King of the Fallen Angels
Iskender nodded and turned to motion for his charges to also obey the order. Unbeknownst to him, Ibrahim, Hadassah and Atara had come to stand just behind him and Simay. When he turned around to relay the order he was greeted by a trio of stunned faces staring down into the multitude-filled valley.
“We’ll talk about it later.” He whispered to the three. “We have to get back before he suspects something’s really wrong with us being here. Because, in case you didn’t notice,” Iskender glanced around at the men and women who had joined them at the lip of the valley, “we’re the only ones who look stunned by this.”
The group quickly obeyed and soon all five of them had returned to their spot towards the back of the caravan, pretending to be just as nonchalant as the rest of the members of the train were.
It was a surprisingly hard task, and more than once Atara caught herself frowning in concentration trying to make sense of what she had seen. Her father as well had to make sure that he didn’t look too serious about the sight they’d just witnessed. Hadassah seemed to be fairing the best of the three younger members of the group. She had plastered an innocent smile on her face and was chatting away unconcernedly with several of the women who were with the group directly behind them.
Iskender carefully made his way around to all of the members of his little band, whispering the same message to them all as inconspicuously as possible, “Watch everything.”
As the caravan filed into the narrow pass that served as an entrance into the valley of sand and rock, five sets of eyes studied the landscape, the people, the animals, the cargo. For the most part nothing suspicious seemed to be happening. People were splitting off from the main group when they found a campsite they favored or discovered another group of people from the same part of the world.
Everything seemed to be going completely normally. The only strange sight remained that odd green glow coming from inside the huge rock in the center of the gathering.
As Iskender’s group passed the gigantic rock however, Atara spied movement out of the corner of her eye. She quickly turned her eyes towards the disturbance without moving her head too much in that direction. She didn’t want to alert whoever it was that she had noticed them.
What she saw caused a sliver of fear to snake through her gut. The woman Nyot was slipping into the fissure in the rock. No one else seemed to notice her – not even her grandparents or her aunt – all three of which were in a position to have seen the spiritist’s movements.
Knowing that she had to do something quickly, Atara snagged her aunt’s sleeve.
“What is it, Atara?” Hadassah asked, looking back at her niece.
“I have to go. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Where are you going?”
“There.” Atara pointed to the opening the in rock’s face.
“No. Atara –” Hadassah was too late to stop the younger girl. If she ran after the teenager she would garner suspicion. Better to let the girl do what she thought she needed to at that juncture and correct her rash behavior when she returned
Atara made it across the space separating her from the opening without drawing too much attention to herself. Everyone else seemed to be focusing on bedding down for the night or watering their animals.
The sun was starting to sink low on the horizon and she knew it would be getting dark fairly soon. Why did she always have to be around Nyot at night? The woman was frightening enough without having the added veil of darkness to complicate things.
Atara scooted into the opening quickly, seeming to disappear instantly inside the rock. The glow inside was not overly bright and, upon closer examination, the teenager discovered that the light was being emitted from nothing stranger than a hundred colonies of fungus that had made their home in this tunnel.
The mystery of the light now solved, Atara continued carefully and quietly after Nyot down the tunnel. One thing however did still nag at her. The color of the light the little organisms were putting off was like nothing she had ever seen before. She tucked the thought away into the back of her mind for the time being. She had a spiritist to tail.
A scarce five minutes into her journey Atara began to hear voices coming from somewhere ahead of her. She stopped immediately, trying to decipher the words. To her dismay she was still too far away to make out what was being said, so she inched her way down the tunnel, ever closer to the conversation.
The girl rounded a corner and almost walked right into the room the voices were coming from. She caught herself quickly and flung her body back around the corner, hoping that whoever was in the room had not seen her.
Atara listened over the loud pounding of her heart. One voice was undeniably that of Nyot. The other voice – When she stopped and listened to it her blood ran cold; her heart felt as though it would jump out of her tightening chest. The presence she sensed in that room was so oppressive that she nearly ran from the sight back to the safety of the sandy valley.
Just when she thought she could stomach no more of the evil voice an almost tangible Presence of peace settled upon her, enabling her to concentrate on what was being said and granting her the courage and strength to continue her secret vigil.
“She is not here yet.” Nyot’s voice was irritated.
“Do not be so impatient, child.” The voice – it sounded like a man – though pleasant in tone, oozed evil. “The guardian will appear soon. I have informed the spirit she serves that the guardian’s presence is needed here.”
“Yes, great Lightbearer.” Nyot sounded elated this time.
“Nyot.” The other voice said in a commanding tone.
“Master?” the spiritist responded reverently.
“You will be ready to receive the Guardian and her aide. They will be here soon.”
“How soon, Lightbearer?”
“You question me?” the voice grew threatening.
“No! No, Master! Never would I question you.” Nyot sounded as though she were cowering.
“You do not need to know everything I plan to do with these people. You do not need to know what will happen in the next minute if I do not wish you to know.”
“Yes, of course, my Master.” Nyot cowed.
“The Guardian will come soon. That is all you need to know.” The voice replied, an edge still evident in the tone.
Atara couldn’t resist one little peak into the room beyond. Now seemed like as safe a time as any to find out who this “Lightbearer” was. He must be terrifying if Nyot was afraid to defy him. Perhaps if Atara could find out who he was, she and her family could be better prepared for their stay in this valley – however long they were here.
