Tayletha took two, then three candles from a stash near the door. After such a harrowing experience she wanted the comfort of light surrounding her. The fosser saw them studying the map Cedric had made for them and looked over their shoulder.
“I can draw you a quicker route,” he suggested.
Lydda and Tayletha looked at each other. Should they agree?
Then Lydda saw the exhaustion in her son's eyes. “Where is it?” she asked. He took the wax tablet and started to erase it. Tayletha snatched it back.
“We don't know you! Our pateras made this map and it's good enough for us.”
“Tayletha! What has gotten in to you?” Tears sprung into her daughter's eyes.
“I guess I am overtired, Imma. I'm so weary of relying on strangers! I just want to go home.”
As Mother and children disappeared into the dark channel, the round golden orb of light in Lydda’s hand illuminated the map, as well as a few steps ahead of them. Stephanos kept looking back, then he turned and clung to his mother's hand.
“I don't like that man.”
After going a few hundred feet Tayletha lit a second candle from the one her mother was holding. They had come to an intersection and wanted to study the map Cedric had drawn. Panic rose in Tayletha's voice. “He wiped out some of the directions!”
Lydda lightly caressed the tablet. “Don't worry, your grandmother was blind,”she explained . “She often 'read' things with her fingers.”
“We'll see. Just give me a moment. There is still faint indentures where he had brushed it. Yes, I'm sure this is the right way to turn. Tayletha does it seem like the numeral 200 is etched in the wax right here?”
“I can't read with my hands as well as you can!” She studied it carefully with her fingers. “I think it is, Imma, but what if it isn't? We could be lost forever in these wandering tunnels and our lights would go out, and---”
“Tayletha. Stop. Stop right now. I know you are terrified of the dark, but it is. Not. Dark. Do you hear me, Tayletha. It is not dark. Here, Stephanos hand me that other candle. See! There now you have two candles to light your way. One in each hand.”
Now she's treating me like a baby. But Tayletha's fear lessened.
Lydda was studying the map once again. “No I think it is CCL. Two hundred and fifty. What do you think, Tayletha?”
“I can't tell, Imma! Abba writes his C's and his L's so much alike!”
“Here, yoic. You know your numbers" Lydda lowered the tablet so her small son could examine it. "What do you think it is?"
"It's an L, Imma. But I don't know my numbers that far!”
“Just like I thought. We will take two hundred steps then start carefully checking for an intersection. This arrow indicates a left turn, and then--”
“But what if--?
“What if, nothing, Tayletha. Now let's be going.”
Tayletha secretly admired how her frail seeming, tender-hearted Matera could take hold of courage when she needed it. It must be because of her deep trust in God.
Just when Tayletha was positive they were utterly and hopelessly lost and the candle had burned almost down to her fingers, she saw someone running, not walking, running towards them. It was Abba. Abba never ran. Strode briskly, yes, but run. Never!
Without even looking her way, Cedric beckoned his wife to follow him a few steps away. Tayletha stared at him with astonishment mixed with anger. Here we have been gone all day and all night and he doesn't even look at us!
“Come, Stephanos, we can find our own way back, from here. We'll just go where Abba came from.” “Tayletha, stay!” His young daughter glowered but was obedient.
Cedric took her by the shoulder and shook it slightly. “Tayletha, my child, we are in grave danger. Did you see anyone following you?”
“Following? Us? Why no! I mean, I don't think so! Why?”
“I don't like him. I don't like that, that fosser.” Stephanos stood in front of his father, and looked up, way up into his piercing black eyes.
"Fosser? What fosser?”
“That one we meet near the entrance when you lead me to the door,” Lydda reminded him.
Cedric clapped his hand against his forehead. “Him. How thoughtless of me! I was so preoccupied with the children being gone that I didn't take note of his features.” He glanced at Stephanos then lowered his voice. “Did you recognise who it was?”
Lydda looked pale, distressed. “Yes. Yes, now that you mention it, I do. Oh, Cedric how did he get in here?”
“Who are you talking about,” Tayletha demanded. Lydda's sigh held a trembling note to it.
“ That workman. I should have noticed; his clothes were too clean, not worn out and sandy, he was, he was--”
“Rabbi Solomon's servant.” “I should have guessed.”
“But how did he get in here, and why?” “ Was he following you?”
Tayletha shook her head. “But we got lost because we were trying to dodge the rabbi's uppety-up daughter, Elizabeth--”
“Tay-letha.” Tayletha didn't here her, “And suddenly darkness fell--”
Cedric looked up alertedly. “But did they follow you back to the catacombs?”
“No, I mean I don't think so.”
“Someone informed the rabbi that you were out and about. Someone let the servant in disguised as a fosser. Someone wants to know exactly where we live.”
“Oh, Cedric, certainly not! We're just ordinary people.” Cedric didn't answer. Cedric didn't remind her of his prominent position in the business world that that created fierce enemies once he had turned to Christos.
Stephanos shook his pateras arm. “He tried to tell Imma to go a different way.”
“But you didn't Deo gratias.” Thanks be to God.
