These chapters don't have titles yet... I haven't thought of anything epic for them yet. Any suggestions?
Elspeth collapsed onto the ground. She hoped the tall stalks of wheat around her would keep her hidden. The border was less than a quarter of a mile away now, but miles had never seemed longer than they did that night.
“I thought I saw something move.”
Elspeth froze when she heard the voice. She tried to calm her heavy breathing as she prayed to the Creator for protection. The grass moved around her. Any minute she expected one of her pursuers to find her, yet they did not. Still, the girl dared not move, just in case they were still there. Then she turned on her side, propping her body up with her elbow, trying to peek above the wheat. If only the border were closer. If she escaped from Sealyn, all would be well. But there was little chance of that now. “The traitor’s daughter,” they called her. What had her father done? He had done nothing but let his life be radically transformed by the Creator. Nothing but deserting the ways of Daron. Nothing but preaching the news of Adan to everyone that he met.
Yes, in Sealyn, this was treason. And not just any treason, but high treason.
The tall stalks moved again. Elspeth was too afraid even to sink back down to the ground. Again, she prayed to the Creator for protection.
Lord, you are our God Palet!
The grain around her rustled, and now Elspeth could see the boots of a man.
Let them not see me!
But Elspeth’s cries were not the will of the Creator. From the light of his torch, the guard caught the glint of Elspeth’s white-blonde hair.
“Over here!” He yelled to his comrade.
Now Elspeth sprang into action. She jumped up from her hiding place and took off running toward the border. If only… she could see the guard towers ahead of her – guard towers in Ladylan - guard towers that meant ‘safety.’ In a last mad rush toward them, Elspeth ran straight into one of Daron’s men. As his hands closed around her arms, Elspeth’s heart sank. That was it. She would most likely die in the morning - but death would take her home to her Creator.
“I’ve got him!” The man shouted. Then he looked down at the wriggling figure. “Er… her!”
Curious now, the other man ran toward them. “Her, eh?”
As the man drew closer, he nodded. “Ah, good, it’s the traitor’s daughter.” He laughed. “No one here to help you now, eh?”
When he said this, Elspeth recognized the man as the one who had tried to take the Law from her that time that Ben had stepped in.
“Take her to the gaol,” the man said. “Tonight she watches her friend die, and tomorrow she has one last chance to decide if she still harbors those traitorous thoughts.”
Darkness covered Elspeth’s eyes, and she felt herself being lifted up and carried. The man’s words rang in her head: Tonight she watches her friend die…
“She has relatives in the town – an uncle, at least. His name is Brock, I think.” Jeffrey said as they entered the town near midday. “And if daddy is here, he might know Elspeth.”
Archie looked at the sky. “We have so little time. And there aren’t really enough of us to split up.”
“Yes there are,” Liam said. “I’ll go with you, Mr. Archie, and Kianna and Jeffrey can go together. We can meet at the town square at…” he looked at the sky. “… sometime before dusk.”
“How will we know?” Jeffrey asked.
Archie pointed at the wall. “When the sun is disappearing behind the wall. That’s when we meet at the town square. They’ll be preparing things then. If we haven’t found anything by that time, perhaps the people we’re looking for will be there.”
“Alright. Let’s go, Kianna.”
Kianna and Jeffrey set off to the left, while Archie and Liam went the opposite direction.
“Where do we start?” Kianna asked.
“The gaol. Though I don’t know if they’ll let us in.”
“They often say family only,” Jeffrey explained, taking Kianna’s hand. “This man here should know where it is.” Jeffrey approached a guard that stood at a street corner. “Where is the gaol, sir?” Jeffrey asked.
“Just across from the town square.” The guard said. “That direction,” he pointed toward the far wall. “You’ll know when you get to the square.”
They walked toward the square, surveying the town as they went. Both Kianna and Jeffrey looked all around them, searching for Timothy, Jonathan, or any other friendly face. They had seen none by the time they arrived at the square.
