“But they are still fallible, great one.” The second replied.
“I know. And it will be their undoing.” The fallen one said. “If they cannot be destroyed from without then they must be corrupted from within.”
“Yes, great one.” The second replied again.
“Sow discord among them. Send doubts and fears. Wear them out so that they are tired and cannot think as rationally as they ought. Tempt them to put off things. Turn the young women’s eyes towards the camps of the unbelieving men. Even if this generation will not fall, the ones to come will. This is how we will fell them – by their own humanity.
The rest of the night passed sleeplessly for Ibrahim, Hadassah and Atara. Trying to contain their excitement from the event they had just witnessed was not working. All three sat up and talked about what they had seen and what it could mean for them all.
When the first rays of morning broke through the darkness the trio flooded into Iskender and Simay’s tent, loudly announcing their arrival. Then, in an utterly disorganized and joyful manner, the three young people proceeded to elaborate the events of the previous night.
The two older members of the party were not at all surprised at the goings on. They knew full well the kinds of things that went on in that other world – the spiritual world that no man’s eyes can see except they be opened by God.
When Ibrahim, Hadassah and Atara had finished their telling, Iskender and Simay told their own story of how God had sent a host of angels to protect them many years ago – the night that Iskender had wandered into Malcus, Simay and Seda’s camp.
“Those were angels?” Ibrahim asked.
“From what you’ve all told us, yes, they were.” Iskender replied.
“What about the different one? The one Lucifer called ‘Mikha’el’?” Atara said.
“The archangel himself…” Iskender said, a bit more respectfully. “He replaced Lucifer when the covering cherubim fell. He was there at the death of Moses, one of the great prophets of Israel. It is also said that there will come a day when Christ will take His people from this world. Mikha’el will be the one to herald that event.”
A contemplative silence fell over the group for a moment.
“Father,” Hadassah said, “we are all wondering something.”
“What is it?” Her father asked.
“Why are we so important?” she asked, “We are only five. How can we be so dangerous a force that Lucifer himself must come to be rid of us?”
Iskender looked at his adoptive daughter thoughtfully before answering, “I don’t know, Hadassah. But I don’t think that Lucifer knows exactly why either. Our presence here at this particular time has obviously upset something he is planning.”
“We are servants of God.” Simay added. “He had sent us here, to this place at this time for a particular reason. There are no accidents in God’s plans – you all know that. There’s something going on here that we don’t know about; I am sure of that.” She looked at Iskender who picked up where she left off.
“The best thing that we can do now is be on the lookout for anything unusual – especially any new arrivals. This Guardian that Nyot spoke of with Lucifer should be arriving soon. We also know that she will have another person with her – an aide. Another factor that we have in our favor is that we have a good idea as to the identity of the Guardian.” Iskender looked at Ibrahim and Hadassah, “Your sister, Seda. The identity of the aide, however, cannot be guessed at this point.”
“Always be on your guard.” Simay advised. “They could come at any time of the day or night."
Iskender and Simay’s admonitions did not go unheeded. There were several new arrivals over the course of the next few days. Most of them turned out to be unremarkable. A few were richer individuals, but the rest of them were normal people, just like everyone else.
On the fourth day of their vigil, at twilight, their watchfulness paid off.
Two women, both wearing dark veils, entered the camp, coming in from the north, near where Iskender’s group had camped.
Ibrahim was the first to notice that these two new arrivals seemed different somehow. The most obvious difference was that these two had not come overly laden with possessions or supplies. Each woman led a single horse and on each horse there were two small saddlebags. It looked like these two had come straight here with great haste, stopping seldomly. The horses needed a good bath and brushing. Their coats were crusty with sweat from the journey they had just completed.
The veiled women walked right past Ibrahim, seemingly paying him no heed, as they continued on, straight towards the rock spiral. Straight towards the very seat of Satan.
Nyot, to her own surprise, was still alive and as well as could be expected under these conditions.
She was walking back towards her Master’s refuge after another day of fruitless watching for the Guardian when she saw two people, each leading a tired horse, coming towards the towering rock.
