Several days passed and Hannibal’s strength slowly returned. He spent time in the game room swimming, using the workout equipment, playing basketball, and practicing his martial arts prowess through Kata workouts and sparring. Selina stayed with him constantly, acting as a trainer and assistant. Within a week and a half with Selina’s help, he was back to normal and deep into planning the expedition to Amacia. The only differences in him consisted of being much more knowledgeable about the Temple machinery and structure being researched along with his hair, which now had prominent snowy white streaks flowing back from both temples. He also could read and speak the Stone Language fluently without the need of a computer, which astonished everyone. Hannibal issued orders for no one to penetrate the third chamber in the Library and told Harry to keep the locket with him at all times. No one balked at the order since there were so many other avenues of research being conducted in the Temple. As time passed, the colossal amount of knowledge infused into Hannibal’s tiny brain slowly filtered back to him in tiny bits and pieces. A month after his encounter with the teaching machine in the Library, the final preparations coalesced for the long anticipated expedition.
At 8:00 pm one Wednesday evening, Hannibal lay relaxing on his sofa in his quarters when Harry come calling. He sat examining several notebooks brought to him by Dan concerning the Library research. Classical music echoed softly through his quarters. Hannibal heard a knock and called out, “It’s open.” Harry strode in with a mild, happy look on his face, dressed in a casual manner with a dress shirt, slacks, and loafers.
“What’s going on Harry?” Hannibal asked as Harry sat down on the edge of the recliner next to the sofa.
“Oh, nothing” Harry answered with a smile. “I just thought I’d see if you wanted to come with me to the cafeteria for a drink or cup of coffee or something. Because we’ve been so busy lately, I thought that maybe we could just have a friendly drink like we used to. Do you want to come?”
Hannibal’s gazed narrowed as he tried to figure out Harry’s game. It was out of character for Harry to ask such things. He thought for a minute, and then tossed the notebook he was reading aside, sitting up. “Sure. I’d love to,” he chimed.
They rose and Hannibal straightened his clothes, following Harry to the cafeteria. As they entered the cafeteria, the lights were down, with only a light shining over the table where the drinks sat along with the nearest table. Hannibal eyed the darkness suspiciously as they walked to the drinks. “What’s your poison?” Harry asked.
“Some lemonade will be fine,” Hannibal answered as he continued to eye the darkness warily. It made him uneasy not being able to see beyond the light perimeter. Harry retrieved him a large glass of lemonade and handed it to him before getting himself a glass of ice tea. They walked to the table under the light and sat down on opposite sides, facing each other. Hannibal sipped at his drink. “What’s this all about, Harry,” he asked. “You didn’t bring me here to just drink and talk. It’s not like you.”
Harry feigned shock and replied, “What do you mean? I just thought we’d have a friendly drink and talk about the upcoming mission.”
Hannibal took a swallow of his lemonade again and looked around at the darkness, knowing down in his gut something was up. “Oh, come on, Harry. You can’t fool me. I know you’re up to something. Now spill it,” Hannibal ordered in a friendly tone.
Harry shook his head and smiled. “Nothing gets past you, does it?” he asked.
“Not much,” Hannibal replied tartly. “Not when it’s this obvious. You’re just not devious enough to hide things from me. I’ve had a lifetime of experience in being devious that allows me to see when someone isn’t being straight with me.”
“Is that so?” Harry said with a wry grin. “Well, in that case, let’s put that boast to the test.”
“What’re you talking about?” Hannibal asked becoming slightly annoyed with Harry’s game.
“Oh, don’t be such a spoil sport, bud,” Harry chided. “I’m not trying to deceive you. But you are right. I did have an ulterior motive for bringing you down here. Since you know something is going on, let me show you what it is.” Raising his voice to the darkness, Harry called out, “All right guys. Come on out. He’s caught us.” As soon as Harry said that, the lights came up and they found themselves surrounded by everyone Hannibal had brought to the Temple dressed as if going to a formal party.
“Surprise!” they shouted in unison.
Hannibal looked around in shock as everyone cheered. “What is this?” he asked, totally flabbergasted.
Everyone gathered around as Harry replied, “I may not be devious enough to hide things from you, but there are people here who are. Face it, Hannibal; you’ve done so much for us without thought of recompense, so we thought you’d like to know how much we appreciate everything by throwing a little party for you.”
Hannibal felt overwhelmed by the display and slumped back in this chair. “I don’t know what to say. I’m completely without words,” he murmured.
Harry gazed into Hannibal’s eyes and said, “You don’t have to say anything. Just enjoy yourself. That’s an order.” Hannibal chuckled at Harry’s mocking order.
As Harry finished speaking, Cynthia and Mary wheeled out a large cake with ‘Thank you Hannibal for all you’ve done for us and we love you for it’ written on it.
Hannibal looked at the cake as Cynthia and Mary sat it on the table in front of him. “Thank you Cynthia,” he murmured, gently grasping Cynthia’s hand. “It’s a beautiful cake.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Cynthia answered pleasantly. “It’s the least we could do after everything you’ve done for us. It wasn’t easy for us to do this without you knowing.”
“I’m sure of that,” Hannibal agreed, “especially since I’m spending much more time here than before.”
“This cake is a gift from everyone here,” Cynthia declared, “just a little token of our esteem for everything you’ve given us.”