“There’s the gaol!” Kianna pointed to their left. She shivered as she looked at it. “It’s not a nice place.”
“Prisons aren’t usually nice places,” Jeffrey said grimly. “For anyone, much less someone like Elspeth.” He approached the soldier at the gate. “Is it possible for us to enter the gaol?” He asked.
“Not unless you’ve family inside.”
Kianna rose up on the balls of her feet and whispered in Jeffrey’s ear. “She is family. The Creator’s family.”
Jeffrey nodded. “Aye, it’s our sister.”
The soldier looked at them strangely. “What’s her name?”
“When was she brought in?”
“Last –“ Jeffrey began.
“Early this morning,” Kianna interrupted.
The soldier muttered something under his breath. “Go on in and ask the guard at the cells. He may know where she is.”
Kianna slipped her arm around Jeffrey’s as they entered. “Where are the cells?” she asked.
“That looks like it may be them over there, with the plain walls and barred windows.”
“It looks awfully cold and damp in there.”
They walked down some stairs and found themselves in an office. Behind a large desk sat a man in Daron’s uniform.
“What do you want?” He asked.
“Our sister is here, Elspeth.”
“When was she brought in?”
“Early this morning.”
He scanned a piece of paper. “Ah… her. No one is allowed to see her.”
Jeffrey nodded. “Could we walk through the cells to see if another relation of ours – our father or brother – is here?”
The man grunted.
The brother and sister walked through the corridor of cells. “Ben? Timothy?” Jeffrey called out. There was no reply. Jeffrey tried again. Then a man stood up near the door of a cell. He didn’t look familiar at all to Jeffrey and Kianna. “Ben?” Jeffrey asked.
“Aye. Who are you?”
“I’m Jeffrey. This is my sister Kianna.”
“We met Elspeth in the forest last night,” Kianna said.
Ben looked hopeful. “How is she?”
Jeffrey shook his head. “I don’t know for sure. I was going to go with her across the border, but she left while I was still asleep. I think she was caught.”
“She’s in the hands of the Creator, as are the rest of us.”
“Do you know of a man called Timothy, or another called Jonathan? They travel together.”
“The names sound familiar. They’re not here in the gaol, but I think they are in Wyan. They at least were. I don’t know if they’re here anymore.”
Kianna shivered. “Jeffrey, it’s so cold in here.”
Jeffrey groaned inwardly. “We’d best be going,” he told Ben. “We’re doing what we can to get Elspeth out. I don’t know if it’s humanly possible, but the Creator is our Help.”
“Aye. I will pray for you.”
“As will we for you.”
“Whatever you do, don’t break the law,” Ben cautioned. “If they catch you, they’ll try you for that, not being followers of the Creator.”
Jeffrey and Kianna left. Out in the open, Kianna began coughing. “It was so damp in there,” she said between coughs.
“Let’s go find a place to sit in the square,” Jeffrey said, supporting her. “We’ll rest there. When you feel better, we can go on.”
Kianna nodded and they found a place to sit in the square. Kianna rested with her head on Jeffrey’s shoulder. Every now and then, she would cough. Jeffrey watched people go by, praying for Kianna as he sat. Please don’t take her after You’ve given her back!
She coughed again, and he put an arm around her shoulder, holding her close. Please, don’t take her! He repeated.
“I gave her to you.”
“Remember what you talked about with Donagh.”
Your perfect plan, Creator.
“Aye. You trusted me before. Have I failed you?”
“Trust me again.”
Jeffrey relaxed slightly. Beside him, Kianna now breathed quietly. He looked down at her. She was sleeping peacefully. Now he realized his exhaustion from all of the days of traveling. How he longed to be back with Donagh, perusing books, eating warm food, sleeping in a comfortable bed… Soon, he reminded himself. Soon we’ll settle down and stop traveling. We’ll have a home, like in Ladylan, almost like in Tilkah. Daddy will be with us. Kianna will get better. We’ll go about the work of the Creator here in Sealyn. We’ll show His might to followers of Daron, we’ll…
“Excuse me, young man.”
