In the Name of the Holy One
With the darkness serving as her shield, Nyot slipped invisibly through the camp, looking into every tent flap and peeking into every sleeping face. No one woke. No one even seemed to be aware of her presence – her Master’s doing she knew. When she finally came upon those spies of the enemy they would undoubtedly wake. The Spirit within them would sense the lingering presence of her Master. This would be the spies undoing.
As the spiritist continued through the vast array of small campsites, she was led inexorably in one direction – north. Every step she took drew her closer to a disturbing Presence and she began to become uneasy. She knew she was close to the spies’ camp. The saddle-cleaning girl was one of them, she knew. There was no mistaking this. That girl had been the one who was listening in on her conversation with the great Lightbearer.
Nyot despised the Enemy and his minions. What did they think they were accomplishing? The Lightbearer would triumph over Him. Her Master would bring the truth to the world – that the Enemy was an intolerant, hateful Being Who only wished to use people to satisfy His own ends.
The woman had given up trying to understand such unreasonable people many years ago. They were not worth her time. The only reason she sought them out was upon her Master’s orders – usually orders to exterminate them.
This night was no different of course. Every time she got near enough to the followers of the Enemy she would be enveloped by the Presence of His Spirit. Sometimes she succeeded in her quest to destroy the Enemy spies, but many times she failed.
On those occasions of failure she would slink back to her Master in shame, begging his forgiveness. The Lightbearer was many things, but forgiving was not one of them. Nyot was always punished for her failure, but not so severely that she had ever harbored thoughts of deserting her Master.
Now, on this night, Nyot knew that if she failed, there would be greater consequences than some servants of the Enemy escaping. If she failed… her Master’s plans would have to change drastically. As of now he would be able to have this group of pilgrims to himself – with no interference from the Enemy.
She continued on through the tents, feeling her way through the darkness to that one tent – at least she hoped that it was only one tent – where the servant or servants were sleeping. Her feet were guided to the entrance of a particularly unremarkable tent. To Nyot’s dismay, there was a second one pitched right next to it. She abandoned her hope for a quick, clean kill or two. The second tent meant that there were at least two or three more of them.
Before entering the first of the two tents that stank of the Enemy she made a silent circle around them both. To her surprise she nearly fell over an additional member of the party. A man was sleeping out behind the second tent – a guard? Thankfully he did not wake when her shoe caught the edge of his bedroll. If he was a guard, then he was a poor one. She carefully avoided making any more sound after that.
Nyot’s silent feet padded through the sand and up to the entrance of the second tent – the one with the sleeping guard. Her hand was poised to open the flap. She carefully uncased the dagger she kept with her. She pushed the flap open, blade raised.
Hadassah started awake at the sound of the tent flap opening. Her eyes widened when she saw the figure of a woman entering the tent, a dagger in her hand. Knowing that panic was the worst thing she could do, Hadassah slowly reached over to the knife she always kept handy in case of emergencies. She started to draw the knife, but before she took the blade out she looked closely at the woman who had entered their tent. The more Hadassah looked at the intruder the more the woman looked confused.
Suddenly Hadassah realized who the intruder was – the spiritist that Atara had told them all about – Nyot. What was Nyot doing here? Did she intend to kill them all as they slept? Judging from the drawn blade and the look of inexplicable and utter consternation on her face, that was exactly what she had come for.
So what was stopping the woman?
As Hadassah continued to stare Nyot looked all around the tent, staring first at Atara’s still-sleeping form, then looking straight at Hadassah, seeming to look right through her – as if Hadassah weren’t even there.
After several moments of confused silence Nyot left the tent, circling around the back where Ibrahim was sleeping.
Hadassah’s eyes followed the woman’s shadow as she went around the tent. She could make out the distinct form of her brother’s body as he slept on the ground back behind the tent.
Hadassah watched as Nyot’s form stood over Ibrahim for a minute. Then the spiritist turned and left, not even bothering to enter Iskender and Simay’s tent.
When she was sure that Nyot was long gone Hadassah shook her niece awake.
