It is much later in the day when I awake again, still in His arms. I do not stir, though, wanting to stay in this sheltered place a little while longer as I gather my thoughts. I begin to see how I have formed an expectation that I am not wanted. In that expectation I look for it and see it fulfilled and it feeds into my issues of rejection. Perhaps this is the root of that issue as well. I lift my eyes and see that the place has changed yet again. The outer walls have indeed changed. The stone walls have become an iron fence. The fence is still high and imposing, but there are gaps between the bars, enough to see and touch through them! I notice too that the flies seem to be gone. The air is clearer and brighter now. Craning my neck to get a better view, I see another change has taken place. There are huge birds, vultures it seems sitting on the fence.
“They will attack when you are hurt.” He explains before I can ask. “The sword is your defense against them.” He gently releases me from His embrace.
I look around and notice that the thorns have not pulled back further this time. However, they are changed. Where once they were as thick as my arms, now they look like an overgrown hedgerow of old, old roses. The canes are shorter and thinner now, but the thorns still appear razor sharp.
There are no flowers to be seen anywhere, not even buds. It appears that these bushes have been explicitly trained to produce thorns instead of flowers. Looking more closely, I see that all the branches that might have produced flowers seem to be cut off.
Who is the gardener here, I wonder.
“You are.” He explains cryptically.
He shows me a picture of myself, about three years old, wearing my favorite blue smocked dress. The little girl is wide-eyed and serious. It seems that nothing comes close to her, comforts her. I try to approach, but she is too busy cutting off the flowers from the stems to notice. I want to go to her, to bring her to Him so that He might comfort her. But I cannot, it is as though there is an invisible wall between us.
She is crying now. The vultures swoop in to attack her pain. I see her hiding in the thorns, they are keeping the vultures at bay. That is why she has grown them!
So, is it the thorns or the vultures that are the problem here? It does not seem clear to me.
“The vultures.” He replies, “Without them she does not need to tend the thorns.”
“This root is different, then?” I ask, still puzzled by what I am seeing.
I am uncertain and afraid. The birds are large and powerful. Their piercing gaze is fixed on me and it scares me. I dread what they might do to me. I want them gone! I do not want to live with them any longer.
“Show me what I need to know! What are these birds! Why do I need this sword? What do I do with it?” I cry to Him in increasing agitation.
“Come, I will show you the nest.” He helps me to my feet. Taking again my left arm to shield me from the remaining thorns, we begin to walk around to the right side (north eastern) of the castle. We come to a place that cannot be seen from the gates, near the back corner of the castle’s inner walls.
“Be careful,” He warns, “I have not let you find this place before because there is death here,” His words are ominous, doing little to comfort my growing anxiety.
We climb a pile of rubble, the broken remains of a fortified stone wall. The place is grey and barren, filled with an overpowering stench. I draw a shallow breath with which to speak, but He puts a finger to my lips to silence me. Quickly he draws out His anointing oil and anoints my eyes, ears, lips, heart and belly. I do not understand why He does this, but I feel more protected, secure now.
He draws me closer to Him, whispering, “I do not want you to become lost here.”
Determining to stay close to Him, I look about. I see bones lying about, I think they are human bones. There is a skull at a short distance from us. I want to vomit. The sight and the disgusting odors threaten to overwhelm me. A cold wind blows adding to the misery of the place.
I pull His robe more securely around me, trying to hold it against the wind. He turns to me, saying nothing and He signals me to do the same. Without words He fits a heavy leather belt, holding a sheath for the saber, around my waist. Firmly, He ties the belt in place. The new weight is strange, but comforting as well, grounding me and giving me strength. The belt holds my robe down against the piercing winds.
Suddenly, the air is filled with loud calls. The calls grow louder and louder until they drown out my own thoughts. Turning to me, He anoints my ears once again and the calls are dulled to the point I can focus on Him once again. He gestures to a huge nest that is not far off, the source of the calls.
The nest is unlike anything I have seen before. In the center of the next is a huge, black vulture being fed by numerous smaller birds that stand on the outer edges of the nest. Within the nest, the large bird is surrounded by much smaller hatchlings, cawing and calling out to be fed. The smaller birds are bringing food to the large one who then swallows it and vomits it back up for the hatchlings. It is a stomach churning, repulsive sight.
I look more closely, trying to discern when the smaller birds are feeding the large one. My hands fly to cover my mouth to keep me from crying out when I see the smaller birds are offering hands and hearts to the large creature.
He whispers in my ear, “They are stealing love, affection, affirmation and kindness before it gets to the little girl you saw, before it can get to you. The mother bird vomits it out as rejection to feed the baby birds. You must get rid of the mother bird. Without her, the others will die. You need to attack her.”
I barely recognize my own hoarse whisper, “How?”
He shakes His head slightly, “Not here, you must prepare first.” He gestures for us to return to the front of the castle.
I linger a few moments, trying to see more clearly, but I cannot. I can make out though, that the large bird has only one leg. Perhaps this is its weakness. Still I do not understand what is here.