Jeffrey jerked out of his thoughts to see a man standing a few feet in front of him. “Hello, sir.”
“Is your friend there alright?”
“She’s my sister.” Jeffrey looked down at her. “She’s sick.”
“I’ve got a place across square. My friend knows some about doctoring.”
Jeffrey glanced at the sun. It was still high in the sky. He nodded. “For the time being, anyway. We have to meet someone later.” The young man bent down to whisper in Kianna’s ear, gently shaking her awake. He helped her to her feet and they walked across the square, following the man.
As they entered the house, the man called out. “Timothy?”
Kianna and Jeffrey looked at each other. Two men… one named Timothy.
“Jeffrey…” Kianna said suddenly. She coughed, leaning heavily on Jeffrey. “I need to lie down.”
“Sir…” Jeffrey said. The man turned around. “Is there a place she can rest?”
The man pointed to a couch. “Let her lie there. My friend will be down in a moment.”
Kianna lay down, and Jeffrey knelt by her side. “It’s alright, Kianna. One of the men here knows some about medicine. We’ll rest here until it’s time to meet Archie and Liam in the square.” He stroked her hair gently.
Jeffrey stood as he heard another man enter the room. The man crossed the room and offered his hand for Jeffrey to shake.
“My name’s Timothy.”
A shadow passed over the man’s face. He said nothing, but seemed to stare out of the window, unconcerned with the figure on the couch who had drifted off into the land of slumber once more.
“Sir, my sister…” Jeffrey began.
Timothy snapped out of his thoughts and turned his attention to the girl. “What’s the problem?”
“She got sick on the ship and even though we’ve been on land almost a month now and she was mostly better on the ship she’s still weak and getting weaker.”
“Where were you coming from?”
“Run into a storm on the way?”
Suddenly Jonathan came closer. “Which island?”
“We left from Ocadem, but lived on Tilkah… why?”
“What’s your sister’s name?”
“It’s me, Jeffrey. It’s Jonathan!”
Jeffrey stared at him. “I… I didn’t dare to hope… when I heard… oh…” He closed his eyes as they filled with tears. His hands shook with excitement as he turned to Timothy. “Daddy,” he said. The tears flowed over onto his cheeks as Jeffrey embraced his father.
Startled, Timothy didn’t return the hug for a brief moment. Then joy overwhelmed him and he almost swept Jeffrey off his feet. “My son, my son, my son,” he cried. “Oh, Jeffrey…” He released him, stepping back to look at his child. “I can’t believe… I prayed for so long, Oh, thank You, Creator!”
Jeffrey grinned. “Oh, He is so good!”
Timothy’s arms surrounded Jeffrey once more. They only ended their embrace when Kianna’s coughing broke their happiness.
Instantly, Timothy was at his daughter’s side. He looked at her lovingly. “So, this is my Kianna, all grown up.” He quickly felt her pulse, and then began examining her. “How sick was she on the ship?”
“Laid up for days.” Jeffrey paused, trembling at the memory. “The doctor thought she was going to die.”
Timothy nodded. He looked grim. “I would think so, too, but I know that the Creator works miracles.”
Jeffrey knelt beside his father. “You think it’s that bad… daddy?”
Shaking his head, Timothy replied. “I don’t know for sure. She’s weak. Listen to the way she coughs. I don’t know enough to really tell what’s going on.”
“She won’t listen to me when I tell her to rest.”
Timothy smiled. “Just like my Kianna.”
“She’ll listen to you, though, and now that we found you, we can stay here.”
“You were looking for me?”
“Not originally. We were looking for a place to do the work of the Creator. We found a copy of the Law, in a bookstore. Kianna recognized your handwriting. Then Mr. Archie told us where Jonathan had gone. The man said you had gone to Wyan. We came here as fast as we could… probably too fast. Kianna was getting better.”