“Huh?” the girl asked groggily, eyes half-closed.
“Atara, you’ll never guess what just happened.”
“They were what?!” the Lightbearer bellowed.
“Gone, Master.” Nyot cowered.
“They were gone.” He seethed. “You expect me to believe that they just left their tents and belongings and simply disappeared?”
“That is what happened, great Lightbearer.” Nyot said in a tiny voice.
“That is what He wanted you to think, stupid human!” he chastised. “He blinded you! Can’t you see that?!”
“He – He was too –”
“Too what? Chose your next words carefully, servant.” The Lightbearer growled.
Nyot was going to use the word “powerful,” but checked herself in time, “He was too… crafty… for me, Master. He tricked me.”
“I’ve warned you about this before, Nyot.” Her Master rumbled. “Kill them! I don’t care how you do it, but I want it done before the setting of the sun tomorrow!”
“Y-yes, great Lightbearer.” Nyot’s fearful voice bounced around the almost-dark cavern.
“Why do you just stand there? I said ‘go!’” the command struck the spiritist like a blow to the chest and, in fear for her very life this time, she ran.
“She was here!” Hadassah whispered excitedly.
“Who?” Atara was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
“That spiritist. Nyot I think you said her name was.”
“But she would have done something to us if she had found us.” The teenager protested.
“If she could.” Hadassah said, a hint of mystery in her voice.
“Stop talking in riddles, please. I’m not awake yet.” Atara protested quietly.
“You said that Nyot would have done something to us. I think that’s a fair assumption. But what if, when she got in here she discovered that she couldn’t do anything?”
“You mean like her hand fell off or something?” Atara replied, half-jokingly.
“In a way.” Hadassah replied. “I wish you could have seen the look on her face. She looked right through me, like I wasn’t even – there…” The truth dawned on her like a blinding light at midnight. “She couldn’t see us, Atara.” Hadassah gripped her niece’s shoulders excitedly. “She couldn’t see any of us!” Smiling in delight and utter relief she flew out of bed, dragging Atara with her. The two first awoke Ibrahim sleeping outside on his bedroll, then all three flooded into Iskender and Simay’s tent.
“Mother! Father!” Hadassah gently shook the other two members of their party.
The sleeping pair awoke swiftly, expecting to have to fly into action.
“Something’s happened.” Hadassah continued. “Something wonderful.”
With the revelation of the events of the night, all five of Iskender’s little band slept peacefully through the rest of the pre-dawn hours not having to wonder whether or not they would awake in the morning. The overwhelming evidence of God’s protection was more than enough to see them through.
Just before the dawn came, just prior to the time the group was to rise, someone reentered the area around the two tents. Iskender, who had risen earlier than his charges saw the figure creeping through the shadows, coming closer and closer to the tent that Hadassah and Atara shared.
Out of curiosity Iskender walked quietly up behind the intruder.
He was not surprised to find that it was Nyot again. The woman simply would not give up.
Just then Iskender stepped on a small piece of something unidentifiable. Whatever it was made a crackling sound.
“Who’s there?!” Nyot’s startled whisper broke through the silence. The spiritist whirled around, looking in any and all directions. Then she started muttering to herself.
Iskender was standing a mere six feet behind the woman. Even someone with poor eyesight would have seen him.
“Praise be to the Most High God, for He has truly delivered us from our enemy who would seek to destroy us.” He whispered.
This time Nyot gave no indication that she had heard anything. She just kept walking towards the targeted tent. The intruder burst through the tent flap, drawing her knife as she did.
Iskender waited outside the tent, knowing that whatever Nyot did she would never be able to harm his daughter and granddaughter.
Suddenly a horrible scream rose from within the tent. The next instant Nyot was barreling out, yelling something about ghosts at the top of her lungs and looking like she had just been scared out of what little wits she still had.
The next thing Iskender heard was stifled giggling.
“Yes, Father?” came the answer punctuated by laughter from both his daughter and granddaughter.
“What did you do to her?”
