate very hard.” All through the exercise, Miss Parker had kept her voice very quiet and soft, almost as if she were trying to put them to sleep, David thought — the way Aunt Serie did when she was reading him a story in bed at night.

Finally after what seemed like a long time to David, Miss Parker said, “All right now, students, in your own mind, with your thoughts only, I want you to ask this being what its name is, and then the very first name that comes into your mind will be the answer to your question.” So she gave them time to carry out her instructions, and then said. “That’s enough of the exercise for today, so I want you to smile at your new friend and think the words, ‘I’ll see you again soon,’ and then let the being drift away, back down inside of you. Keep your eyes closed until your new friend is completely gone, and then you may open your eyes and sit up.”

One by one the students began to sit up, and David and Trent followed suit. David looked at Trent again, and they both grinned at each other and rolled their eyes. Miss Parker got up from her chair and turned on the lights. “Now, the last thing I want you to do is take out a piece of paper and write down the name of your new friend and then write one or two lines describing him or her or it. Then, if your friend told you anything, I’d like for you to write down what it was, and turn the paper in on my desk as you leave. Also, don’t forget, Wednesdays are the days to check out a book to take home and read. Two of the eighth graders will help you find what you want. Now sit down at a table and start writing while everything’s fresh on your mind.

David and Trent went to a table together and sat down. David took a piece of paper out of his notebook and then handed one to Trent, whispering. “I didn’t see anything, did you?”

“Nope,” Trent said, shaking his head. “I don’t think I like this game.”

“Me either. And I don’t think Aunt Serie is going to like it either.”

“What are you going to write?” Trent whispered.

David thought for a moment and then began to print one short sentence. When he was done he pushed the paper over for Trent to read. Unfortunately, Trent couldn’t hold back a giggle when he read, “I didn’t see anything” written on David’s paper.

“Boys, no talking or giggling,” Miss Parker admonished from across the room where she was already beginning to read some of the papers the students had turned in.

Trent hurriedly wrote on his own paper, “I didn’t see anything or anybody. Sorry.”

Both boys laid their papers on the desk in the midst of several other students doing the same thing at the same time, so Miss Parker didn’t have time to see what was on David’s and Trent’s. She was talking with one of the girls about her paper anyway and seemed very pleased at what the girl had written. She was one of the students that went to David’s church, and he wondered how she could be so eager to take part in all of this. But his next thought was that he wanted to check out a book to take home before the time was up, so he and Trent began to wonder in and out of the rows of bookshelves, trying to choose.

Trent selected a junior level biography of a baseball hero, and David chose a story about a palomino pony. The boy behind them asked for one of the Sally Stone books, but the eighth graders manning the library desk said that all of them were checked out already. Gosh, thought David. That meant a bunch of these kids really did like reading those stories. He just shook his head in confusion at that thought, and by that time, Miss Parker was lining everyone up to leave for the day.

About thirty minutes later, when Elizabeth brought David home, she asked Serenity if she had a minute to talk. Serenity assured her that she did and insisted that Elizabeth and Trent stay for lunch. Since the boys were usually starved by the time they reached home, the women decided to eat first and then have their talk afterwards, but Elizabeth couldn’t keep from asking Serenity one question while they were putting food on the table.

“Did David tell you what all the children did at the Library Club on Monday?”

“He told me most everything, I think, and I’m pretty sure what your next question is. Did it cause me to be concerned about whether I should keep sending him? And the answer is yes, but Gramps and I decided to let him try going one more time and see what happened, in case the events on Monday were an isolated event.”

Elizabeth nodded her head. “That’s pretty much what Luke and I decided, but when I picked the boys up today, they started right in telling me everything that happened as fast as they could. If it’s all right with you, I’d like to let them tell you and Clint while we eat, and then maybe we could discuss what we ought to do about it.”

“That sounds like a good idea. I’ll call Gramps from

upstairs if you’ll yell at the boys to come in and get washed up.”

So over lunch, both boys talked — taking turns — mainly because that was the only way either one could have time to take a few bites of food. Otherwise, they probably would have been talking at the same time, stumbling over each other trying to tell everything. Serenity could see that both boys were disturbed by what had been going on at the school library, and she made up her own mind right then that David would not be going back. But when they had finished their story and had been given permission to go outside, she waited for Elizabeth to say something first.

“Would you think I was being foolish or alarmist if I said that I don’t think I can send Trent back into that?”

Serenity reached out and laid her hand on her friend’s. “Absolutely not! That’s exactly what I’ve decided as I’ve been listening to all of this. Furthermore, I think it’s time I had a talk with Miss Parker and maybe Mr. Kelso. Would you like to come along?”