“Well, Jonathan and I intended to stay here for a long while. Kianna will have good rest.”
She stirred on the couch.
“When she knows we found you, she’ll be so excited.”
Timothy brushed a strand of hair off Kianna’s face. “Leave her be for now.”
“How is Liam?”
“I can take you to see him soon. When the sun disappears behind the wall, we’re meeting him and Mr. Archie in the town square. He’s growing in leaps and bounds – in height, wisdom, and knowledge of the Creator.”
“Well. But the journey here was especially hard on him. Kianna wasn’t the only one who got sick. Mr. Keegan… he…” It became too much for Jeffrey to withhold his grief any longer. He had kept it inside after his conversation with Archie in the cabin the day Keegan was buried. Now the young man fell into his father’s arms and sobbed. As he cried, Jeffrey felt tears falling from above as well, and knew that Timothy was weeping for their friend as well.
“He didn’t want me to cry,” Jeffrey said through his tears. “He reminded me that he was going to be with our Beloved Redeemer.”
“He beat me there,” Timothy said, smiling a little. “We used to joke about that sometimes. I’d say I’d be there first because I was older… then he’d say he’d be there first because of his dangerous job. Ah, well,” Timothy sighed, “he was right in the end.”
Jeffrey squinted as the sun shone through the window. “It’s almost time, he said.” Then he realized what he had forgotten in all of the excitement. “Do you a man named Brock?” He asked. “Or a girl named Elspeth?”
“What do they look like? We meet many in passing.”
“I haven’t met Brock – he’s Elspeth’s uncle – but Elspeth we met in the forest last night. She’s small, but near my age, with light blonde hair. Her father is in the gaol.”
“I think I may know who you are talking about.”
“She was taken last night. A soldier who follows the Creator – Ben is his name – is dying tonight at dusk. We’re afraid she may be, too.”
“And you want to save her?”
“If things go as usual,” Jonathan said, “then she’ll watch him die and then have a chance to recant. If she says no, they’ll probably execute her tomorrow.”
“So we have time.”
“Most likely. I don’t know for sure.”
“They wouldn’t let us in to see her at the gaol.”
“How’d you get into the gaol at all?”
“We said she was our sister.”
“Well, she is!”
“Aye.” He moved to look out of the window. “We won’t be able to get her from the gaol, but there still may be a way to save her.”
“When they go to and from the gaol, especially on the way out. The man will be more heavily guarded than she is.”
“But should we fight them?”
“We’ll keep our eyes out for an opportunity,” Timothy said. “We shouldn’t break the law.”
“We’ll do it somehow. I think if we create a diversion we can slip her right out from under their noses,” Jonathan said.
“I still don’t know.” Jeffrey looked at the sun again. “We have a while to pray before we need to meet Mr. Archie.”
Jonathan knelt next to Timothy and Jeffrey.
“Then let us bring our petitions before the throne of the One who created this earth and is sovereign over each step we take,” Timothy said.
“They should be here any minute,” Liam said. Beside him, Archie watched soldiers moving about the square, preparing for the evening’s events.
“Aye,” he said absentmindedly.
Across the street, Jonathan, Timothy, and Jeffrey exited the small house that the two men lived in.
“There they are,” Jeffrey pointed across the square. He ran to Liam and Archie. “I found them!” he said, catching his breath. Timothy and Jonathan joined them, and what followed was a reunion like none other before it – except perhaps when Nigel rejoined his family in Dlani, long ago.
Then the setting sun reminded them of the task at hand.
“I assume Jeffrey told you our mission,” Archie said.
Jonathan and Timothy nodded.
“We were working out a way not an hour ago,” Jonathan quickly explained his idea.
Archie looked at the soldiers. “Aye, it might work. Though I don’t know if it’s the wisest way to do it.” He paused. “There’s something in me that holds back from doing it. There’s got to be some way to do it within the law.”