As the two got closer, Nyot could make out the veils that the strangers were wearing. The women’s horses were lightly burdened – a strange thing considering the fact that nearly everyone else here in this valley had taken half of their former homes with them. Some had even dragged national treasures out here to this pitiful, sandy cesspool of backwater humanity.
Wanting to see what the women would do, Nyot slipped into the shadows near the entrance to the Lightbearer’s temporary dwelling place.
Once they reached the opening in the rock, the women left their horses ground tied outside and confidently stepped into the Lightbearer’s domain.
Carefully, Nyot slipped in behind them. The fungus on the walls seemed to glow brighter with the passage of the two strange women.
Just to make sure that she was not discovered, Nyot hung back from the women, stepping carefully and quietly along the glowing, padded rock floor. Everything seemed to be going well until…
“You are fooling no one.” The voice of the Lightbearer echoed back to Nyot. She almost answered, thinking herself discovered, but held her tongue. She was glad that she had when she heard the voice of one of the women answer.
“It is a precaution. We do not know who will and will not recognize us. We travel like this regularly, great one.”
Nyot sneaked all the way down the corridor until she was just around the corner from the very room in which she had spoken with her Master several days before.
“Do the Enemy spies know that you are here?” Nyot’s Master asked.
“There was one man who saw us, but he did not seem to be a threat.”
“They never seem like they are a threat.” The Lightbearer hissed. “Until it is too late.”
“Very true, great one, I –” The woman said before being unceremoniously cut off by someone else.
“You have summoned me. I have come.” This time a different voice – a strange voice – somehow both human and inhuman: female and male. It was the voice of the Guardian.
“Yes.” The Lightbearer was pleased. “We have much to do before our… departure.”
“Indeed.” The Guardian replied. “Are the appointed individuals cooperating suitably?”
“They are.” The Devil replied.
“What is left to do before we are to leave?” said the Guardian.
“There is yet one more piece to develop, and then the safeena can be assembled. After that, they must reproduce it several times in order to accommodate all of the summoned ones… Then, we leave this place.” Nyot’s master said, sounding a bit giddy, especially at the last bit.
“What on earth is a ‘safeena’?” Nyot wondered to herself.
“I would be pleased for you to inspect their progress.” The Lightbearer said,
obviously proud of whatever he wanted the Guardian and her aide to see.
“We would be most pleased to see it, great one.” The Guardian replied.
Nyot heard some whispering between her Master and the Guardian, but she could not make out quite what was being said, even though she strained her ears to hear. She only caught a few words, “door,” “open,” “east,” and “amulet.”
Sensing that the end of the conversation was near, Nyot scooted back down the corridor a short ways, finding a dark recess in the rock that she remembered seeing many times on her way in and out of this place. The spiritist wedged herself inside the opening just in time to avoid being seen by the departing Guardian and her aide.
“Nyot!” the Lightbearer bellowed her name as soon as the two other women had cleared the entrance.
The spiritist swallowed hard before running to meet her master, trying to give the impression that she had been passing by when he had called her. She fully expected to be punished for listening in on what sounded like it was a highly classified conversation. However, when she reached the cavern she was pleasantly surprised.
“Nyot.” Her Master addressed when she stepped into the small pool of fungus-emitted light. “The Guardian and her aide have arrived. Their accommodations need to be prepared. They are to stay a few miles east of this place, in the only intact building in the ruins.”
“Yes, Master.” Nyot bowed respectfully, covering her surprise at not having been discovered and her double surprise at being sent in the same direction that the Guardian was heading this very moment.
“Go and prepare their quarters.”
“Yes, great one.” Nyot bowed again before she swiftly left the cavern, not wanting to lose the woman and her companion. After all, the master had not said that she couldn’t follow them before she prepared their quarters.
Several sandy miles later, Nyot dismounted from her “borrowed” horse, far enough away from the Guardian and her aide so that they would not see her and also far enough away from their horses that they would not be alerted to the presence of a third animal.