The girl edged ever so slowly around the corner, her eyes and ears aware of everything around her. Her senses were on hyper-alert when she finally was able to peek around the rock wall separating her from the room beyond.
The cavern was on the small size – not tiny, but not anywhere close to being called large. Nyot stood in the very center of the room, a circle of the glowing fungus surrounding her feet so as to cast minimal light onto her.
The fear that Atara had felt upon first arriving at the entrance to this room returned with a vengeance. It would have drowned her had the comforting Presence not supported her through the wave of terror that collapsed over her. There was no one else in the room with the spiritist. Empty. Every corner, every ledge, every wall was entirely empty.
While she was peering into the room the voice of Nyot’s “master” spoke again.
“If there are any spies from the Enemy within the camp, you must find them and kill them before the Guardian comes. We cannot lose her to Him. He has thrown enough surprises in our faces to last a thousand human years.”
Atara’s eyes widened and she instantly darted back around the corner, desperately trying to find cover from the pure evil she had just felt in that voice. That was when she realized that she was trembling.
“Father, help me to not be afraid of whatever’s in there with her.” Atara prayed in her heart. “There is no evil that can ever overcome You. Help me to remember that.”
“There are no –” Nyot stopped mid-sentence and Atara heard footsteps heading her way. Not wanting to be discovered, she lit out of the tunnel as quickly as she could without making her footsteps echo through the rock.
She breathed a heavy sigh of relief as the burden of that evil presence lifted from her spirit and she felt light again. Then she began weaving her way through the campsites looking for her family
Unbeknownst to the teenager, the conversation had resumed in the secret room.
“She is gone.” The Lightbearer seethed.
Nyot cowered beneath his enraged presence.
“How did she know you were here?” her Master’s voice lost any semblance of gentleness.
“I – I –” the spiritist stammered.
“You have grown careless.” Her Master growled.
“Please, don’t kill me.” Nyot pleaded, “It will not happen again.”
There was a chilling silence.
“You will have my mercy this one time, little human. But know that if you fail again, you will never see another day dawn and you will feel the fires of my realm licking at your tormented flesh for all of eternity.”
“I’ll do anything you say, Lightbearer” Came the terrified reply.
“Good.” the voice purred sickly. “Now go and bear the message I bring to the human race.”
“What about that girl, Master?”
“What did I tell you before about the Enemy’s spies?”
“I will make sure they do not trouble you again, Master.” Nyot bowed low before her invisible lord.
When there was no reply Nyot took it as a sign to leave the meeting place. She left the confines of the towering rock, this time much more wary of what was going on around her. It was a bit simpler this time, now that darkness had almost completely fallen over the multitude and many were already asleep for the night.
The spiritist began to roam the entire camp, searching for one group, specifically, one girl – the strange one who liked to clean saddles
Atara finally found her family’s chosen campsite. They had pitched camp far to the north of the large rock. It relieved the girl to know that they would not be sleeping on the front door of whatever was meeting with Nyot at the end of that glowing tunnel.
The teenager whisked aside the flap of the tent she still shared with Hadassah. She
almost screamed when someone grabbed her forearm.
“Atara?” Hadassah’s voice whispered harshly. “Is that you?”
“Yes. It’s only me. You can let me go now.” The girl replied.
Her aunt breathed a deep sigh of relief and let go of the captured arm.
“Never run off like that again.” She chided.
“Oh… I won’t.” the girl said, wide-eyed. “I found more than I bargained for.”
Hadassah looked at her niece blankly. “What exactly did you find in there, Atara?” the concern was evident in her aunt’s voice.
“I need to get everyone together again so that I can tell you all. The longer we stay with this group, the more dangerous it could be for us.”
“Wait here.” Hadassah whispered.
A few minutes later the family was again seated in a cramped circle inside Hadassah and Atara’s tent.
The girl relayed the entire event to them all, every detail she could remember, even the feeling of terror she had had upon reaching the room.
Iskender and Simay looked at each other knowingly and Hadassah put a supportive hand on one of Atara’s shoulders; Ibrahim laid his own supportive hand on her other shoulder.
“My daughter…” her father began. “Tonight you saw the enemy – face to face: spirit to spirit. And God sustained you.”
“The enemy? What do you mean?” Atara asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.
“Tonight,” her grandfather continued, “you were in the presence of the ‘Lightbearer’ – Lucifer as he is better known.”
Atara gasped. “You mean that was,” she pointed animatedly towards the rock spiral, “that was the Devil himself?”
All four of her family nodded to her.
Tears began to form in the girl’s eyes. “I never want to do that again as long as I live.”
Hadassah gave her niece a comforting hug. “God protected you. He always will. Nothing can harm you – not even the king of the fallen angels.”
“I know.” Atara said through her tears. “I just can’t bear the thought of ever being that close to him again. He’s pure evil…”
“I’m proud of you for staying long enough to find out what you did.” Ibrahim’s voice met his daughter’s ears and she gave him a grateful smile in return.
“We’re all thankful for what you did tonight.” Simay offered.
Then, Iskender ‘s quiet voice added, “May God protect us all.”