“The only thing I can think of is to march into the gaol and try to convince them to let Elspeth go.” Jeffrey said. “But they wouldn’t even let Kianna and I see her.”
“Where is Kianna?”
“In our house – sleeping,” Timothy said. “Jeffrey’s plan is worth a try. It’s best to go now.”
“Who should go?”
“I tried earlier. Perhaps Liam should try.”
Liam hesitated for a moment, but then nodded. “I’m willing to go.”
Timothy nodded. “It’s our best option, if they know her father is in the gaol and they’ve already seen Jeffrey.” He briefly told Liam what to do and say, and then sent him to the gaol.
“What do we do if it doesn’t work?” Jeffrey asked.
“Try our other plan,” replied Jonathan.
“I don’t like it,” Timothy said. “Adan tells us to submit to authority, because the Creator has placed those people in authority. We don’t have a specific command from the Creator that goes against what the government is doing.”
“Aye, but the Creator still set its rulers up, and Adan’s Word says that whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed – unless it goes against His Law, which our case does not.”
“There must be some other way,” Archie said.
“They won’t just let her go… they chased her and were out looking for her last night.” Jeffrey paced as he thought. “Ben…” he said, remembering. “He told us not to break the law. They’d try us for breaking it, not following the Creator.” Jeffrey looked at Timothy. “That’s not how I want to die.”
They heard footsteps approaching. It was Liam. He shook his head.
“They wouldn’t listen to me,” he said. “I mentioned Elspeth and they heard nothing past that. They’re set on their intentions.”
“What can we do?” Jeffrey asked, groaning.
“The only thing we can.” Timothy said.
“What’s that?” Liam wondered.
They stood together in the square, still thinking, for a long while. The sun sank lower, and all of them knew that soon it would be time. The number of people in the square grew as dusk drew nearer. Jeffrey wordlessly watched sky grow darker. Timothy told Liam to go to the house and keep Kianna company, but everyone knew he did it for Liam’s safety.
The sound of marching came from the gaol as Liam disappeared inside the house. Jeffrey and Archie shared a worried glance.
“Let’s get up closer,” Jonathan suggested. The soldiers had set off part of the square for the execution.
“So we can watch him die better?” Jeffrey asked bluntly.
“If Elspeth is made to watch, she’ll be right there. I’m still keeping a watch for anything we can do.”
They moved to near the barriers that separated the people from where Ben would be. The soldiers guarding him were fast approaching. He was in the middle of them, hands bound. He held his head high and followed bravely.
“Do you see Elspeth?” Archie asked.
Jeffrey craned his neck to see. “Not yet. There are more soldiers still coming.”
“I guess it’s a good thing we’re not trying to create a diversion.”
“Aye… I think I may see her now.”
“At the end of all of the soldiers. Between two of them. She’s not bound at all.”
“I’m still clueless as to how to save her,” Timothy whispered to Jeffrey.
“I’m doing what you said,” Jeffrey whispered back. “Trusting.”
“Aye. Trust and pray.”
They waited. The soldiers drew nearer. Now they opened part of the barrier and brought Ben in.
“I don’t want to watch,” Jeffrey told Timothy.
Timothy put his arm around his son. “Nor do I. But we must keep our eyes open.”
The soldiers tied Ben to a stake.
“Why do they always have to burn them?”
Timothy shook his head. “Perhaps because Daron breaths fire. I don’t know.”
Now the soldiers were piling wood high around Ben. They brought Elspeth near the front. She was so close Jeffrey could have touched her, but he made no sign of recognition.
“That’s her,” he whispered to his father.
“Hush,” Timothy answered.
A soldier drew near to Ben with a torch. “This man dies tonight because he is a traitor to Daron and our government. Let it be a warning to everyone – whoever does likewise will suffer the same death!” He dropped the torch onto the wood. Elspeth turned away, meeting Jeffrey’s gaze in the process.