“Yes, I think I would. Let me run all this by Luke this evening, just in case he has any good reason to object to that plan, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be a hundred percent in favor of it.”

“Can we go out now?” David asked, since he and Trent were finished eating.

“Sure, just don’t play too hard until your food settles,” Serenity answered, and both boys headed for the door.

“How to do feel about all of this situation, Gramps?” Serenity asked now.

“I don’t think you have any choice, Serie. David definitely doesn’t need to be in that kind of atmosphere on a regular basis, and I think we need to know if this program is indicative of the kind of things he’ll be taught during the normal school year. We may just decide to home school him again this year . . . that is . . . unless you feel that you’d have to take him back to Ohio and put him in school there.”

Serenity turned to Elizabeth to explain that statement. “I lived in Cincinnati before I came here last fall, so that David could have this peaceful environment and his great-grandfather to help him recover from the loss of his parents. Gramps and I had been praying about whether I should move back now or stay on here for a while, and I had decided to stay, assuming David could go to school at Hamsted. I don’t mind home schooling him, but I was just hoping he could make more connections with other children his own age if he went to a regular school.”

Elizabeth nodded her head in understanding. “Would you move back to Ohio if you don’t feel you can put him in school here then? I hope not,” she hurriedly added. “Luke and I would sure hate to lose you and David as close friends. We’ve felt so comfortable with all of you from the first time we met you, and Trent has never had a closer friend than David.”

“I know. Dave feels the same way. No . . . if I decide not to send him to Hamsted, I think I’ll still stay here, at least another year. He enjoyed the home schooling last year, so I don’t think it will cause any problems to just do that again.”

“Of course, there’s the Christian school in Barclay,” Elizabeth said. “But that is about a forty-five minute drive each way. I’m hesitant to take Trent that far every day for nine months. But it is an option, at least.”

“That’s true. I hadn’t really considered it, because I liked the people in Hamsted, and they seem to be very interested in keeping their school up to date and involved in the community. I thought perhaps it would be a good atmosphere for David, especially since we teach him so much about the Lord here at home. That, along with his involvement in everything at church that he can be involved in should cover any needs he has for spiritual training. But now . . . well . . . I guess the school in Barclay is something else to pray about.” She stopped and sat there in thought for a moment. “Maybe we’ll know more after we talk with the people at school.”

“Right,” Elizabeth said, getting up. “I’ll give you a call after I talk with Lucas, and maybe we can arrange to go tomorrow, before there’s another meeting of the Library Club.”

“Sounds good. I think the sooner the better.”

Clint spoke up then. “You know, what really bothers me is that David said there were three other kids from our church who go to that Club, and that they seem to be getting involved in everything that’s going on. I can’t understand that.”

“Me either,” Elizabeth said. “And come to think of it, Trent mentioned that he had seen several kids from our church at the club too.”

“Maybe we need to talk to our pastors too, and see if we can find out what’s going on,” Serenity said. “Although, I always hesitate to do that because I don’t want to sound like I’m talking about some other members of the congregation. Boy,” she added, shaking her head in a frustrated gesture, “this is starting to get complicated, isn’t it?”

Elizabeth chuckled slightly, trying to lighten the moment just a little. “Well, I’d say that probably means it’s prayer time again.” And with those words, she started to the door, Serenity rising by that time and following her.

“Trent,” his mother called to him across the yard, “it’s time to go, Hon.”

He and David came running up together, and Trent spoke first. “Do we have to go back to that dumb Library Club?”

“No, Honey,” Elizabeth said, brushing the hair off his forehead. “Serenity and I agree that you and David don’t need to go there anymore.”

“Yea!” they both shouted, obviously relieved and thrilled, and Serenity and Elizabeth just looked at each other, their concern so heavy that it was almost tangible.

Find Chapter Eight here tomorrow.


I’ve decided to offer my inspirational novel RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT for free reading on this website — unabridged — one chapter a day. I wrote the story several years ago, and it was first published in 2016. It’s available in paperback and digital on Amazon, but I wanted to share it with my followers this month for free. At the end of October, the chapters will be removed from this site.

The story is fiction, but it conveys the reality of witchcraft and its dangers, and also conveys the truth that Jesus Christ and His blood are more powerful than all witchcraft. Because the book focus on the spiritual warfare that takes place when demonic forces try to capture the hearts and lives of people, but God’s forces move in to defeat those demonic powers, I felt it was fitting to offer it in the weeks leading up to Halloween. After reading RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT, no one can ever look at Halloween quite the same as they did before reading the book.