“Nothing really.” Atara replied this time, tying the tent flap open so that Iskender could see both of them. “She came in with that knife ready to kill us. We were almost certain that she still couldn’t see us, so we stood on either side of her. Then, right when she was about to pounce on one of our empty bedrolls I touched her arm.” Atara laughed outright this time. “She jumped so high I thought her head would hit the top of the tent. Then she dropped her knife and nearly tripped over herself trying to get out of here.”
A small smile played at the edges of Iskender’s mouth. “It was… inconsiderate of you to strike such fear into someone’s heart.” He paused, looking at both Hadassah and Atara in turn before continuing, “But… under the circumstances, it was rather appropriate.” He released the smile.
“You are utterly incompetent! I should strike you dead where you stand!” her Master’s wrathful voice echoed off of the walls, seeming to send even the glowing fungus into hiding.
Nyot said nothing, hoping that her silence might appease him at least a little bit.
“But.” He said ominously, “Since you seem to be incapable of getting rid of this handful of troublemakers, I will have to do it myself.”
Nyot looked about the cavern in surprise, “But – but you cannot –”
“I cannot what? Possess them?! I don’t want them anyway, little stupid human. My plans are much too important to let these few pests spoil. Tonight, after they’re all blissfully asleep, I will come to them.”
Nyot could hear the evil grin on his face – even though he had no face with which to grin.
“It is a slumber from which they will never waken.”
The day passed rather normally for Iskender’s group. The regular chores were attended to, the loaned animals fed and watered, the clothes mended, the food prepared. All in all it was just another day of waiting. All five of them knew that the Guardian would be coming soon – just how soon, only Lucifer and God knew.
Soon, another night was upon them. The group did just as they had every previous night and curled up in their tents – or on their bedroll – and drifted off to sleep shortly after sundown.
The night was beautiful and cool, unlike the scorching days. Perhaps it was the cool desert breeze that awoke Ibrahim that night – the night he saw the host and heard the voices of God’s messengers.
Something brushed Ibrahim’s cheek lightly. He brushed at it absently, trying to get rid of the tickling sensation. When he failed to get rid of the irritant he opened his eyes to make sure it wasn’t the loaned camel deciding to sniff him while he slept.
What he saw when he opened his eyes was no camel.
“It is the fallen one.” Said one of the brilliant spectacles that now surrounded the small camp.
“The prince of lies.” Said another.
“The destroyer.” And another
“The deceiver.” And still another.
The labels kept flying from the mouth of every – what were these beings? – one of the figures surrounding them, facing out into the desert.
“Let me through!” a booming voice filled with malice and anger exploded through the night. It was obviously not coming from one of the shining ones.
“We are charged with the protection of these few.” The largest of the bright beings declared.
“Even the archangel is here?” the voice of evil retorted. “He is getting desperate.”
“Our Lord is not governed by your plans, Lucifer.”
Ibrahim’s eyebrows rose. Then he hurriedly untangled himself from his blanket and circled around to the front of his sister and daughter’s tent. They had to see this too.
“Get up!” he whispered urgently to both the sleeping young women. “There’s something going on outside!’
Hadassah and Atara started awake for the third time in two nights. The bright light outside the tent shown all around them, but it did not blind them as they would have expected it to.
“Come on.” Hadassah urged her niece as she vaulted out of bed and through the tent flap. She was met by the sound of two voices, one beautiful, the other terrible, engaged in debate.
“You will not touch them. The Sovereign has decreed it so. They will not be terrorized by you.”
“You are still a fool, Mikha’el!” the evil one spat.
“He is no fool who accepts the rule of Jehovah, fallen one.”
The evil one bellowed his outrage.
Ibrahim, Hadassah and Atara watched as the one called Mikha’el drew a great sword and assumed a battle-ready stance. An instant later, every other shining one drew their swords as well.
“Leave this place, thou embodiment of pride and deceit.” Mikha’el ordered. “In the name of the Holy One.”
The evil one screamed his anguish and in that instant the scene that Ibrahim, Hadassah and Atara beheld disappeared, replaced by the silent, cold desert sand.