“Pray,” he mouthed noiselessly, and then looked away.
A voice rose above the hubbub of the crowd. Ben was singing as the flames rose up around him.
“A sinner, I, estranged from God,
Warranting of a bitter rod,
He me pursued persistently
Though I refused defiantly.
“It was death that my crime deserved,
But justice not on me was served,
On Adan God poured out His wrath,
And saved me from the sinner’s path.
“For Him alone I now do live,
For He to me His love doth give,
A greater love that knows no bounds,
And Daron’s strength impounds.”
The flames had reached Ben’s throat, yet he showed no signs of fear, trusting wholly on the promises of the Creator. He no longer sang but the song went on as followers of the Creator in the crowd began to sing, rejoicing in the last verse of the song they all knew so well. The soldiers did all they could to quiet them, but failed.
“Though trials come and sorrows be,
His triumph we will ever see,
Upon that day of His return,
For which now we watch and yearn!”
As they sang the final words, Elspeth fainted, falling through the barrier. The soldiers took no notice; they were busy trying to silence the crowd. But Jeffrey did take notice, as Elspeth landed at his feet.
“Daddy,” He said. He bent down to pick her up. “We have to get to the house.”
Jonathan stepped forward. “I’ll carry her. You’re too tall; I’m the shortest.”
Jeffrey was puzzled for a moment, but when Timothy agreed, he let Jonathan carry Elspeth. The taller three hid Jonathan as they walked through the crowd toward the house.
“Keep singing,” Timothy told everyone they passed.
“Praise the Creator for the size of this crowd,” Archie said as they reached the doorstep. “It keeps us hidden right up to safety.”
They entered the house. Kianna was sitting up on the couch, and Liam sat beside her.
“Quick, close the curtains,” Timothy said. “Get the girl into the back room, near the door. I don’t think anyone saw us, but we have to leave quickly.”
Jeffrey ran to Timothy’s side. “What about Kianna? She has to rest.”
“I have a cart. Jonathan, grab some blankets and put them in the cart. Liam, there’s a stack of books on the floor near the bookshelf. Take those and follow Jonathan. Jeffrey, the kitchen is right there. Get some food. I’ll be back down in a minute.”
“What should I do?” Archie asked.
“Get anything you think we might need.”
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know.” Timothy ran up the stairs to pack a few belongings of his and Jonathan’s. Everyone else followed his instructions. It only took a few minutes before they were all in the cart, with oxen hitched up to the front of it and everyone inside. They covered Elspeth with a blanket and sat so as to hide that anyone was there. Kianna lay on the opposite side of the cart.
“Cough as much as you can,” Timothy told her. “Remember, you’re very sick.” He sat on a plank up front, steering the oxen. “We’re leaving to another town where there’s a better doctor.”
“What town?” Archie asked.
“What’s the name of the town where the bookstore is?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Bonnar,” Jeffrey said. “Mr. Donagh had a pinpoint on the map marking it.”
“Then to Bonnar we go.”
The oxen pulled them out into an alleyway behind the house.
“Pray hard,” Jonathan said, “that they haven’t already figured out she’s gone.”
“By the sounds coming from the square, I think the soldiers are still trying to quiet the crowd.”
“They’re singing,” Kianna said quietly.
“What are they singing?” Liam wondered.
“We were singing your favorite, Kianna, but now I don’t know.” Jeffrey answered.
“Him serve with mirth,” Timothy said. “Hush, we’re out in the open now.”
The cart rolled along toward the gate. Although everyone inside it looked nonchalant, inside they were in turmoil. Their only comfort was in prayer and the Creator’s perfect plan.
“Where ya headed?” The guard at the gate asked.
“Why does it matter?”
“Just doin’ my duty.”
“We’re going there for a better doctor,” Timothy explained.
“All of ye?”