“Speaking of gifts,” Harry said. “There are some here who have gifts for you.” Harry beckoned for those with gifts to bring them forward. “But let’s get some music going first. You like classical, do you not?” he asked. Hannibal nodded yes and classical music began to play throughout the cafeteria. Thirty people brought forward small presents for Hannibal, some of which were hand-made. He took them one at a time and thanked those who gave them. After all the presents were given, Harry declared, “We have one more gift for you…one I know you’re going to love.” He waved into the crowd and Nathanael suddenly appeared moving through the crowd, reaching the table in moments, and sitting down next to Hannibal.
Hannibal noticed Nathanael’s dark brown suit resembled a tuxedo. The music softened as Nathanael spoke. “As Cynthia said, it wasn’t easy getting this done without you knowing. But to show our appreciation for what you’ve done for us and for me personally, let me present to you my greatest treasure,” he said. Hannibal’s eyebrow rose as he contemplated what this new gift would be. Nathanael waved his feline hand and the crowd quieted, slowly parting.
Hannibal gazed intently as a stunningly beautiful figure emerged into view. His jaw dropped and his expression revealed absolute shock. He blinked, rubbed his eyes in disbelief as he recognized Selina dressed in a beautiful, full-length sleeveless, backless silver evening gown that complimented her natural color. The gown started at her neck with a sparkling turtleneck collar attached to the front of the dress that covered her chest and abdomen to just above the waist like a glove. It showed her assets smartly, but modestly. The dressed wrapped around her waist coming together snugly on the back just above the lower back. Below the waist, the gown hung loosely about her legs, reaching to just above her ankles. On her feet, Selina sported a pair of silver high-heel dress shoes that went with the gown. A matching silver shawl draped over her shoulders and covered the upper portion of her back and shoulders. Her hair cascaded down her back and over her shoulders. On her hands, Selina sported long silky silver gloves that reached above her elbows. She smiled meekly, gliding along effortlessly. Hannibal stared at her, completely lost in her radiant beauty. “May I introduce to you Princess Selina Milineus: heir to the Kaitian throne,” Nathanael said formally.
Hannibal tore his gazed from Selina as she stopped a few steps away, looking Nathanael in the eye. “Princess Selina? I thought that was just your little nick name for her?” he asked with great amazement.
“Oh no,” Nathanael replied insistently. “It’s more than a nickname. My brother, Raphael was the king of Kaitia, so that makes Selina a legitimate princess.”
Hannibal leaned back in his chair and put his hand on the top of his head. “My god…this is unreal. I had no idea that both of you were royalty,” he breathed.
Selina approached and sat down next to Hannibal. “Remember what I told you the other day,” she purred. “That there were some things about us that you still didn’t know? Well, this is another one.” She reached out and gently clasped Hannibal’s hand in her gloved hands.
“A princess…I still can’t believe it,” Hannibal said. He suddenly looked at Nathanael and finally realized what he was doing, totally stunned by it. After a few moments, he asked, “This doesn’t mean what I think it does, does it?”
Nathanael nodded with a growing grin. “Yes, it does, my friend,” he crowed. “You and Selina belong together and you know it.”
“Are you sure about this?” Hannibal asked hesitantly.
Nathanael smiled warmly. “Absolutely,” he replied. “We all have seen how well you two do together. Furthermore, you two anticipate each other’s needs as if you’re one being. Anyone that has eyes and half a brain in their head can see how you two look at each other. You love her more than your very life and she loves you just as much. It’s obvious as the nose on your human face. Am I sure about giving her to you? Yes, I’m sure. You two, without a doubt, belong together. It’s willed from on High. After the extent she went to in order to help you recover from the incident with the Teacher, it became obvious even to me.” Then Nathanael asked the crowd around them, “Don’t they belong together?” The crowd responded unanimously yes.
Hannibal looked Selina in the eyes and once again became lost in her radiance. “I was smitten with you the moment I laid eyes on you,” he said softly with a sigh and some hesitation. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
Selina gazed into Hannibal’s ice blue eyes. “Yes, I do,” she answered without hesitation. “We’re more than kindred spirits. We’re soul mates. I’m nothing without you, and you’re nothing without me. We belong together and you know it. I’ve considered and prayed earnestly about this for a very long time. And after the last dose of purr therapy I gave you to help you recover, I knew it was the Lord’s will that we be together. It’s the right thing to do. He told me so.”
Hannibal took a long draught from his glass of lemonade and sat the glass on the table before leaning back. “You truly believe this is the right thing, knowing full well what we’re about to do?” he asked.
Selina didn’t waver for an instant in her reply. “We both know it’s the right thing, especially because of what we’re fixing to do. The Lord has decreed this just as He’s decreed your mission,” she declared. “Why else would he insist that we go with you if we weren’t meant to be together?”
Hannibal briefly looked away. “How can you be so sure this is the Lord’s doing?” he asked. “You know it would give me no greater pleasure than for us to be together in the way you want. But I need to know for sure this is what the Lord wants. His will has to be the primary consideration here. I don’t want to do something that’s not in His will and cause you any grief or harm.”
At that, Harry interrupted. “How can you say that, Hannibal?” he rebuffed. “How can you not understand that this is the Lord’s will? Just look at your life, man. Look how the Lord has guided your every step. Just look at where you are. Just look at her and the circumstances in which you two initially met. Look at us. Look at how many times you followed the Lord’s promptings and saved people, including my family and me, from grievous bodily harm. How can you even think about second guessing this when you damned well know down in your heart of hearts that this is the Lord’s will.”
Hannibal looked across the table at Harry and knew he spoke the truth. “You’re a true friend, Harry. You’ve reminded me of where I came from and the reliance I’ve always put on the Lord,” Hannibal said gratefully. “Thank you.”