I thought perhaps some of my readers might like a little background concerning the creating of the book so I’m offering that background here first. If you’re the kind of reader who isn’t interested in background and just want to get right into the story, you can skip down to where Chapter One begins. 🙂

Here’s How It All Began

Most of my friends know that I have a great love for lighthouses, and several years ago, two of my best friends, Roy and Donna Manasco, came across a small print of a painting by Steven Sundram, “Sureal Moments,” which focused on a lighthouse standing as sentry over a vast expanse of beach during a storm, and a beautiful solid white horse approaching the lighthouse. They bought the print for me and presented it to me as a gift on a Sunday morning at church. I was delighted with the scene immediately, and after arriving home with it, I sat and looked at it for some time before setting it aside to concentrate on my work. I was in the middle of writing two novels at the time, and they needed all my attention. So I had intended to work on one of them most of the rest of the day.

However, I placed Steve Sundram’s picture against the music rack of my keyboard, and sat down on the sofa across from it to eat some lunch. As I ate, I kept looking at the picture, and it literally drew me into it until my imagination began to build to the point that I felt I knew the place personally. Words began flowing through me, as if I were describing it in detail for someone else. I felt that I knew the people who lived there, who walked that beach and shared their lives on it. (Although they are not visible in the painting, they are there.) I even felt as if I knew the horse. I knew his name was Moondancer.

But I also recognized what was happening inside me: I was on the verge of birthing a brand new novel based on that picture. Now, at that time, I had already written six inspirational novels, three of which had been published and were currently on the market. However, every novel I had written previously had been born out of a specific story in my own mind — based on a particular character, problem, or theme. I had never written a novel that focused on a setting of any kind, and even my five-book series The Smoky Mountain Series, keeps the focus on the setting at a minimum.

So starting a book based solely on a physical setting was completely out of character for me. Furthermore, I scolded myself for even thinking about starting a new novel when the current books were still not finished. Immediately, I jumped up, walked over to the picture, turned it around backwards so that I could not see it anymore, and tried to finish my lunch.

But by the time I had finished eating, the descriptive passages flowing through my mind had grown into paragraphs. I fought off the temptation to sit down to the computer and pull up a blank page. I told myself that I absolutely had to finish the other work, one part of which was facing a specific deadline. But those words kept pressing through me. I managed to leave the room and do something else for several minutes, but before I knew it, I was back in the living room, turning the picture back around and looking at it again. I put it down and picked it up multiple times.

Eventually I began to get a handle on the main character — a man who had suffered serious emotional trauma and needed healing. A man who had made his way to this ocean, this beach, this place – in order to find peace and quiet, time and solitude, a touch of eternity — so that he could heal. At that point I didn’t know what he had suffered or what he was running from. Nor did I have any insight into what form and process his healing would take. I just knew that the story would be his story; he would be living there temporarily, and that the other people who lived there were going to have a significant part to play in his healing.

I fought the temptation and the draw of that painting until 3:00 in the afternoon, at which time, I sat down at my computer, pulled up a blank page, and began writing the novel Racing Toward the Light. Of course, it didn’t have the title at that point. But I wrote everything I saw and felt in that painting, and I didn’t stop writing until I had the lighthouse inhabited and the main character named Noah Bennet. I still didn’t know what his terrible past was or what would happen to him in the story, but I was determined to find out. And I can say, without any reservation, that I virtually lived in that painting for the entire three months it took to write the story.

Over the next two weeks, I realized two things: this story would take the bold step of dealing with the subject of the supernatural, which had been experiencing a resurgence in literature and movies at the time. Several conversations that I had with other people concerning the surge of interest in supernatural subjects, especially witchcraft and its effects, led me to realize that I had the rest of the story in that subject matter.

I’ve learned that when an author lets a story begin to tell itself on paper, he finds that it has within itself much more than he ever thought about when he wrote the first word. This story, conceived out of a picture of an unnamed place, built itself into a masterpiece that takes an intimate look into the world of the supernatural while, at the same time, allowing readers to follow the earthly characters as their lives relate to and are impacted by the supernatural realm. The story of spiritual warfare in both realms is sure to inspire and encourage faith in the readers.   

Racing Toward The Light also gradually eased its way into a powerful love story. That’s the second thing I realized: that in every book, whether the author planned it or not, there is a love story just waiting to be told. So I’ve told this one.

