Somehow, I managed to get some sleep. When I eventually awakened, the fire had died down to a thin wisp of smoke. Apparently Milo had stayed on watch the entire night, because he didn’t wake me, and Sera was still snoozing right where I had seen her last.
Milo must have seen me stir, because he made his way over to me.
“Mm…How’re you feeling?” I asked, stretching.
“Free.” Answered the young man with a smile. After a quick pause: “Thank you, for what you said to me. I…I feel like a new person. Like…well…like Jesus made a change in my heart.”
“That’s great!” I proclaimed. “I’m so glad I could share that with you. Jesus has helped me on my journey every step of the way.”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s not like everything is all perfect now, but I did a lot of thinking last night, and I feel like I have hope, at the least.”
I nodded and stood up to my feet. There really wasn’t too much else to say. I could only tell someone how happy I was for them so many times. Just then, Sera approached us, rubbing her eyes.
“Wait…don’t start the pow-wow without me…”
“Good morning, Sera!’ I greeted.
“Good morning, sis.” Milo said with a smile. “Sleep well?”
Sera shoved him good-naturedly.
“Shut up. I was still keeping watch.”
“You were snoring.”
“That was to lull any attackers into a false sense of security.”
I couldn’t help but grin. They were such goofballs when they were getting along. Without any further ado, Milo removed the page of the Book of Prophecy from his pocket.
“Are you ready, Hal?” He asked.
I nodded earnestly.
“Yes. I’m ready.”
I accepted the worn parchment from the young man, set it on the ground, and assumed the position kneeling in front of it. Then I placed my hand in the center of it, and focused my energy on traveling through the object. Once more, I was hit by a forceful jolt, and everything went white.
My heart raced, feet pounding the ground.
“Run, Hal! Don’t stop!” Tabal gasped, looking back at me.
She held my hand and pulled me along as we sprinted through a dimly lit forest. It was summer, but the skies were blanketed with threatening clouds. It would have seemed like a gloomy day even under more pleasant circumstances.
Since fleeing our home several days ago, my sister and I had been heading south, living off the land and attempting to avoid capture by our father and his men. That fateful afternoon, though, we were discovered.
I had only wanted to help. After a long day of traveling, Tabal found a hiding place behind some bushes near a rocky cliff where we could take a quick nap. She instructed me not to leave the shelter, and soon fell asleep. However, I had seen a berry bush not far from there, and I thought about how happy she’d be if I surprised her with some delicious berries when she woke up. So, disobediently, I ventured outward and backtracked until I had found the little red fruit.
Unfortunately, I had not realized just how close behind our pursuers were. Before I could pick a single one, I suddenly heard a gruff voice.
“What the- HEY!”
I nearly leapt out of my skin. It was one of my father’s henchmen! How could he have followed us this far? The man grabbed his radio and muttered something into it before moving towards me menacingly. It took me a moment to regain my presence of mind. What just happened? Was it over? I finally recovered my sanity, and took off running. The man was close behind me. After several minutes of retreat, I stumbled and fell down a hill. The attacker laughed, and slowly descended the same decline. He knew he had me, and took his time. I struggled to my feet, but I was too tired and bruised. I felt like giving up.
Just then, Tabal dashed in, grabbed me by the hand, and took off running.
“Come on, Hal! We’ve gotta get out of here!”
I followed behind her as fast as I could, sobbing through panting breaths:
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean-“
“Shush! I know you didn’t! Let’s just get out of here!”
We ran for quite some time through woods and clearings. Sometimes we could hear the sounds of our pursuers, other times we could not. The uncertainty made it that much more terrifying. Eventually, we came to the edge of a gorge. Our path was blocked by a rocky drop of at least thirty feet. Tabal immediately began looking for a way around it, when a voice came from behind us.
“It seems as though the prophecy is destined to be in my hand.”
My sister and I flipped around to face whoever it was, and saw that our father had found us. He was surrounded by a large number of soldiers, weapons at the ready.
“You can never escape from me. You know what I want. Now give it to me before I have to do something drastic.”
Tabal was positioning herself between the armed men and my small body. Even when she was the one they were after, she still wanted to protect me with her life. It was me that should be protecting her.
“Come on, Tabal. You know if you keep resisting me, I’ll just have to kill you, and the words will pass to your sister. I’d hate to do that, as I’m not particularly fond of the little brat, but you’re giving me little choice.”