Tayletha stepped closer to them and spoke in a low voice. “In this darkness we couldn't tell if someone was following us. We're talking so much we can't hear even...shuffling footsteps.” “He might be listening to us.”
Cedric immediately blew out all the candles. “Follow me.” Tayletha clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle a scream. How the inky darkness terrified her. She groped for her Mother's arm and found it wrapped around her little brother. She groped for her father's arm and he placed it reassuring on her shoulder then took her by the hand and led her quite a few steps then into a yawning tunnel. Tayletha felt like she was going to be swallowed up by the absence of light. Stephanos whimpered and Lydda quickly hushed him. Tayletha felt her father's arms go around her and her mother with Stephanos in the middle. It was supposed to be reassuring but it wasn't. Every time she moved her father's fingers tightened on her arm. I will trust and not be afraid, I will trust and not be afraid, I will trust—The words rapidly flew through Tayletha's mind but didn't settle long enough to release her from fear.
After what seemed like a half an hour but was probably less than ten minutes, they stiffened at the sound of low voices. Oh, my, someone has stopped near the mouth of the passageway.
“I'm sorry, Rabbi, but I seem to have lost track of them.”
“Well, we've been walking fast enough, we should have caught up with them by now!” “I smudged out part of the map, so they probably got lost.”
“Aye, that would be it.” Tayletha hardly dared to breathe and she waiting for them to continue speaking.
“If they're lost they could easily wander in these tunnels forever.” “No one will necessarily even find their corpses!”
Tayletha's eyes widened. Jesus. Jesus! I will trust and not be afraid. I will trust.-
Stephanos sniffled. The men had been walking away, but they stopped. “I think I heard something.” They were quiet. The quiet lengthened. “It must of been my imagination.” “I'm not about to sniff out every sound in this immense cavern,”
“Well, let's be going. There's bigger fish to fry.” The rabbi's laugh was nasty. “ Did you catch? Fish?” Tayletha's throat tightened . How does he know that's the symbol of the Christianus? And who let them in? Who? Who is against us?
After Cedric was sure they were completely out of sight, he commenced to return. “ We will go back the way we came,” he announced gravely. “It is only fifty steps. I counted.” “But Abba! Which way? What if we’re all turned around and get lost----forever.”
“Tayletha,” her mother's voice was so soft and gentle. “Tayletha, darling. We will not get lost. Forever. Even if we take the wrong route we will not be lost. Eventually we would end up safe. In the Father's arms.”
“We won't get lost, “Cedric's deep voice interrupted. “I made sure to constantly face the direction we came. Come. Let us be going.”
Solid as a rock. That's my pateras. It was scary, no terrifying having to sneak back without any light, but there was no alternative since Cedric had extinguished them all. Cedric was positive they didn't have far to go and Lydda trusted him completely not to take a wrong turn, so Tayletha tried to trust also. After what felt like a long while, but really wasn’t, they heard voices, but they were friendly, familiar voices this time.
“ Isn't that Matera's and Pateras coming our way?”
“I believe it, is, and look, the lost ones have been found. But why don't they have any candles?”
The voices were getting clearer and Tayletha soon recognised the forms and faces of her brother Silas with his young wife Rachel who was trying to match his long strides. They hugged briefly but the men seemed far more intent on conversing than welcoming the youngsters home. When they reached their own cavern, Lydda seated herself on a hand woven mat.
“I feared I would never see you again.” The pain in her mother's eyes made her daughter look down. “I am so afraid in the dark.” Tayletha mumbled. She lit a candle using the flame from the small, three-legged brazier then choose another one, but her Matera stayed her hand. Cedric had remained outside conversing with his eldest son but now he entered. His eyes roved caressing from one child to the other. . “Deo gratias (Thanks be to God,) you're safe!”
“Yes, laus Deo,” (praise God), Lydda murmured, pressing Stephanos close to her bosom once more, and leaning her head against his hair. He had fallen fast asleep on her lap. Cedric's face sobered. “But we are not out of danger. The enemy is getting more bold about sniffing out our burrows. Rabbi Solomon's father was a young man at the time of the Crucifixion--”
“Which crucifixion, pateras?”
“Our Lord and Saviour's. He dwells in Jerusalem and his hatred has only increased over the years, and added fuel to bar Solomon’s also. He seems to be on a private mission to eradicate all of the followers of the Way. With or without the Romans help.Silas was informed that he has posted spies, disguised as workmen near various entrances. How they got in we know not .”
Tayletha and her mother cast each other worried, knowing glances.
“But who? ”Lydda asked. “Who would do that to us? Who among us is a wolf in sheep's clothing?” Meanwhile Silas had ducked in through the arched doorway with his wife close behind. Cedric lifted his young son from his mother's arms which awakened him. “ Lydda do you have enough supper for guests?” Tayletha glanced from one adult to the next and back again. They were here just last night for supper. There must be a hidden reason for asking them so soon again.
Cedric went over to a basin of water and washed his hands, then encouraged Stephanos to do likewise. “ The hounds are closing in on us. They have been getting more bolder the last while since someone is leading them into our sanctuary.”