Nathanael saw Hannibal’s hesitancy. “I can understand your reluctance to do this because of what you’re about to do,” Nathanael stated. “If it’ll do you any good, I have one more voice that you may consider.” He waved into the crowd and called out, “Brother Paul, could you come over here, please?” Once again, the crowd quietly parted and another figure approached.
Hannibal looked with curiosity as an elderly man with a closely cropped gray beard wearing a plain gray suit approached. “Who is he?” he asked Selina as the man approached.
Selina responded only with a smile as the man came into view. “Your friend is absolutely correct in his conclusions about your circumstances. The Lord has been with you over these years. Do you not remember the small village in Cambodia and the miracle of your deliverance?” the man asked.
Hannibal immediately recognized the voice. “Brother Paul? How in the world did you get here?” Hannibal asked, rising from his chair and humbly approaching the man of God.
Brother Paul smiled and held out his arms. “Hannibal Smith…it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you in my meetings,” Brother Paul said as they hugged each other.
“But what are you doing here?” Hannibal insisted, his tone betraying his amazement.
Brother Paul looked Hannibal square in the eye and patted him on the shoulder. “The Lord is moving, my friend,” Brother Paul declared. “He told me to come see you. At first, I wrestled with coming because it has been such a long time since I’ve seen you. The last time I saw you, you were a confident, know-it-all snot-nose who resisted instruction. But even then, your spirit was open and searching for the truth. I’m glad to see the Lord has driven much of that iniquity out of you. But as I said, at first I wrestled with coming to see you. Finally, I gave in, even though I had no idea how I was going to do it. Then just the other day, some friends of yours paid us a visit at the farm.”
“He knew we were coming,” Harry declared.
Brother Paul sat down with Hannibal and continued. “Yes, I knew they were coming. The Lord let me know when, where, and how they would show up. He also let me know who was coming and why,” he stated. He looked at Nathanael briefly and added, “The Lord even told me who this imposing fellow was: Nathanael Milineus, brother to the king of Kaitia and high adviser to that king, a Lynxian with a highly intelligent and very beautiful daughter.” He glanced at Selina as she smiled slightly, tucking her head humbly. “Anyway, they came to me with a simple request: was it the Lord’s will that you and Selina be together. I sought the Lord about the request and He let me know that it was within His will that you two be married. He gave only one stipulation for this union. You’re not to consummate the marriage until after you have finished the task He has appointed for you,” Brother Paul explained.
Hannibal gazed at Selina with hope in his eyes, and then back to Brother Paul. He was completely without words.
“The Lord has shown me what He showed you,” Brother Paul continued, “including the vision you, Harry, and his wife Mary had that night at Harry’s old home. This mission has been yours since before the Lord thought to make you and Selina. Your life has been driven by and continues to be driven by this solemn task placed before you. The Lord knew what you needed even before you knew or asked. At this point in the quest, you have need of a true companion who’ll be there and support you even in the densest darkness the forces of evil can conjure. This beautiful and imposing Lynxian from the other side of the stars is that help. You know it because the Lord put that desire in your heart even before you were converted. Her image has haunted you since you were a child and now she stands here before you as a willing partner, kindred spirit, and soul mate to assist you in this great trial. You are to be the hand of the Almighty to deal with this dread peril that faces us and she’ll help you bear this immense burden. Our Lord is coming soon but certain details have to be fulfilled before it can happen.”
Before Brother Paul finished speaking, the Holy Spirit suddenly fell upon him and his face glowed brilliantly. A reverenced hush fell over everyone present as the Almighty God, the one and only Ancient of Days possessed Brother Paul and spoke directly to Hannibal through His Prophet. As the prophet spoke, the very power of the words he spoke drove all that stood to their knees. “John Hannibal Smith…Beowulf; you’re greatly beloved and great grace is upon you and your troupe. The time is now. The Black Prince has fully awakened and is drawing all evil to himself to finish what he started in the 1st Age: a war that threatened all of creation with the annihilation of all things past, present, and future back then until I intervened to halt it. Now the threat to all life and creation rises again from the foulest, most ancient Darkness now that humanity has once again lost its way as it did in that distant age. Creation once again stands on the precipice of oblivion as the dark hordes of the Abyss and the most ancient Darkness stir in their prisons, emboldened by the Black Prince’s movements. But as in the Days of Darkness at the end of the 1st Age, so will it be now. The end is declared in the beginning. You have been chosen to once again to face the Evil Prince of the most ancient Darkness to rebalance creation and right the wrongs of ages past. Go and face the Black Prince, my son, but not alone. I am with you and have always been with you, even throughout all the ages of time and space you do not remember.
“I know your heart, and see your mind and spirit, Hannibal. Much purging of your sin and iniquity has already been done. Much more is still needed before you can wield the true power I have instilled in you; a power I have given to only a handful of beings throughout my creation. Only when you fully cleanse yourself of your iniquity and complete your soul will you be able to stand against the hideous Darkness that seeks your destruction. Even now, you ponder my words and fret over many things because of missing memories and lost time. But be sure of this, my beloved son. Despite the hesitation, doubts in yourself, and the seemingly unanswerable questions that plague your mind and heart continuously, you must not doubt that your sins are forgiven. I will finish what I started with you.