I want to express my appreciation once again to artist Steve Sundram for his generous arrangement for the use of his painting for the cover of the book. It you’d like to check out more of his great work, you can find him at

Now, to get into the story …


© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner


He was forcing his way through bushes and tree limbs that pulled at his sleeves and scratched his face. Moving as quickly as he could, he wasn’t even trying to be quiet. There wasn’t time to be quiet. Please, God, let us be in time! Please let us be in time! But it was so dark. Was it usually this dark? He’d camped in these woods, but he didn’t remember the feeling of being smothered in thick darkness like he was experiencing now.

Three deputies flanked Noah Bennett on either side, each of them sweeping the wooded terrain with the same kind of high-powered flashlight that he was carrying himself. I should have tried harder! I should have made myself stay focused on this! His breathing was ragged and his chest so tight; he wondered if he might actually be having a heart attack.

“Over here,” one of the deputies called out, and Noah turned abruptly toward the clearing on the right, crushing a portion of a bush beneath his boot to get past it in a hurry. All the light beams converged on the spot the deputy was looking at on the ground. There was the pentagram. And close to it a recently dowsed fire.

“This must be the place,” Noah heard himself say,

and as he began to sweep the beam of his light around, one of the other deputies pointed out a silver flash with his own light. The steel of the ritualistic knife glittered tauntingly at all of the men, as one of them reached down to pick it up with a gloved hand.

And then … they saw her.

Noah felt the agonizing groan begin in the deepest part of his abdomen. He felt the full force of it as it raged all the way through him. He felt his knees hit the ground with a painful thud as the groan finally escaped in a tormented cry ….

Sheriff Noah Bennett woke up sobbing like a child … again. He was wringing wet with sweat, and his sobs shook his whole body. He finally sat upright and grabbed his head. He had to get his stomach to settle down quickly, or he’d throw up again too. By sheer willpower, he managed to swallow the bile and begin to take deep enough breaths that the sobbing finally subsided. When he was under control enough to be able to move, he shoved himself off the bed and onto his knees beside it. Burying his head in the damp sheets, he tried to pray … again. This had to end. … Sometime … this had to end!

A mile out from shore, the ocean was a vast, undulating, lead-gray blanket. But as the currents approached the beach that held them in check by the decree of God, the waves became gentle, but persistent swirls of iridescent silver. As they washed against the land, their substance danced high into the air as if a huge bottle of champagne had been poured out into a giant punch bowl.

The dramatic change in the water’s color resulted from the fact that a lighthouse stood atop a modest knoll whose base stretched across the beach almost to the very edge of the water at high tide. The arm of light rushed out to meet the darkness, which was made more intense because of heavy clouds that almost rested on the surface of the water a couple of miles out and covered most of the sky over the coast. The only opening in the cloud cover was just to the right of the lighthouse itself, but it wasn’t letting any moonlight through. So the only radiance came from the beam that swept its ruling arc across its vast domain every fifteen seconds. But the darkness was no match for that penetrating light. The beacon was so intense that it forced, not only the ocean, but even those heavy clouds to reflect that light into the atmosphere. It was in the brilliance of that light that the caps of the waves became like silver lace, and the hundreds of water droplets like sparkling diamonds.

The wind had picked up. But it was often stronger on this part of the beach than it was farther inland, and the combined sound of wind and waves usually served more as a lullaby to the inhabitants of the lighthouse than it did a disturbance. At least that used to be the case . . . until the last couple of weeks. The light itself had been automated several years ago, but the house was still a quaint, but quite livable place. That being the case, the old man who had operated the light during the last decade had opted to lease the house for his home, with the understanding that he would service and repair the equipment that carried on most of the operations now.

His six-year-old great-grandson David had come to live with him almost a year ago, along with his aunt Serenity, the old man’s elder granddaughter. David’s mother was Serenity’s younger sister, and she and her husband had died in an accident while traveling abroad, leaving their son in the guardianship of his aunt.

The boy was sitting now in the window seat of his bedroom, looking out at the beach, the light beam sweeping enough light through the window periodically to bring a glow to his room and turn his blond head into a bright halo. He had his chin propped in his hand, his elbow propped on the windowsill, and he was deep in conversation with the Lord.

“And if I did have a horse, You know I’d take really good care of him, so Gramps and Aunt Sere wouldn’t have to do anything at all. I’d feed him and brush him and clean out his stall . . . well . . . when he had a stall.” That point was where he always got stuck in his well-rehearsed plan. He had his eye on an old shed that stood in back of the lighthouse and even had a rather wobbly fence part of the way around it. But he hadn’t figured out a way to convince his grandfather and aunt that he was old enough to help fix both the fence and the shed so as to allow for the housing of a horse.

