Bringing In the Sheep: The Monk's Tale 
By Robert Tinkham
Part I: Prayers of a Monk
The tropical sea breathed in a large wave, then exhaled against the sandy shores, feeding the clams which dwelt beneath it. King Neptune was obviously busy.
Along the shore, two tread against the sand. One was a short, plump man with a balding head. He bore marks of wisdom in his eyes, and he smiled as he spoke. He was a man of the cloth, wearing the traditional brown robes of Catholic monks. His sandled feet kicked up sand as he trudged across the beach.
The second man stood at about six feet and was extremely thin. He was beginning to show signs of emaciation, as his eyes sunk into their sockets slightly and the bones of his cheeks could be seen. Likewise, as he spoke, he raised what appeared to be skeletal, feeble hands into the air.
Brother Wilbury turned and glanced at his companion, Brother Bob Tweet. Good Lord, he thought to himself. Forbid that he ever travel to Tamir, lest the residents mistake him for a zombie.
"You should really eat more, Brother Bob," stated Brother Wilbury. "You're so thin. I realize that you should perhaps not hear this from a man of my build, but I fear for your health."
"You needn't worry about me," replied the thin man. "I fast for the health of others. There are people starving in Daventry, you know."
"I understand, and I appreciate your desire to help them," responded Wilbury. "However, you cannot help them if you are dead."
As the sun began to set, the two monks began heading back to their seminary. Leaving the beach, they began to walk through the forests of Kolyma.
"So," asked Wilbury, "what made you decide to go into the ministry?"
Bob thought a bit before answering. "Well, I suppose that my vocation called me to a life of humbleness and peace. I suppose I became so disgusted with the outside world that I decided to dedicate my life to God. And you?"
Wilbury did not wait to answer. "I've always wanted to help people. I felt that as a man of the cloth would be the best way to. In this manner, I could help those who are in need and at the same time give them spiritual encouragement."
"Truly a noble cause," responded Bob. "Where do you wish to travel?"
"No where, actually," responded Wilbury. "I want to stay here and build a monastery. It can be a place of worship for any of the Catholic faith, though it can be a sanctuary for anyone. All would be welcome, as all are welcome at God's table."
"I see," replied Bob. "I believe the Society of Wizards does similar work."
"Ah, yes, they do," stated the plump man. "I have much respect for them. I'll admit that their ways are different than ours, but we mustn't judge another's religious denomination. Furthermore, the wizards may be closer to God than we think, for they can call upon incredible powers to work for them. Despite all of this power, however, they use it for good, not evil."
"Well spoken," replied Bob. "But tell me - what do you think of the Society of the Black Cloak?"
Wilbury frowned. "Not very highly, I'm afraid. May God forgive me for my judgments, though I truly believe that organization to be evil. They use their powers solely for their own needs, which includes hurting others if they must. Most of the wizards who join that organization are interested only in domination, usually of the country in which they live. I've heard that that hag Hagatha is a member of the Soci- ety of the Black Cloak."
Bob shrugged. "I suppose that explains why she causes so much pain for Kolyma. She must be insanely jealous of the rule of King Cedric, and even more jealous of his daughter, Princess Valanice."
"I've heard that Hagatha has a taste for human flesh," stated Bob.
I don't think you have to concern yourself with that one, thought Wilbury. On the other hand, I have much to worry about in that respect.
As they travelled across Kolyma's countryside, the two monks came upon a beautiful, clear mountain lake. The water reflected the mountains as if a separate world existed beneath the waters.
"Tonight I'm baking a roast," stated Wilbury. "Of course, Bob, you are cordially invited, and I do hope you come."
Bob was about to respond when he caught sight of something in the distance. Something was flying over the lake. Bob thought it may have been a dragonfly, though it was too large to be one. Was it a fairy? Bob moved in for a closer look as Wilbury kept talking.
"You should really get some meat on those bones of yours..."
Bob was more interested in this small creature than in Wilbury's speech. As he approached the lakeside, he received a better view of it. The creature appeared reptilian in form, with small wings beating as quickly as a hummingbird's. It hovered over the water and headed toward the shore. It looked like a tiny dragon.
"I realize you wan't to help people, Bob, but you must also help yourself..."
The dragonet flitted over to the shore and suddenly found itself in Bob's face. Bob watched in amazement as the tiny reptile became startled by the sudden appearance of this enormous mammal, and it quickly darted back to where it came from. Bob watched as it splashed into the waters.
