THE GREAT BELL introduces the series as Zachary Thomas accidentally falls into a tunnel and comes out in Windfallow. He finds his presence there is not an accident for he is able to help the fallowfolk understand how the human mind works in its corrupted state. He lends his aid to Stilts, an elder fallowman and Angari, an Alari or angel, as they recover one of the Great Bells given the fallowfolk by the Maker and stolen by the demon possessed crooks.
The three visible companions left the woods and walked across the park toward Zach’s house. Few saw them and those that did paid them little attention. They looked like a couple of brothers and a grandpa who had sore feet. “I’ll never get used to these footcovers!” Stilts grumbled more than once.
When they got to the house, Zach’s mother looked at her son and at the two men who were wearing clothes she could swear she had just folded and put away last night. “Mom, I want you to meet Stilts and Sparrow. This is my mom, Sarah. We need to talk to Dad, is he here?”
“How do you do.” Sarah looked more and more perplexed. “He’s in the den, Zach. I’ll come with you.”
The two visitors bowed and followed her through the house. Zach’s father was sitting at a desk in a room filled with books. A computer sat to one side and a Bible lay open before him.
“Dad, can we talk to you?” Zach began, “This is Stilts and Sparrow. I know their names sound funny, but you’ll hear stranger stuff than that in a minute. Oh, this is my Dad, John Thomas.”
Stilts and Sparrow bowed, and Stilts spoke, “It is an honor to meet the parents of Zachary. We of Windfallow salute you.”
Mr. Thomas stood and offered his hand. “Any friend of Zach’s is welcome here.” The visitors shook hands and took the seats he offered. Sarah Thomas was still speechless.
“Dad, have you ever heard of a sign near that overgrown woods in the park?” Zach’s dad did not answer. He had just noticed his favorite golf shirt on Stilts. Zach went on. “I went in there after an arrow that got lost, you know? And I fell in a hole and ended up in a place I never saw before.”
“His father stopped him. “Wait a minute. Did you say Windfallow? I don’t recall a town by that name near here. Can you men tell me where you actually live?”
Sparrow took over the conversation at this point. “Mr. Thomas, Zachary has told us you are a preacher, a man of God. Is that correct?”
“Yes, it is. I mean I am, yes. But what has that…”
“It has everything to do with why we are here, and I’ll bring you up to date on what has been happening. But first I must ask you to promise not to let what I am about to say go beyond this house.” He looked at Zach’s parents and, at their nod, continued with the story of how Zach had come into Windfallow, the theft of the Great Bell and what it would mean to his world. It required a bit of history as well and it was soon apparent that Mr. Thomas had never heard of the pact between the two worlds.
“I knew it! The humans forgot the bargain altogether! No wonder the thieves got through! Well, we’ll just have to finish our business here and see that the gate is closed for good. Sorry, Mr. Thomas, I don’t hold you personally to blame.” Stilts wound down and nodded to Sparrow to continue.
“As you can see, Mr. Thomas, we must find the Bell of Fellowship and return it to its rightful place. The thieves do not know who we are and they did not get a good look at our faces. They don’t even know if we are in this world or not.”
“Are you saying you need Zachary’s help in this?” Mrs. Thomas found her voice. “Surely you can’t think of putting our son in danger.”
“No one has passed through the gate in centuries, Ma’am. Our queen believes he was sent to us for this very purpose,” Sparrow tried to explain.
“Do you mean through magic?” Sarah Thomas did not look convinced.
“A kind of magic,” Sparrow answered, “but more like the working of our Maker. He sent Zach to us when we needed him most. None of us knew how to get along in your world, for only I have done any studying of it and that was from a distance. He has given us valuable help already and if you are willing, will give us more.”
Mr. Thomas spoke up. “Is your Maker the same as our God?”
“Yes,” answered Stilts, “One God made all there is in this universe. As we traveled here, Zach told us about your belief in Him and that He even caused a book to be written about Himself. That is a wonderful thing to think of. I would greatly appreciate seeing such a book.”
Mr. Thomas reached back to a shelf. “Here is a Bible you can keep for yourself, Mr. Stilts. I have plenty.”
Stilts took the Bible with a look of deep reverence. “You call it Bible?” he asked.
“Actually, as you can see on the cover, it is called Holy Bible. Bible is an old word for book, but this book was inspired by God and the writers of it put down what the Spirit of God told them to write.”
“Spirit. That’s what is shining in some of you in this world,” said Sparrow thoughtfully. “Thank you, Mr. Thomas. We will guard it well. May we make copies of our own from this?”
“You can as long as you do not change or rearrange it in any way. It must stay true to what is written. Now, how can we help you regain your Bell?”
“You have already helped by giving us clothes and we thank you for them.” Sparrow bowed. “But we need a little of your money in order to search for the Bell. And we need Zachary to help us get around here.”