“Well, Lord, I bet Trent’s dad would help fix it all up,” he finally said now. Trent was the seven-year-old boy whose parents had moved to Hamsted the week after school had let out for the summer. The boys had become almost inseparable friends over the next two weeks, and now they shared their dreams and plans with each other. Naturally, Trent thought the idea of David’s having a horse of his very own was “super,” and he had assured David that he would help all he could to figure out a way to make it happen.

As David continued talking with the Lord, his aunt, in the adjacent room was having her own conversation with her Heavenly Father. Serenity, who had been a writer for the last fifteen of her thirty-two years, was not used to having a child to care for, but she loved her nephew David fervently, and her decision to move him and herself to the lighthouse with her grandfather had been based on three things.

One was the fact that she was especially concerned about Gramps, particularly since he lived completely alone and in a rather isolated area. Since the family’s tragic loss, he hadn’t made much effort to mix with the people in the small town two miles up the road from the coast . . . or with the visitors that rented cottages on the beach during the summer. But Serenity had hoped that her and David’s presence there would encourage her grandfather to rejuvenate his waning friendships and to become an active part of the small community again.

The second reason she had made the decision was that she felt David needed a place of quiet and peace in which to recover from his own grief, and his devotion to his great-grandfather could only be an added help. And thirdly, Serenity knew that if she were going to be able to concentrate on her own work, so as not to lose her income, she would also need a quiet place, as well as someone to help take responsibility for David from time to time. This decision seemed the perfect solution since Gramps was eager to spend much of his time with David, and all three of them were delighted with the arrangement. For now, at least.

Since the family’s tragedy had occurred right after the school year had begun, and then Serenity and David had moved to be with Gramps immediately, she and her grandfather had decided that home-schooling David for the first year would be better than causing him to have to get used to a brand new school and then perhaps be moved again in another year. But soon he would be seven years old, and she felt that before long, he would once again need to be in an environment where he was with other children his own age more than he was now. He went to church and Sunday School, and he got along well with all of the other children there, but he had been so withdrawn and quiet since his parents’ deaths that Serenity had been a little worried. However, just lately, he seemed to be getting back to being the active, joyful child he’d always been previously.

Her thoughts drifted now as she changed into her gown and prepared for sleep. She didn’t usually go to bed at 10:00, but she’d been up writing until 3:00 A.M. the last two mornings, and the need for sleep was finally catching up with her. She started thinking about David’s schooling again.

“I’m just not sure what’s best, Lord,” she prayed now. “It’s so hard making all the decisions for someone else’s life, knowing that if I make a mistake, David could be the one to suffer.” She smiled now as she thought of her nephew in the room next to hers. Maybe he needed to be in a bigger town where he could interact with more different kinds of people than he could in this little place on the coast. The town of Hamsted was hardly more than a village actually, but she liked the people. And most of the town seemed to really care about keeping their school up to date and academically sound.

She let out a sigh. “Well, Lord, there’s still a few more weeks yet before we have to make a final decision. I know You’ll show me what You want me to do.”

She stretched out on her bed now. Sometimes she found herself wishing she had found someone to love and begin a family with, the way her sister had. She loved children and would like several of her own, even if it meant not having nearly as much time to write. She had dated from time to time, and she had a number of men friends and writing associates, but nothing had ever really “clicked” somehow. And, now, she realized she had added another dimension to the way men would see her, because she was now, to all intents and purposes, a mother as well as a successful career woman . . . not the most attractive combination to most single men in their thirties or forties.

Oh, well . . . she’d have to leave all that in the Lord’s hands. And she was usually pretty good at doing just that. But sometimes . . . like tonight she lay in her bed watching the beam of light sweep across the terrain … she felt unutterably lonely for the arms and the quiet, comforting, love words of a strong Christian man.

She sighed gently, rolling over to her other side, where she couldn’t see out the window, and closed her eyes. Then she returned to the prayer she had left unfinished when her thoughts had started to drift. “You know what I need better than I do, Lord. You know that I need more than just someone for myself now. I need someone who will be able to love David and help me raise him up in Your Word. I still have serious doubts about being able to do that by myself. But please, Lord, help me not to jump into some relationship out of fear that I can’t do it alone. That would be worse than anything.”

She yawned and pulled the cover a little higher until it nestled beneath her chin. “Thank You for making us able to come here, Lord. It’s helped all three of us a lot.” She yawned again, and somewhere in the midst of thanking the Lord for working everything out, she drifted into a peaceful sleep.