“Moreover, this precious creature beside you is one of my creations as you are. I made her for one purpose and one only: to be your wife and help-meet. Fear not to take her as your wife. She will stand with you in what’s to come and help you in ways you don’t yet comprehend. Together, you will face down the Evil from the most ancient Darkness that seeks the annihilation of all life and light, and ultimately defeat it. I will be with you and her as your strength so fear not to do what I command. Therefore, take Selina as your wife, kindred spirit, and soul mate that I created for you without fear, but do not consummate the union until you have defeated the evil Black Prince that threatens to unleash hell on this universe. Only afterwards can you fully consummate your love with one another. This I also command. You are to take Nathanael and Harry with you when you go to meet the Evil Prince in the cursed wastes of Amacia. They’ll be your eyes and ears in dark places. Heed their words and they’ll stand with you to the end of the matter. When you reach your goal, find Nicodemus. He’s my prophet to the remnant in Amacia whom will help you secure my people in the cursed darkness of Amacia. You’ll encounter great perils on the way but fear not, I’ll always be with you, my son, even unto the very end of all things.” The brilliance of Brother Paul’s face subsided and he slumped back in his chair, sweat pouring from his brow.
Nathanael touched Brother Paul on the shoulder and asked, “Are you all right, brother?”
Brother Paul smiled wearily. “Yes,” he replied, panting deeply to regain his breath. “Just give me a minute. I haven’t had the Lord speak through me like that in a very long time. My flesh has a terrible time when He does that. Only His will and mercy allow me to survive His presence when He does that.” Within a couple of minutes, he recovered his strength.
Hannibal sat silently with a completely stunned look on his face. “Oh my word; what an incredible revelation that comes from the mouth of the Lord Himself! I don’t pretend to understand what it all means beyond the fact the Lord really wants me and Selina together before I go to Amacia,” he finally said, looking at Selina.
Brother Paul laid his hand on Hannibal’s shoulder. “Yes, my friend,” he declared. “This marriage is the Lord’s will without a doubt. That’s why I’m here. I don’t usually do weddings but there are occasional exceptions when the Lord deems them necessary, like now. As for the rest of what He said, ponder His words and pray. He’ll reveal their meaning when the time is right.”
“I will,” Hannibal breathed softly. “This is the first time I’ve ever had the Lord speak directly to me like this, so I’m definitely going to take the words to heart. Most of the time, He speaks to me in dreams, intuition, or through angelic visitations, which don’t happen very often. That’s what makes this so different and special. He literally possessed you, brother, to speak directly to me about making Selina my wife. I’m so humbled by it.”
“And so you should be,” Brother Paul replied. “What just happened is a rare gift indeed. The last time the Lord spoke through me like that was thirty years ago shortly after I became His prophet. I urge you to ponder His words carefully and do what He commanded without hesitation. Marrying this beautiful Lynxian is not just His will, but also for your benefit and her benefit. You two need each other more than you can even comprehend.”
Hannibal smiled at Brother Paul, and then at Selina. “I intend to,” Hannibal declared. “But it feels so strange the way everything just came together. I came down here just to get a drink with Harry and now I’m getting married because of the very job the Lord gave me. It boggles my mind that He’d speak directly to me like that about this issue.” He gazed at Selina’s radiance and added, “But you know something, I’m actually glad He insists on me marrying Selina now. Not only does it solve some problems I’ve been dealing with, it also allows me the privilege of having one of the most beautiful and intelligent partners any man could ever dream of having. It’s humbling.” He chuckled softly and said to Selina, “Looks like you got that wish you told me about the morning after your last purr therapy session.” Selina smiled warmly at Hannibal.
“So do you accept my gift?” Nathanael asked.
Hannibal looked at Brother Paul, who nodded affirmative, and then looked at Nathanael with tremendous gratitude. “Yes, my friend,” Hannibal replied happily. “It’s the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. And knowing it’s the Lord’s will that this happen makes it all that much sweeter.” He rose from his seat and gave Nathanael a big bear hug. Looking at his clothes after the hug, he said, “Oh my; I seemed to be a bit under-dressed for a wedding.”
Selina rose and clamped onto his arm. “It doesn’t matter what you’re dressed in,” she purred. “You’re a knight in shining armor as far as I’m concerned, my prince.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed, rising from his seat as Mary and Dennis came to stand beside him. “Outward appearance doesn’t matter. It’s what’s in here that counts,” he said, pointing to Hannibal’s heart.
Brother Paul stood back and surveyed the situation. Through the Holy Spirit, he judged Hannibal and Selina, seeing the deep love and devotion they had for one another. He also sensed something much deeper and mysterious the pair shared: an eerie ancient quality that puzzled him, which he kept to himself. Smiling, he once again put a friendly hand on Hannibal’s shoulder and asked, “So, son; are you ready to officially make the commitment in the presence of the Lord and all these people?”
Hannibal didn’t hesitate in his answer. “Since it’s obviously the will of the Father, yes,” he declared. Suddenly, Hannibal realized he had no ring. “Wait, wait…I don’t have a ring,” he called out urgently.
Nathanael produced an exquisite ring of gold with small diamonds and emeralds embedded in the gold from his pocket. Handing the ring to Hannibal, Nathanael stated, “I went down to the treasure cave the other day and found this. I hope it’ll do.”
Hannibal took the ring and examined it closely. “Wow…this is an exquisite ring; a perfect match for a princess,” he replied. Selina blushed slightly and tucked her head modestly at the compliment. Hannibal and Selina faced each other while standing before Brother Paul. Nathanael and Harry stood at Hannibal’s side as Mary and Cynthia stood next to Selina. In seconds, the entire research team and their families gathered around as witnesses.
“Now before we do this. Do both of you agree to the terms the Lord has laid down: that you not consummate this marriage until you defeat Black Prince and secure the remnant of Amacia from the Darkness. Do you agree to these terms?” Brother Paul asked.
