Chapter 26: A Painful Price
Her father’s voice was so soft, Alexandra couldn’t make out what he was saying, but Samuel’s smile fell as he stood again and looked at her.
“I will try my lord, I will try,” Samuel said, “but I’ve been given the final page of the Logos, and the Maker has made its words clear to me. I believe the Lion of Judah will roar again before the dawn. You will stand with your people once more.”
She watched on as Samuel took a small knife from his cloak and winced as he sliced his palm. He laid his bleeding hand on the king’s forehead and spoke softly over him.
“Infirmatate sua, sanguinem meum”.
Braeden coughed violently. Alexandra gazed on as she saw the veins in her father’s arms and neck pulse black, all the way to his face and then up into Samuel’s arm. Samuel choked and fell back. The king’s coughing subsided. She saw the color instantly return to his face and his eyes cleared.
“What did you do, Samuel?” Braeden asked as he shakily pulled himself to sit upright.
“Father!” Alexandra wrapped her arms around him, and Braeden kissed her cheek.
“There child, I’m fine. I’m fine. Samuel?” Braeden looked to the old man lying next to him.
Samuel slowly rose to his feet. His face had become as white as a sheet. A festering sore now covered the wound on his hand. “You’re healed, my king. I now carry your burden.”
“No, Samuel. There must be some other way,” the king cried. “Speak those words over yourself!”
Samuel ripped a swatch of linen from his robe. He gingerly wrapped it around his wounded palm. “Those words were meant for you and you alone, your majesty. Alex, I’ll need you to take this.” Samuel pulled the scroll from within his cloak and gave it to her. “Along with the horn in Balaam’s pouch, this is the greatest treasure in Gilead. It is the complete and untarnished word of the Maker, the only one in existence. I daresay these are the reasons the black fleet has come to our shores.”
“My people, I come before you to right a litany of wrongs!” Mariselle’s voice echoed from the courtyard over the din of the mob.
“She’s the reason they’ve come to our shores,” Alexandra nodded past the doorway, “Father, you should call a tribunal, have her brought before the court for treason!”
“I fear it would do little good. She would be found innocent immediately. She replaced our magisters with Amorites years ago,” Braeden replied.
“Justice will be served!” Mariselle’s voice echoed again, “Tonight I bring you the wretches responsible for the violence in the market.”
“And now those Amorites are about to put the boy to death,” Alexandra said as her mind flashed to Colin. Leaving him in the cell had seemed prudent enough at the time, but even her father was helpless now to stop the execution. Before the mob could cry for his blood, she had already sentenced him to his death. She would be responsible. The fact hit her hard. “Is there nothing we can do?”
“The Amorites are mere puppets for the dark lord,” Samuel said. “I was able to read the final chapter of the Logos, and our world is entering black times. That document you hold is a beacon. It will shine a light on the lies that darken this realm.”
“And Joshua’s horn? That old conch?” Braeden asked.
“Is far more dangerous than we ever knew. I thought the old prophecies said it was a horn of calling. I misinterpreted it. It’s a horn of waking.”
“Waking? How is that dangerous? What does it wake?” Alexandra asked.
“Death! Death!” The crowd outside cheered.
Samuel shook his head and stood. “There’s no time to explain right now. You must see that those treasures stay in the right hands.”
“Certainly,” Braeden nodded. “As soon as I can stand, I’ll have it sent to my treasure room, guarded by my most loyal men.”
Samuel took the king’s hand, “My king, you are great, but you are not the one chosen for this. By hiding it away, you would help destroy the very kingdom you struggle now to protect. These belong to the boy.”
“I still don’t understand. Why did you send him?” Alexandra shook her head. “Samuel, he didn’t have a chance. It was a fool’s errand - and now because of your message,” she looked back to the door, “and my arrogance, he’ll die.”
“I sent him with a blank note,” Samuel quietly replied. “There was no message for the king. Only a chance for him to make a judgment and to know I was watching, to see my mark and remember the silence between us. I now see the folly of it.”
Alexandra’s eyes flashed. “You mean to say you sent us as expendable agents to make a point?”
“We want his bloody head!” voices echoed through the doorway.
“I didn’t send you,” Samuel said as he paced the room. “Balaam recounted to me your exploits. You stole the note of your own volition. I wasn’t sure what would happen to the boy, but I couldn’t risk our exposure or endangering you.”
“Well, you failed on both accounts!” Alexandra yelled.
“And while we bicker, he stands alone,” Balaam snorted. The donkey turned and nudged opened the door with his muzzle, so they all could spy the scene in the courtyard. As Mariselle flourished on stage, two figures were led behind her by guards. Colin was one of them.
“Wonder upon wonder,” Braeden whispered gazing at the donkey. The King pulled himself up from the hay and moved to the doorway, his breathing still heavy. He paused at Balaam’s flank. “Uh . . . pardon me.”
Balaam immediately bowed and moved away, “Of course, sire.”
Braeden peered out at Mariselle, standing high above the mob, across the courtyard. “The woman has made a mockery of this kingdom. I’ve been a fool to let her tongue lull me so.”
“This scoundrel has destroyed your bazaar, stolen your property, and I fear, sewn the seeds of discord, violence, and hate on our most venerable citizens.” Mariselle’s echo called as Colin was shoved before the crowd.
Samuel turned to Braeden and placed his hand on the king’s back. “You were as blind as I was, but now we both see clearly. Stay here a while longer with your daughter. Your strength is not fully returned. I will go to the boy’s defense.”
“You’re in no shape to challenge her. Let me at least call to some of my guards to escort you.”
“You have cried out for bread! For relief from your suffering,” Mariselle’s voice continued, “but what relief can I provide when my hands are bound by deplorables such as this?”
“You’d be hard-pressed to find them, my King,” Samuel replied. “Gilead is being eaten away from both the outside and within. Even now Dagon’s fleet attacks our western gate while Mariselle pulls all attention and resources to her charade.” He stepped through the doorway.
Mariselle pulled a dagger from her sleeve. “Tonight we will cut this disease from our kingdom!” The crowd cheered.
“Wait!” Alexandra called to him. “Is that boy . . . could he really be our hope in all of this?”
Samuel paused and turned to face her. “If there is still hope at all, it rests in his words.”
She wondered at this as the old man disappeared through the doorway, like a whisper carried on the wind.