David was still happily chatting with the Lord about the desire of his heart, convinced that the Lord would provide a horse soon, As he continued to plan, he looked out at the beach. The broad expanse of sand stretched away from the lighthouse, eventually spreading out in front of the summer cottages that dotted that area for about two miles along the coast. David couldn’t see the first cottage from his room, but up in the top of the lighthouse, he could see almost all of them. They were spread out far enough to allow each family to feel as if they had their own private part of the beach, but were within easy walking distance of each other.

As his blue-gray eyes scanned the wave-swept coast, seeing only dim outlines except when the rhythmic arc of light swept around, David suddenly came to attention. Was he seeing things? Had he fallen asleep and started dreaming, he wondered. He sat up straighter and squinted his eyes to try to see better, but he had to wait for the light to pass over the beach again to be sure.

“Yes!” he said out loud, jumping to his knees on the window seat and pushing out the lightweight, temporary screen so that he could lean out of the window. “A horse . . . a real horse!” Right before his eyes a large, solid white stallion came galloping straight toward the lighthouse. A short distance away, the horse stopped and seemed to turn and prance around for a while, almost as if he were frolicking in the surf. Then he ran toward the lighthouse again, stopping again after several yards to do the same thing.

David was enthralled. He’d never seen such a beautiful animal. He’d often imagined what his own horse would look like, but he’d never imagined anything like this. He laughed softly as he watched, enjoying the horse’s antics almost as much as the stallion himself seemed to do. Suddenly, the horse stopped and arched his neck, whinnying softly. He looked right at David and started to trot over closer to the house.

By this time, David was leaning way out of the window, reaching his arm out to encourage the horse to come closer. He was aware that he needed to be quiet if he didn’t want to wake his aunt, but he just couldn’t resist calling softly to the horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said, trying to keep his voice down, but finding it very hard to do since he didn’t want to miss a chance to pet this horse. “Come on, Boy,” he said again, motioning the horse toward him from where it had stopped a few feet away from the house. Slowly, the stallion sidled up to the window, snorting and blowing softly, and David was finally able to touch his nose and pet him.

“You’re the best horse I’ve ever seen in my whole life!” he said now, and was rewarded with the horse’s moving close enough to nuzzle David’s shoulder as he hung way past the window ledge. Finally, David couldn’t resist any longer. He climbed swiftly out of the window, thankful that it was only a couple of feet from the ground, and stood beside the stallion. He hadn’t realized quite how big the horse was until he was standing in his bare feet beside the animal. But he wasn’t afraid. This horse must be an answer to his prayers.

Of course, his very next thought was that he probably belonged to somebody living in one of the cottages, but . . . well . . . he could pretend for a little while, couldn’t he? “Would you let me ride you?” he asked the horse now, and his only answer was the same soft blowing sound the animal had made before. So David figured it was worth a try and began looking around for a way to get up on the white stallion’s back. Finally he spotted the small boat that was turned upside down on a sand dune off to the side of the lighthouse, and he slowly moved toward it, never letting his hand slide from the horse’s neck.

“Come this way, Boy,” he said, and the horse moved with him as if he had been obeying the boy his whole life. As soon as David had himself and the horse in position, he climbed up on to the highest part of the boat and reached up to grab the horse around the neck. He threw his strong young body into one giant jump and managed to land on the stallion’s back, holding onto his mane in a vice grip so as not to slide off. He had no idea it would feel this way to be so high off of the ground. But as he felt the horse shift its stance slightly, moving beneath him, he felt as if they were one, and he knew he was right where he’d always wanted to be.

“Okay, Boy,” he said, leaning over the horse’s neck to talk as close to his ear as possible. “Take me for a ride.” He pulled very gently on the mane to try to turn the animal’s head in the direction of the beach, and then he nudged his heels . . . also very gently . . . against the stallion’s sides to encourage him to get started. “Giddy up,” he said, not knowing what else to say to a horse to get him moving, and to his great delight, the stallion began to trot across the lighthouse yard and move along the beach, back the way he had come. Once he was several feet away from the house, he began to run along the surf’s edge, and David, holding on for dear life, was laughing with delight. By this time, he was far enough away from the house to feel pretty sure he wouldn’t wake his aunt or Gramps.

They raced along the beach, boy and horse, free as the wind and the waves, flying past the first cottage and then the second, but still within the protective arc of light that swept over their path in its appointed intervals. But the wind was picking up even more, and thunder started to roll through the clouds that had continued to thicken during the past hour. After another minute, lightening began to flash in jagged arrows out over the ocean as the brewing storm began to move inland.