Hannibal and Selina looked at each other, and then at the prophet, saying simultaneously, “Yes.”
“Very well then…let’s get on with it,” Brother Paul replied, proceeding with a short ceremony that included the exchanging of vows and rings. He pronounced them man and wife and Hannibal kissed Selina for the first time as his wife. A great cheer arose from the crowd but Brother Paul called for the crowd to be silent. As the crowd quieted, he looked at Hannibal and Selina, standing hand in hand. “What you’ve just done is a very serious thing,” Brother Paul stated. “Don’t treat it lightly. You’re about to embark on a very troublesome period for you. Remember the Lord in all that you do and He will remember you.”
“We will,” Hannibal answered soberly.
“Good,” Brother Paul answered with a smile. Then for the next forty minutes, he preached to the entire group, reproving and rebuking sin and iniquity, tearing down old ways of doing things and showing new and better ways of building on their lives as Christians. He pounded into them the absolute necessity of forgiveness and love for one another. He reasoned and pleaded with them about the need for crucifying their iniquity and doing things the way the Lord wants them done rather than the way they think and do things. The crowd responded favorably to the preaching, indicating to the prophet that he was reaching them. Hannibal and Selina sat there, hand in hand, as he finished preaching. His last words were once again directed to Hannibal and Selina. “We all are part of the body of Christ, whether we are from this planet or another. Love one another and keep the Lord first. Do that and it’ll be well with you. And when you find that things are the darkest, don’t doubt. Remember the Lord and He will deliver you out of your peril just as He had you Hannibal rescue Selina and her father from their peril on their ship.” Then he lightened his tone and said, “Okay. Now you can have your little party. Just be sure not to go overboard. Just remember that the Lord is here, so act accordingly.”
“Absolutely,” Hannibal replied. Within minutes, soft instrumental gospel hymns echoed through the cafeteria with refreshments being served. Some partook of the refreshments and some sat enjoying the music, while some of the older couples slow-danced to the music.
As this occurred, Nathanael approached the prophet to see if he was ready to go. Brother Paul indicated he was ready to leave. The prophet went to Hannibal and Selina, who sat at the table having some of the cake Cynthia and Mary made. He put his hand on Hannibal’s shoulder and said, “I have to go now, brother. I wish you two Godspeed.”
“Do you really have to go?” Selina purred.
“I’m afraid so, my dear. I have a rebellious house at home that still needs cleaning,” Brother Paul answered with a sigh. “Just remember that the Lord lays your path before you. Deviate from it in no manner and never doubt Him or yourself. Keep the unity you have achieved here and the Lord will deliver you from your enemies.”
Hannibal stood and hugged the prophet. “I’m so glad that you came,” he stated. “Your words didn’t fall on deaf ears here.”
“I know,” Brother Paul replied. “I’ll continue to pray for the success of your mission.”
Hannibal gazed intently into his eyes. “I really appreciate that. We need all the prayers that we can get. Only with the prayers of the saints shall this endeavor be successful.”
Brother Paul patted him on the shoulder again. “I have to be going now,” he announced, “Godspeed to you both.”
Selina rose and humbly approached the prophet, thanking him. “I hope to see you again someday,” she purred.
The prophet extended his hand and shook her hand firmly. “You’re most welcome and yes, I’m sure I’ll see you again, princess,” he replied warmly. He looked her in the eye and hugged her, to her delight. “Take care of him, sister. He needs you more than you’ll ever know,” Brother Paul whispered in her ear.
“I will,” Selina whispered back with a small kiss on his cheek. “Thank you for everything.”
“You’re welcome, princess,” Brother Paul replied, stepping back with a smile. “Lord willing, I’ll see your angelic face again.”
“I’d like that,” Selina murmured.
At that, he turned to follow Nathanael, who was talking to Hannibal. “See to it that he goes back with something, okay?” Hannibal whispered.
Nathanael nodded, turning to Brother Paul. “Come. Let’s get you home, brother,” he said and Brother Paul followed him out of the cafeteria.
Hannibal sat down with a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and happiness in his soul. The Lord had once again provided for his needs in a completely unexpected way. He gazed at his wife Selina with a newfound sense of joy and wonder. He basked in her radiance as he contemplated what he had just done. For the moment, nothing mattered to him except the fact that the Lord had given him after so many years of solitude a wife; and not just a wife, a kindred spirit and soul mate who just happened to be from another planet far across the stars. The music slowly faded, only to be replaced by a waltz. He watched Selina as she briefly talked with someone. Emotion began building in his chest and slowly worked its way out. Tears spilled out of his eyes as he found himself weeping softly, broken before the Lord because of the His mercy and goodness in providing him with such a treasure.
Selina turned and looked at him, immediately noticing and feeling his emotions. She slid her chair over close to his and put her arm around him. She didn’t have to ask why he was crying. “I know, my prince. You’ve been alone for so long as I have. The Lord has finally made it right. I know exactly how you feel,” she said softly.
Hannibal gazed deep into her eyes. “For all my life I’ve been alone,” he murmured. “I tried to remedy the loneliness and isolation by surround myself with people of like precious faith but there was still something missing. I tried filling that place with other people, my work, and dozens of other things. Nothing worked until that fateful day that I plucked you and your father from the jaws of death. That empty place in me has now been filled. I’m just beginning to realize that I’m no longer alone and it’s a joy that I can’t even begin to describe.”
Selina squeezed him gently as they touched foreheads. “I know. I feel the same way,” she murmured. “Come and dance with me.” She stood up, clasping his hand in order to lead him.