“No. I’ll never stop fighting you! The world needs the prophecy to be fulfilled to finally have peace! I can’t let you just destroy any hope they have left!”
“Tabal, my daughter, the only reason you exist was to carry the words to the prophecy, until the time was right for me to take them back, and stop it from interfering with the perfect life we live. That time is now, and I’m going to get it one way or another.”
“Over my dead body!” She defied him.
Our father turned away, and made a gesture with his right hand. Suddenly, there was a staccato burst of a gunshot. Tabal jerked and doubled over in pain.
“Tabal, no!!” I screamed.
My beloved sister stumbled several steps backward, gave me a long, forlorn smile, and intentionally tumbled over the gorge. My father shrugged.
“Oh, well. Now we’ll just have to wait a little longer. Grab her please.”
Simultaneously, all of the soldiers began to close in on me. There was nowhere I could run, and nowhere to hide. I had no other choice. With an instant of foolhardy bravery, I leapt off the side of the cliff after my sister. My feet managed to gain footing and guide me down the rocky precipice. After a few seconds of working my way down the cliff, I came to where Tabal lay.
She was clutching her stomach with both hands, and I could see blood from her gunshot wound seeping between her fingers. I almost lost it at the sight of her in so much agony. I threw up a little in my mouth, and the whole world felt dizzy and upside down. Her leg was caught under some debris that had fallen down the gorge with her. What could I do? This was all my fault!
Cautiously, I approached my sister. She was still alive, as I could tell she was breathing and feeling pain. When I slowly reached out to touch her, she clamped on to my arm with both hands. The speed and strength of her grip startled me, and I tried to pull away, but could not. She leaned her head near to mine, and whispered:
“Hal. Hal, listen to me.” Her voice shook as she spoke. “Please, stay alive. Take the words of the prophecy far away, and never let father find them. You’re a big girl now. I know you can make it…”
“Tabal…Sister, no…Tabal…” I murmured. “You can’t…leave me. I can’t do this without you.”
“Yes you can.” She breathed. “And you will. Now…take it…”
The black markings all over her body began to glow a whitish blue. The light hurt my eyes as it grew brighter. Then, like quicksilver, the words of the prophecy flowed from her body, over our intersected arms and hands, and into mine.
The feeling was indescribable. It was as though a colossal burden was foisted upon my heart. I bore my sister’s mark. She was gone, and now I alone carried the story of how the world would be restored to peace. Instead of surging confidence, I only felt a crushing defeat. She couldn’t be dead! She’d always been there! Even when we had no one else in the world, we always had each other. I had never felt so alone. Kneeling there beside her body, trying to keep a hold of her bloody hands as they slipped powerlessly from mine, I was still in absolute shock.
Just as I was about to cry uncontrollably, the sound of gunshots came from above. I reflexively raised my hands in front of my face and closed my eyes. The bullets never found their target. When I hesitantly opened one eye, I saw that there was a clear bubble-like force field surrounding me. A ray of sun pierced the clouds, and created an aurora-like effect that danced through the projection.
What just happened? While inside the shield, there was no sound from without. It was an absolutely silent and peaceful world. It was tempting to stay there forever. I never wanted to face a planet that could be so cruel and violent. However, Tabal’s last wish for me was to run, and use the prophecy to restore peace to mankind.
I dropped my hands, and the shield immediately disappeared. My ears were once again flooded with sounds. The first thing I heard was my father’s voice from the cliff above.
“You fool! If you kill her, we have no idea what will happen to the markings! We need her alive!”
“I-I’m sorry, sir! I thought you said-“
The second voice was suddenly cut off with a gurgling noise. Then, my father called again.
“Well, what are you all waiting for?! Get her!!”
I knew I had to run. Run, and never look back. I’m sorry, sister. I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you. God, please give me the strength to not let her death go in vain.
“Yeah, she always zones out like that. I’m not really sure why. It must have to do with the prophecy.” Sera’s voice was the first thing I heard as I faded back into reality.
“Oop. Looks like she’s coming to.” Milo observed.
I looked around groggily and put my hand to my head. They waited for a moment for me to recover, before Sera queried:
“Hey, what happens to you when you uncover the prophecy? Do you see anything?”
I shook my head.
“Ah, it’s nothing. What’s on the page? Did it appear?”
Three pair of eyes stared grimly at the newly revealed page. There, with bold clarity, were emblazed the golden swooping wings of the self-proclaimed guiding light of mankind.
It appeared our next stop would be Nahalore.