Those warning signals, which would have meant a great deal to any adult considering going out at that time, were lost on the six-year-old boy, who was finally realizing the power of a dream come true. And besides, he’d lived on the ocean long enough to see a number of storms there, especially recently, and he didn’t have any fear of them. Why should he? As far as he was concerned, they were all just part of the water, the sky, and the earth that he’d come to appreciate with a new passion since he’d come here to live. So he felt free to abandon himself to the ride as only a child can do.

About a mile down the beach, in the fourth cottage, Noah Bennett was wakened from his sleep for the second time. As he turned over, he heard the heavy roll of thunder and noticed that the lightening looked pretty intense. Exhausted by the earlier sobbing prayer, he had finally managed to get back to sleep an hour ago. There was just no rest tonight. But since he was wide awake again, he decided to get up and step outside to see what was going on with the weather. It wouldn’t hurt to check on Moondancer either. This was the stallion’s first night in the makeshift corral on the beach, and he wasn’t sure how the animal would take to it in rough weather.

He slipped a pair of blue jeans over the underwear he usually slept in, and since he knew the wind over the ocean was usually chilly, he grabbed up his lightweight jacket and put it on over his tee shirt. When he stepped out the door, he sniffed the air, aware that there was something about the atmosphere that made him feel unpleasant. It was nothing he could put his finger on, but . . . he just stood on his porch, looking out over the water at the fast approaching storm, trying to figure out what it was he felt.

Storms didn’t frighten him. He’d worked right through some of the worst of them in his years in law-enforcement. When he’d been a cop in a midwestern city, he’d had his share of experience with weather catastrophes. Then when he’d made the switch to a deputy sheriff position in the Southwest, and had eventually been elected sheriff himself, it was torrential rainstorms and the dangerous flash floods that he’d had to concentrate on in order to protect his people. He shook his head now, in thought.

No, it wasn’t the fact that there was a heavy storm approaching that made him feel this way. But it was something in the air. Almost as if the whole atmosphere were boiling with a menacing attitude, and as if the storm were just the outward manifestation of whatever it was that was at the root of the situation. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders. He’d come here to get some rest and recuperation. He’d better stop letting his gut feelings have so much effect on him if he expected to be successful at getting that much needed rest.

But he knew the Lord had given His followers spiritual authority over the elements of nature, and it was his habit to take that authority over storms, so he did so now. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I take authority over all of you elements of weather right now. I command you to submit to your Creator, and I bind you from becoming destructive in any form anywhere along this beach, or in the town connected to it.” Then he spoke to the Lord personally. “Father, I thank you for that authority, and for Your protection in the name of Jesus. Amen.” He stepped off the porch then and started for the corral and shed where he had installed Moondancer.

But what he saw when he rounded the cottage stopped him in his tracks and struck him dumb. The corral gate was open and Moondancer was gone. He shook his head. That horse! There wasn’t even a moon out tonight, he thought, looking up at the sky and around the beach. Of course, there was the lighthouse, and that arc of light was brilliant. It just might have been enough of a calling card for a horse that seemed to have been born to frolic at night when the moon was bright. He’d never seen a horse so fond of racing around and just plain having a good time in the middle of the night.

That’s how he’d come by his name, of course. Noah had bought the stallion when he was just a year old, and from the first time he’d taken him home, he’d recognized that he had a horse with a unique personality. But it had suited Noah most of the time, because some nights when he’d come home, burdened down by some of the crime he’d had to deal with, Moondancer was literally champing at the bit to get out in the moonlight and run. They’d raced across many a field and country road at night, and even in the wee hours of the morning, letting the crisp night air and the star-studded sky wash Noah clean from the crud that seemed to cling to some parts of his job.

But tonight was different. Moondancer wasn’t at home. He was in a strange place. Noah decided he’d better walk along the beach and see if he could find him before the storm really broke. He didn’t have to guess which way to head. That horse always ran toward the light. Noah chuckled softly to himself at that thought. Well . . . that was a good plan for a man as well as for a horse. Wasn’t that what the Word of God said? Jesus came to bring light . . . and He was the light of men. So no matter what was going on in a person’s life, his best plan was to always turn toward the light and head for it as straight as he could go.

Noah had been walking along with his head down, thinking, but now suddenly he jerked it up. He thought he’d heard a horse whinny. Sure enough, here came that beautiful white stallion, flying like the wind, the ocean spray splashing around his ankles.