“I’d like to but I don’t know how,” Hannibal replied, blushing with embarrassment.
“Oh, it doesn’t matter. Just fake it like I do,” Selina answered with a smile. “Besides, no one will care how well we dance. We’re all family here anyway.” At that, Hannibal consented and allowed himself to be led out on to the dance floor. Within a couple of minutes, Selina had him doing a slow waltz with her.
“You clever minx…you knew how to dance all long, didn’t you?” Hannibal asked.
Selina looked him in the eye and smiled mischievously. “Of course I do. I am a princess, you know. I have to know how to dance. Let me show you a dance from where I come from. Just follow my lead.” Hannibal nodded and followed her lead. She led him in an eerie beautiful dance that was slow and fluid in its motion. It vaguely resembled a combination of several waltzes. They suddenly found themselves the center of attention as everyone gathered around to see the strange new dance. The dance went on for five minutes and when it ended, a round of applause went up as a new selection of classical music began to play. The crowd gradually dispersed as the couples danced a slow dance according to the music. Hannibal and Selina danced with their heads lying on each other’s shoulders. Just then, Harry cut in. Hannibal danced with Mary as Harry danced with Selina. After that dance, Hannibal sat down. He watched as some of his trusted researchers and friends took turns dancing with Selina. While he watched, Nathanael walked in and sat down. Hannibal didn’t notice his approach because of his focus on Selina.
“She’s very beautiful,” Nathanael commented. “Especially when she dresses and acts like a real princess should. I love it when she lets her true beauty out like this.”
Nathanael’s comment startled Hannibal, making him jump slightly. “Oh, it’s you,” he answered in a shaky, humbled tone. “Yes, she is. She’s absolutely exquisite. She has no equal in beauty. And the thing that makes it even better is her physical beauty is but a reflection of the beauty she has in her spirit. You’d have to go through millions of women in order to find that special combination of physical and inner beauty. It really shows in her eyes. She has eyes like the sea after a storm, so calm and gentle. She’s not easily angered and she’s always ready to forgive. It’s such a wonderful combination.”
Nathanael smiled and put his feline hand on Hannibal’s shoulder. “You’re right,” he agreed. “You have her down to a T. When we lived on Kaitia, she didn’t have any friends, only acquaintances. It was one of the prices of being a princess. So in order to help fill that need, she delved deep into her studies, becoming one of our leading researchers. We’ve worked together since she was big enough to walk. I tried to encourage her to find some friends and enjoy her childhood. I kept telling her she needed to take time to make friends and not spend every waking moment buried in research. It was a fruitless endeavor though. When she was in school, she was an outcast because of her piercing intelligence. Nearly every person she considered her friend ended up turning on her when she wouldn’t use her position to do things for them. I remember only one man that I would really consider a friend to her.”
“What happened to him?” Hannibal asked.
“She had a friend while she was doing what you would call graduate work,” Nathanael replied. “They were very close. He was killed in a freak accident when the shuttle he was flying on was destroyed by a malfunction in our global defenses. An ion cannon that mistook the shuttle for an enemy craft obliterated it and everyone on it. When she found out, it devastated her. After that, there was no way we could get her into a relationship with anyone. Her work consumed her until that fateful day when you entered our lives. So you and she are not all that different.”
“You’re so right,” Hannibal answered as they watched her mingle with the others. The dancing had ceased and they stood simply conversing. She would occasionally sneak a peek around at Hannibal. “Did you get Brother Paul something to take home?” he asked.
“Yes, but he wouldn’t accept it. He said doing the Lord’s will was reward enough,” Nathanael replied.
Hannibal rubbed the side of his face. “That sounds like him. Send him a little something with a note saying it is an offering for his ministry,” he ordered.
“Sure thing; you want to send him some of the treasure from the treasure cave?” Nathanael asked.
“Yes,” Hannibal answered. “Send some jewels and gold. The world needs to hear his message, even if they reject it. He’s the only one warning that the end of the age is here. All the rest have rejected the message because it interferes with all their pointless plans. They have no idea how drastically the world is going to change here shortly.”
“They aren’t meant to know,” Nathanael stated. “They’re vessels fitted for destruction, so they mock and scoff the message to their own destruction. They’re just like my people. Only the Lord’s remnant is going to hear and be ready to stand in that day.”
Hannibal touched Nathanael’s arm, saying, “You’re so right in your assessment. Only those the Lord has drawn to hear are going to heed the message. Many are going to die in what’s coming and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The judgment has already been decreed and its fulfillment is at hand. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about that. It troubles me that I have suddenly found myself swept up into events that’ll change humanity forever. These events have taken on a life of their own and I’m powerless to direct them in any way. It seems that my whole life has been that way. The more I try to control the events of my life, the more I’m simply swept along by them like a leaf before the wind, forcing me to react rather than to act.” He chuckled softly and continued, “The only thing that makes it tolerable is that the Lord has apparently guided every decision and every step I’ve ever taken whether I believed or not.”
Hannibal looked at Selina as she mingled with the crowd. “Just take this evening for instance,” he stated. “Getting married to your daughter was the last thing on my mind when I came down here tonight. Nor was the Lord speaking directly to me through Brother Paul about the expedition and marrying Selina. But it always works like that when the Lord works His will. Our idea of what we think is right and what His will is often is two very different things. Moreover, when His will is revealed, as it was this evening, the only thing we can do is submit, even if we think it’s a mistake. But you know...His will is never wrong. One thing that I have noticed with me is that when He has something really big in mind for me, He always allows me to be blindsided by it so that my faith, rather than my intellect, can act on it. If my intellect gets a hold of it, I usually get into second guessing it and that’s when I get into trouble.”