“How do you propose to find the Bell? Do you know where they will go with it?”
“No, we have no idea where they might hide it. But this I do know. It cannot be rung here without profound consequence. If it is rung here, it will cause a warp in your time. There will be an explosion around it and time will shimmer for many miles around.”
“You mean like the shimmer I saw at the Wood and in my room last night?” Zach asked.
“Yes. We’ll be able to see the shimmer when it gets here, but I do not know what it will do to time.” Sparrow looked at Mr. Thomas, “Is there any way you can keep track of happenings in your world? I mean, would you know if an explosion occurred?”
“Of course. It would probably be on the evening news.” He looked at his watch. “It’s just coming on, let’s see if there’s any mention of it.” He led the way into the living room and turned on the TV.
Sparrow and Stilts jumped back when they saw figures moving on the screen.
“Don’t worry,” laughed Zach. “They’re just pictures.”
“Can they see or hear us?” asked Stilts with a worried look on his face.
“No it’s a one way setup. Let’s watch.” They all took seats and Mr.
Thomas turned up the volume. A commercial was just winding down for a fast food restaurant. Zach saw a whole range of emotions play across the faces of his new friends. Then the newscaster came on.
“Our top story tonight concerns an explosion that occurred in Oklahoma today. We’re not sure what happened and no one has been able to get to the exact spot to give a report. It appears to have occurred between Miami and Bartlesville, but the news media and police alike are having trouble getting a fix on exactly where the explosion occurred.” A fuzzy picture of a rural area came on screen behind the anchorman’s head.
“Look! It’s the time warp!” Stilts walked to the set thinking he could see better up close. “See the shimmer? That’s what we’re looking for all right! Come on!” He started for the door.
“Wait a minute, Mr. Stilts, let’s see what they’re saying.” Zach’s dad held up his hand for silence as the commentator continued.
“The explosion registered a 5.7 on the Richter scale, but there’s no evidence of a quake and nothing seems to have been damaged. The most unusual effects of it seem to be in the area of time. No one can agree on the day or time within 300 miles.”
“That’s enough for me, too!” Sparrow looked at Zach. “How do we get to this Oklahoma?
“Well, we’re in Indiana right now. How about I show you a map? That will be easier than trying to explain.” Mr. Thomas reached over to the table where a road atlas lay. Zach opened it to a map of the US and showed Sparrow where they were and where they had to go. They were between four hundred and four hundred and fifty miles from Miami, Oklahoma.
“Do our miles correspond to yours, Sparrow?” Zach asked.
“I think they’re about the same. But we could get there quicker if we let Angari fly us there, I guess.”
“Who’s Angari?” Mrs. Thomas asked.
“Oh, boy. How do I explain Angari, Stilts?” Zach saw Angari leaning over the map on the far side of Sparrow.
“Let me try,” the old man said. “You see, in our land the angels are visible. Here, they aren’t. It must have something to do with your world being wounded. In any case, Angari would be known here as an angel. In our land they are called Alari because of their wings.”
“He has wings?” Sarah Thomas looked with awe at the spot Zach had indicated. “He’s an angel? Did you say they are here as well? All the time only we can’t see them?”
“That’s right, Ma’am,” Sparrow spoke up. “Angari, do you think you could let the Thomases see you just this once?”
There was a long silence and then Angari changed before Zach’s eyes. He began to glow; his garments became bright white and his skin golden bronze. Zach heard a gasp from his parents as Angari came into full view. Even Stilts and Sparrow stepped back a pace.
“Why don’t you look like that in Windfallow?” whispered Stilts, for once subdued.
“Because you couldn’t endure the sight of so many of us in this form.” Angari spread his glistening wings. “Can you imagine what it would be like to order us around if we looked like this?”
“Order you around?” Sparrow grew pale. “We do, don’t we? And we never think a thing of it. Why do you let us?”
“Because we’re your servants. That’s part of our service to the Maker, to give glory to Him and to serve His people. Our service gives Him glory.”
John and Sarah Thomas had been taking in the conversation between the glorious being that had just appeared and the men from Windfallow. John Thomas spoke, “Are you saying that these angels serve the people of Windfallow?”
Stilts answered, his eyes never leaving Angari’s. “Yes sir, but I have never seen one who looked like this. Angari, will you forgive all my foolish words?”
Angari folded his wings. “Ah, my friends, please forget this form and go back to treating me the way you always have. We are created beings just like yourselves and we serve the Maker in our own way.” He looked at John and Sarah and Zach. “You see me as I really am, but there are other angels in this room who serve you. They are present all over Earth and there will be a day when they will rise to meet the Maker as He comes to you and you will see how many thousands have been among you. Now, can you find places for the heroes to sleep for a few hours? Then, we must head for Oklahoma.”