She left her own horse tied to a rock, a blanker thrown over him to protect him from the cold of the desert night.
Knowledge was power in any situation involving the Lightbearer. Nyot had learned this the hard way one too many times. This time she wanted to know something that her master didn’t want her to know. To take part in forbidden knowledge was the best route she could take now. Seeing the Guardian coming had been the best break the spiritist had had in her entire time of service to the Lightbearer. She had met him off and on throughout the years, doing things for him periodically; keeping her fellow villagers out of the hands of the Enemy. She had become fascinated by the web of lies she could weave, the deceptions she could conjure and convince others of. She thought of herself as a master of lies – second to her master of course, but great in her own right none the less. She had even deceived the Lightbearer this time.
Nyot smiled a small mischievous smile to herself at the thought. She had deceived the Prince of lies and gotten away with it.
Before the spiritist could dwell more on her perceived virtues, something inexplicable happened.
As she watched, the Guardian raised her hand high into the air. Nyot was too far away to hear the words the Guardian uttered precisely. The sounds that came to her ears resembled something like, “Guard… Diana.”
“What is ‘guardiana’?” Nyot asked herself. “It’s an awfully strange name if that’s what it’s supposed to be.”
Suddenly, the ground in front of the Guardian began to move and everything seemed to shake.
Nyot fell to the sand in sudden terror, gripping the earth for fear that if she let go she would be thrown into the great maw opening before the two other women. Had they found her out and decided to frighten her to death instead of telling the master about her transgression? Was the world falling to pieces? What were they doing?!
The ground quake began to subside and with it, Nyot’s fears. Now her curiosity was piqued by the new sight that lay before her. What she had first thought was the ground splitting in two was really just a great metal door lifting out of the sand to reveal a dark opening.
The Guardian and her aide walked down into the void.
Nyot shook herself out of her stunned state and quickly scampered across the sands over to the strange door that opened the wrong way. When she reached the lip of the opening Nyot hesitated. What if there was something terrible down there?
The door began closing and Nyot reasoned that there was nothing down in this hole that could compare with the things that she had already seen in her lifetime. As long as there were no ghosts… like in those cursed enemy spies’ tent.
She stepped down into the darkness, fully expecting to fall head over heels down into a hole. She was stunned when her sandals were granted purchase on a set of stairs – also somehow made of metal. Being unused to walking on such material, Nyot made a special effort at being silent, but she had to step down the first ten steps quickly or risk being gonged on the head by the closing door.
As soon as she had stepped down the last step, Nyot started to see more light. This was no simple hole in the ground. The things she saw both confused and amazed her. There was metal everywhere. It seemed like everything was made out of it – the floor, the rails, the ceiling, the walls.
Nyot carefully walked along a very high walkway, staring down at the myriad new sights that drowned her mind with delight. Her master was truly a genius. How had he assembled all of this – and in a mere three decades?! Why had he not wanted her to know about all of this?
The spiritist continued on her silent journey farther into this new world, being careful not to be spotted by the people she saw running to and fro, looking very busy about something or other.
She was about to turn around and head back to the surface, hoping that the Guardian and her aide had not already left, or else she would be stuck in here until someone else decided they needed to leave. Then she turned a corner and saw the forms of the two women, facing away from her. There was a man standing with them, pointing down at something. The way he was gesturing, it looked like he was excited about it, whatever it was. His Arabic speech did nothing to help her understand, so if she was to find out she would have to go and see for herself.
There were no lights up on the walkway that the two women and the man were standing on, so Nyot quietly sneaked up closer to the three, craning her neck to see just what the man was so animatedly chattering about.
She got a little closer but still could not see down. The floor of the walkway was blocking her view. She was getting a little closer than she was comfortable with, but she just had to see what the man was talking about. Nyot edged just a bit closer to the group. Now the railing was in the way. Closer and closer she inched, standing on the tips of her toes now, hoping to finally catch a glimpse of this mystery.
One more stealthy move brought her just close enough to peer down into the great, well-lit open space below.
What she saw there took her breath away.