Nathanael sat listening intently as Hannibal poured out his heart about the evening. “I was completely blindsided by the events here tonight,” Hannibal admitted. “I’m still having a problem comprehending that I’m now married to Selina, even though I know and believe with every fiber of my being that it has been the Lord’s will all along. I was completely insane to think anything else. The Lord has always given me what I’ve needed when I needed it and not a moment before I needed it. Apparently, He thinks I need Selina’s help and I’m not one to really argue with that at this point.” He paused for a minute and then asked, “How long have you all been planning this behind my back?”
Nathanael smiled broadly. “We been planning this for more than six months,” he declared. “Initially, it was just supposed to be a party. A simple ‘thank you for all you’ve done’ party. It became a wedding within the last month, right after the incident in the Library. It became obvious then that the two of you belonged together. It showed long before that but that night when Harry, Mary, and I saw what lengths Selina went to in order to bring you out of the coma, that was the final act that synched it. Then when she brazenly shared your bed in order to give you that extra dose of her purr therapy to help accelerate your recovery, I knew it then without a doubt. She has never gone to those lengths for anyone before, much less willingly shared a bed with anyone. So, I had a long talk with her the night after she slept with you to find out whether she believed it was the right thing for you two to be together. She let me know in no uncertain terms that she’s believed that since we first came here.” Nathanael paused a moment as they watched Selina talk with Mary, Harry, and Dennis.
Nathanael looked Hannibal dead in the eye and stated, “Hannibal, she loves you more than you’ll ever know. She’ll die for you in an instant. Do you know how long I have waited for this? She’s found in you what she’s needed all her life: someone not just to relate to, but someone who will respond to her needs and desires on her level. She told me about the kiss you gave her when you woke up after the incident with machine in the Library. You should have heard the way she spoke of it. You touched her soul with that kiss and inadvertently snared her. And the way she spoke of that second night with you, I saw an excitement in her that I hadn’t seen in years. The last time I saw her anywhere near that excited about a man was when she was with her boyfriend that was killed in the shuttle incident. Believe me, I’ve waited and prayed for this day a long time. But anyway, it was at that point that the party became something more. In order to verify it, we contacted Brother Paul, knowing you believed that he was the prophet of the Lord. We figured that if anyone would know about it, he would and he did. We didn’t get the preparations finished for this until last night. We asked if Brother Paul would perform the ceremony and he consented. I’ll bet he’ll never do another wedding like that again.” Hannibal sat in stunned silence as he tried to comprehend what Nathanael told him.
Nathanael saw the look and put his hand on Hannibal’s knee as Hannibal watched Selina. “You love her, don’t you? You always have,” Nathanael said softly.
Hannibal nodded with a sigh. “I do. Lord help me, I do. I love her so much it hurts. It’s hard to believe that you had everyone in on this and I didn’t know. You all went to a whole lot of trouble to do this. I’m deeply moved by the gesture,” Hannibal whispered, realizing the vastness of the plot. “You all loved me enough to go to that much trouble to show your appreciation. How can I ever thank you all?”
“No thanks are needed,” Nathanael answered. “We’re all family here and everyone sees you as the spiritual head of this house, just as the prophet is the spiritual head of those who stay on that farm with him. Of course, we also know that you submit yourself to his authority by your example. We all look to you and him for guidance and direction from the Lord. The Lord has done a wonderful work here in bringing us together and getting us to live in harmony and unity. Just look how well everyone responded to Brother Paul’s preaching. So just remember, we show appreciation to you for all that you’ve done but we give God the glory for Him having you here to be our head. Everyone here loves you dearly. That was the main reason for this. We all know that you’ll soon go and we wanted to show you how much we loved and appreciated you before you did.”
“I had no idea that you all thought so highly of me,” Hannibal admitted, once again overcome with the knowledge he had just heard from Nathanael. “I figured you all would have resented me some because of how hard I pushed you.”
“Not at all,” Nathanael replied. “We all know the circumstances which you have to deal with, which often aren’t very pleasant. We also remember the circumstances under which you brought everyone here. Needless to say, they were unusual and sometimes dire. We just fight the good fight and remember where we came from.”
“You all are the finest group of people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with and being part of. And you’re a true friend and brother in the Lord, Nathanael,” Hannibal returned. “Who knows where I would be now without you. Among all the souls that I have encountered throughout my life, you and Selina are unique and very special. Selina is your pride and joy: your greatest treasure. I knew this from the moment we met. Who else would give up their most prized possession to a friend without any hesitation? Very, very few people would even think of giving all like you and Selina have. I can’t thank you enough. You have given me something infinitely more valuable than all the gold and jewels in the world.”