He cranked open the gate. “Off ye go.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, Timothy urged the oxen on. The gate closed behind them with a thud.
“Thank you, Creator!” Archie whispered.
“His protection is great,” Jonathan said. “Let us pray that He continues to keep us journeying safely.”
“Sleep while you can,” Timothy advised. “The oxen won’t tire across such a flat land. We’ll take turns driving and be in Bonnar by tomorrow night.”
“Will soldiers come looking tonight?” Kianna wondered.
“I don’t think so,” Archie said. “In Rakeyna we’d always wait until morning. Most people stop for the night.”
“Most people don’t leave at night,” Jeffrey said.
Under the blanket, Elspeth stirred. Jonathan pulled the blanket off her. She was sleeping peacefully now.
“Someone back there keep an eye out, but otherwise don’t worry.” Timothy suggested.
“I’ll watch first,” Liam offered.
“No, you sleep, lad,” Jonathan said. “I’ll watch. I’ve had a good nights sleep this whole month, and you’ve not.”
Liam lay down with his head on Archie’s lap. Soon everyone except Timothy and Jonathan was sleeping. Timothy whispered his prayers to the Creator as he drove. Jonathan prayed silently as he looked at the countryside rolling away behind them.
The night was serene, with the stars and moon lighting the way, the wind stirring the trees, and the gentle rumble of the cart across the ground. In the distance, an owl hooted, and another bird echoed the call. There was no one on the path between Wyan and Bonnar but those in the little cart. At first, it seemed odd to Jonathan, but then he grew to like it. It would be easier to hear or see any soldiers, and the silence was welcome after the hours of heavy prayer and the time in the crowd.
Sometime later, Jonathan heard someone move behind him. He turned to look at the floor of the cart.
Elspeth had woken, and lay still, her eyes open and staring up at the stars. Then she sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Where am I?” She asked.
“With friends,” Jonathan said.
“Is that the lass awake?” Timothy called back.
“Aye.” Jonathan turned to Elspeth. “Your name is Elspeth, aye?”
She nodded. “How do you know?”
“Your friends Archie, Kianna, Jeffrey, and Liam introduced you to us… in a roundabout way.”
“But… I left them in the forest.”
“They rescued you in Wyan,” Timothy said.
“You fainted,” Jonathan explained. “And Jeffrey thought fast. We carried you through the crowd to our house, where we quickly loaded up the cart and went on our way.”
“Thank you,” the maiden said softly. “And Ben?”
“He…” Jonathan began.
“He died like a true follower of the Creator,” Timothy said. “He had no fear, but sang the praises of the Creator until his last breath.”
“Who dieth thus, dieth well,” Elspeth murmured.
“Something my father used to say when a follower of the Creator was executed. When we die in such a way that glorifies the Creator, and cling to His promises as we die, we die well.”
Jonathan nodded pensively. “That is very well said.”
“My father said many things well. He was wise in the things of the Creator.”
“Where is he now – that is, if you don’t mind me asking?” Timothy asked.
“I don’t know,” Elspeth said. “They put him in the gaol over a month ago, and recently moved him. No one would tell Ben where they put him, and then… everything happened so fast!” She bit her lip. “I can’t believe they’re both gone.” Bursting into tears, Elspeth hid her face with her hands.
Timothy beckoned to Jonathan and the two traded places. Timothy sat beside Elspeth.
“You are not alone, lass. The Creator is ever with us, and I will welcome you as my own daughter.” He took a deep breath. “I know I cannot bring them back, nor can I rightly send you on to them. But take joy in looking forward to the day when we will all be together in heaven. We have been through trials much the same, Elspeth. Ten years ago, we were leaving Rakeyna, the city we are from in Ladylan. I pushed my family – these three you see here, my children – and my wife on ahead into the forest. I knew we were being chased and would be pursued far unless I gave myself up. For some months, I sat in a prison in Ladylan, not knowing what had become of them. Then I was sent here, where Jonathan found me. He told me that my precious wife had died. Since then many more have left our numbers in Edaled and joined the Creator. It weighs heavily on all of our hearts; we all walk with hidden grief. But the Creator brings joy.”