But then Noah looked closer. “What on earth!” he said out loud. There was someone on Moondancer’s back. That horse never let anyone ride him unless Noah got on his back with the new rider and let Moondancer get used to him gradually. And then he refused most people even after all of that. How in the world did some kid . . . he could see now that the rider was a child . . . how in the world did that boy get Moondancer to take him up and allow him to stay there?

As they came within a few feet of Noah, the horse slowed to a trot and gradually sidled up to his owner. Noah could see now that the boy was the great-grandson of the lighthouse manager. He’d met the family last season when he’d been here visiting his sister and brother-in-law for a week. He’d really liked Clint, the grandfather, and they had swapped some good fishing stories. Then he’d spoken momentarily to David and his aunt on the beach two days ago. He looked up at the boy whose face was wreathed in an enormous grin. As he did so, he reached out and placed an authoritative hand on Moondancer’s neck. The horse knew to stand still and wait for instructions.

“Well, well,” Noah spoke to the boy in a friendly voice, “what have we here? Are you playing cowboy in the middle of the night?”

“Is this your horse, Mister Bennett?” David asked, excitement still filling his voice as a result of the ride.

“Yep. He’s mine. His name’s Moondancer. And my first name’s Noah, by the way. Why don’t you call me that?”

“Okay. Do you remember my name?”

“It’s David, right?”

David nodded his head. “Right.”

“Well, David, I’m just wondering . . . do your aunt and grandpa know you’re out riding at this time of night?”

David looked a little sheepish, dropping his eyes and letting his tongue slip out between his lips and slide back and forth slowly . . . a habit he had when he was nervous or unsure of himself. Noah almost grinned, but he knew he’d blow his whole image as a disciplinarian if he did, so he fought the urge. “It looks like you’re in your PJ’s to me. Aren’t you cold?”

David looked up then and just shrugged his shoulders. Noah figured the boy was probably just now discovering how chilly it really was out in this damp wind and that he wasn’t going to admit it for any reason. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come on in and have something warm to drink, and then I’ll see about getting you back home, okay?”

David nodded, and Noah began to lead Moondancer toward the cottage, David still on his back. “Why do you call him Moondancer?” the boy asked as they sauntered along.

“Well, from the time he was barely more than a colt, he’s loved to go out at night and race in the moonlight. Sometimes, when I don’t have time to ride him myself, I’ll look out and see him trotting and prancing around almost like he’s putting on a show. So the name just seemed to fit him. What do you think?”

David nodded again. “That’s what he was doing over by my house. And then he just came right up to my window and let me pet him.”

“How did you get on his back?”

“I climbed up on an old boat that was turned upside down and then I jumped the best I could, and there I was!”

“And Moondancer didn’t seem to mind?”

“Huhnuh! He stood real still.”

Noah just shook his head. It was certainly a first. But by that time, he had the boy and horse back to his cottage, so he reached up and took David off of Moondancer’s back and stood him on the porch. It was beginning to rain steadily, so he said, “You step on inside where it’s dry, and I’ll be right in . . . as soon as I make sure old Moondancer here can’t do any more running around on his own.”

When the horse had been secured to Noah’s satisfaction, he returned to the cottage and put some milk in the microwave for some cocoa. He got a towel and dried David off the best he could and then dried himself. He slipped off his wet jacket and went into the bedroom for a shirt to put around David to help get him warm quicker. “You know, Dave, I think I should call your aunt and let her know you’re safe, because it’s raining so hard now that we may have to sit here a while before I can take you home. We don’t want her to worry if she checks on you and finds you gone, do we?”

David shook his head, but he was holding it down, knowing there was bound to be some trouble when his aunt found out what he’d been doing. But after a brief moment, he looked up at Noah, his eyes shining and declared, “It was worth it!” He didn’t have to say anything else, because Noah knew exactly what he meant.

In fact, Noah was a little envious right at that moment. It had been a long time since he’d done something just because it fulfilled a dream or a great desire of his heart, not stopping to count the cost, but just throwing himself into living the moment and savoring it. He reached out and tousled David’s blond hair. “I’ll ask her to go easy on you,” he said, and then added, “but . . . I want you to promise me that you won’t take off in the middle of the night for any reason at all without telling your aunt first . . . not for any reason.” David looked at him out of very solemn eyes, and Noah continued. “If you’ll promise me that, I’ll think about letting you ride Moondancer sometimes in the daytime, when it’s safer. What do you say?”

David’s eyes grew bigger and brighter, and then his little face took on a serious demeanor. “I promise,” he said, nodding his head for emphasis. “I promise.”

“Good,” Noah said, and reached into the microwave to get the cocoa. He set the mug in front of David and turned to the phone.

Watch for Chapter Two tomorrow.