As if hypnotized by the lake, Bob began to creep toward the bank. He knelt upon the sand and peered into the water.
Below him, Bob could see a beautiful land. It was actually composed of several lands, which were, before his very eyes, floating high in the air. The land was dense with heavy, beautiful, colorful foliage, and Bob could smell the wonderful fragrance even from where he was. Was he seeing a vision of Heaven?
Bob had known that Kolyma held many magical portals which extended into what most known as the Other World, though he had never actually seen one. Determined to get a closer look, Bob extended his hand into the lake's cool waters.
"Bob?" asked Wilbury.
Bob could almost touch it. It was so close...
Brother Bob Tweet felt the cold rush of the water as he plunged headfirst into the lake. Emerging his head, he looked about to find Wilbury. Unfortunately, he could not maintain a steady tread in the water, as some unknown force began a powerful suction which began to draw him downward.
"Wilbury!" screamed Bob. "Help me! Something's pulling me under!"
Wilbury rushed over to Bob's side and extended his hand. Bob's skeletal fingers met the chubby digits of Wilbury, and the fat monk pulled as hard as he could to try to rescue his friend from the dimensional portal.
"Hold on, Bob!" cried Wilbury. "Don't let go!"
Unfortunately, in the thin, weakened condition of Bob's hand, combined with the slipperiness of the water which soaked it, Bob was not able to hold on. Wilbury grabbed for the second best thing - a rosary wrapped around Bob's arm. Bob held tightly onto the rosary, though his grip was still slipping.
"Hold on, Bob!" screamed Wilbury. "You can do it!"
No, he couldn't. Before Wilbury's terrified eyes, his friend's hand slipped, and Brother Bob Tweet plummeted down into the portal, into an unknown land. His emaciated body was soon swallowed by the incredible colors of the land below.
Wilbury could only stare in shock as the waters which had become so turbulent suddenly began to calm. As quickly as the waters erupted, they were again silent.
"Mother of God." Wilbury crossed himself.
Wilbury stood there for hours, pondering what had just happened. He had also learned of dimensional portals in Kolyma, though he never expected something like this. Where had Bob gone?
All that was left of Bob now, at least in this realm, was the rosary, which Wil- bury still held firmly within his fat hand.
Wilbury did not know what else to do, so he just prayed.
"Heavenly Father," he invoked his Deity, "I know not what has just happened here. I only pray for Brother Bob's safe passage to wherever he presently is. Please watch over him."
"Forgive me, for I was not able to help him. I tried as hard as I could. Dear God, I have done so in thought many times before, but now I give you my pledge
I vow to help as many people as I can during my lifetime. Let not what happened to Brother Bob happen to anyone within my presence again. I wish to be an instrument of Your peace and a portion of Your saving hand. I ask this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
With that, Wilbury opened his eyes. He came to find his body enveloped in a tremendous Light, one which emanated love, more love than Wilbury had ever felt in his life. Wilbury looked up, and could see it being cast down from the skies above.
"Oh, thank You, my Lord!" cried Wilbury, tears streaming down his face.
This was the answer which Wilbury had been waiting for. He had now felt it, though he soon heard it as well.
"YOU HAVE GIVEN TO ME YOUR PLEDGE OF SERVITUDE TO ALL OTHER OF MY CHILDREN," boomed a Voice which seemed to be present everywhere. It spoke with the power of a storm, but with the gentleness of a lamb.
"NOW ADHERE TO YOUR VOW," continued the Voice. "HELP ALL YOU MEET - THOSE WHO ASK FOR HELP AND THOSE WHO DO NOT ASK. AS YOU KEEP THIS VOW, NO CREATURE MAY EVER HARM YOU, FOR YOU WILL BE KEPT ALIVE THAT YOU MAY BE AN INSTRUMENT OF MY LOVE AND MERCY. YOU WILL HEREBY BE KNOWN NOT ONLY AS WILBURY, BUT AS THE BLESSED WILBURY. YOU WILL RECEIVE MY INSTRUCTIONS IN TIME."
With that, the Light suddenly faded, and Wilbury found himself in the darkness of night. Though he was far from his seminary, Wilbury knew that he was not alone. The monk rose to feet, and began to travel on his way. He had work to do.
To be continued...