Nathanael put his hand on Hannibal’s shoulder and looked him in the eye. “Yes,” he agreed. “Selina is my greatest treasure. She’s my flesh and blood: all that I have left from our old life, family, and world. She’s absolutely precious to me and I’ll do anything to keep her safe. But I’ve come to realize something in the short time we’ve been here on this small planet. The Lord wants us to give up everything we cling to and rely solely on Him. He doesn’t want anything to come between Him and His people: not our possessions, family, friends, or even our own will. About eight months ago, I began to realize that I was eventually going to have to commit Selina into His hands because the way I’ve been shielding her from this world wasn’t right. Protecting her was getting between the Lord and me. You know the scripture. If you love anything more than Him, you are not worthy of Him. I realized that I loved my daughter more than Him. At that point, I began to ask the Lord what to do about it. I didn’t get an answer so I simply put her in His hands. However, the answer as to what to do came a month ago and I knew what I had to do. I had to give her up and fortunately, the Lord had me give her up to you, my closest friend. I know you’ll keep her safe and love her the way she needs to be loved. As she herself stated, you’re kindred spirits…soul mates. That’s something that’s extremely rare where I come from and I’m sure it’s the same here with your people. It takes divine intervention to bring together people who aren’t just kindred spirits but soul mates too. That shows His power in dramatic way. You two have been destined to be together since before the creation of the universe, from the very moment the Lord had you in mind before He made you. I couldn’t ask for a better match for her. The Lord has a way of doing that. It was hard to let her go like that but I know and believe the Lord wouldn’t have done this if He weren’t going to get the glory by it.”
“That He does. All the glory goes to Him for this union,” Hannibal said. “She has completed me. That hole in my heart has been healed by the mercy of the Lord.”
As Hannibal and Nathanael talked, the crowd slowly thinned out as the people slowly left the cafeteria. They congratulated Hannibal before going back to their quarters. Selina joined Hannibal and Nathanael at the table with Harry and his family. They talked for a little while. Within a half hour, everyone had gone home except for those sitting at the table. The music had been shut off and Hannibal looked at his pocket watch. It read 11:30 p.m. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m beat. It has been one long day for me,” he stated wearily.
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “Let’s go home.” He looked over at Dennis, who had fallen asleep at the table.
“Looks like someone couldn’t wait,” Nathanael said with a fatherly smile.
“Yes; he had a great time tonight,” Harry agreed as he rose from the table and picked Dennis up. Everyone followed his lead and stood.
“Shall we go home, Princess?” Hannibal asked in a gentlemanly manner, offering his arm.
“It would be my pleasure, sir,” Selina answered in a formal, dignified manner fitting of royalty. She and Hannibal locked arms and everyone walked back to the barracks. They conversed as they slowly covered the distance, stopping at Hannibal’s door.
“I need to get Dennis into bed. I’ll see you love birds in the morning,” Harry stated as he went to his door and entered.
Mary first hugged Selina, and then Hannibal, saying, “I knew you two belonged together since the first time I saw you together at our house. You’ll not regret what you did tonight.” Hannibal and Selina smiled and thanked her. Mary returned the smile and waved as she disappeared into the door Harry entered.
Nathanael gazed down at Selina and gently touched her chin with his feline fingers, smiling warmly. “My princess has finally found her prince,” he chimed. “Our quarters are going to feel a little empty with you not there.”
“Oh dad,” Selina responded, embracing her father. “I’m not going far away. I’ll be just down the hall, right here.”
Nathanael smiled at her. “Go on,” he purred. “You’ve waited all your life for this moment. The Lord has given both of you your heart’s desire. I’ll be here if you need me.” He then looked at Hannibal and said, “Take good care of her and if something comes up, I’m here for you.”
“I will,” Hannibal answered, reaching out and shaking Nathanael’s hand. “And once again, thank you.”
Nathanael and Hannibal locked eyes and a subconscious bond formed between the two of them. “Have a good night,” Nathanael said, walking to his quarters, leaving Hannibal and Selina alone in the hall.
Hannibal looked at Selina and said, “I know it’s not a castle, but I hope it’ll do.”
“It’s a castle in the clouds as far as I’m concerned as long as you’re there,” Selina replied, looking into his eyes.
“I guess there’s one last tradition we humans do when we marry. It’s this,” Hannibal said as he scooped Selina up and carried her across the threshold. She let out a tiny squeal of surprise as he picked her up. “Welcome home, princess,” he said as he gently sat her down on her feet inside his quarters.
“Your people certainly have strange traditions,” Selina said as she wrapped her arms around him. “This is one that I especially like,” she said softly as she kissed him passionately.
Hannibal responded in kind and after the kiss, he said, “I’d like to get a picture with me dressed more appropriately. It’s another little thing we do.” They looked into each other’s faces and despite the love that flowed between them, their weariness and fatigue showed. “You look tired,” he stated.
“You don’t look much better,” she retorted with a smile.
There was a knock at the door and Hannibal said, “We can do the pictures tomorrow.” Then to the door, he called out, “Come in. It’s open.”
The door slid open revealing Nathanael with a small duffel bag. “I thought you might need these tonight. We can get the rest of your things tomorrow,” he said to Selina as he handed the duffel to her.
“Oh dad…you think of everything,” Selina replied, giving him a hug.
“Okay princess…I’ll see you two in the morning,” Nathanael responded, turning and going out into the hall.
“He sure does look out for you,” Hannibal observed as the door slid shut.
“Yes, he does,” Selina agreed. “In a way, it is a bit annoying but I don’t mind. We have come to a dangerous world. I know he tries to shield me from it but I think he’s finally stopped looking at me as his little girl.”
“In a way, he has,” Hannibal agreed as they slowly started across the living room, holding hands. “He told me this evening while you were dancing what convinced him to do that. But there’s one thing you can be sure of. You’ll always be his little girl and he’ll always be there for you, just like me.”
“You’re a true prince among men,” Selina replied, smiling. “Nobility is not determined by title but by action. You have proven your nobility time and time again with your selfless actions and concern for the people around you.”
“Thank you,” Hannibal replied gratefully. “I appreciate that. It helps to keep me humble.”“It’s my pleasure,” Selina answered as Hannibal led her down the hall to the bedroom.