Elspeth wiped her tears away. “Aye,” she said quietly. “And those who have gone on before us would not like to see us weep. They are in a better place than we are.” She looked up into Timothy’s face. “I would be glad to be as a daughter to you.”
“Then welcome to our family.”
The maiden smiled. “Look,” she said, pointing to the horizon. “The sun is rising.”
“Aye. ‘Tis beautiful, is it not?”
She nodded. “To Him who made the great lights, for His steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for His steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for His steadfast love endures forever,” she said, quoting the Law.
“His love does indeed endure forever.”
Soon Jeffrey opened his eyes. He stretched and yawned, then sat up.
“Good morning, Jeffrey,” Timothy said.
“Good morning, daddy. Mornin’, Elspeth.” Jeffrey looked around at the land they were quickly passing over. “Where are we?”
“Halfway between Wyan and Bonnar, at least, we should be,” Jonathan called back.
“Have you two been up all night?” Jeffrey asked.
The young man climbed up to the front of the wagon. “Get some sleep,” he told Jonathan. “I can drive. You and daddy need to rest.”
“Who will keep watch?” Jonathan asked, almost in protest.
“I will,” Elspeth said. “I’m not tired at all.”
“Thank you both,” Timothy said. “I was wondering how much longer I could keep awake.” He and Jonathan lay down to sleep. Jeffrey drove the cart in silence, while Elspeth watched the land roll away behind them.
“Oh, I wish papa could be here,” she said.
“Oh,” Elspeth said, startled. “I didn’t realize I spoke out loud.”
“Being out in a place like this does that to you, doesn’t it?”
“It’s so easy to forget there are other people around when it’s so quiet and peaceful.”
“It’s nice to be away from the city – away from all the people and tumult.”
“I don’t see why people like cities,” Jeffrey admitted. He thought of their days on the islands. “I like the sea and a small, cozy house with a large garden around it.”
“So do I, but I haven’t found that place yet.”
“It does exist,” Jeffrey said. “On the islands off of Minarea. I miss it.”
“What are the islands like?”
“The best place in the world. Not too cold – but still cold enough to dress warmly when you want to – it rains just the right amount, the sea is right out your door, there aren’t cities, but everyone still lives close to you. It was a beautiful place to serve the Creator.”
“Everywhere is beautiful when you’re serving Him. I could be happy in the largest, most bustling city if I was about His business there.”
“Aye. Thank you for that reminder, Elspeth. I am so glad that His joy is not based on circumstance.” They lapsed into silence, which was broken a few minutes later when Kianna began coughing. Jeffrey pulled the oxen to a halt and turned around. Elspeth was already at Kianna’s side and helped her sit up.
“Thank you,” Jeffrey said. He wanted to be by Kianna, but knew that Elspeth would take good care of her, so he urged the oxen on.
“How much longer?” Kianna asked weakly.
Jeffrey looked at the sky. “It’s still a while. But think about it – when we get there, we’ll be at Mr. Donagh’s bookstore – warm beds, warm food… and no, Kianna, no washing any dishes. It’s straight to bed with you.”
Kianna wished that her brother was only joking, but she knew how concerned he was about her health. She had been finding it harder to keep busy serving others lately. She tired quickly and had to rest often. It was becoming harder and harder to hide her fatigue. She had managed it during their journey from Bonnar to Wyan, but now all of the concealed exhaustion was being revealed.
The cart rumbled on. Archie woke soon after Kianna, but Liam slumbered away until midday, when Archie relieved Jeffrey up front.
“Do you think anyone is following us?” Jeffrey asked when Timothy woke an hour later.
“I don’t know. I hope that they won’t be able to connect the dots between our cart and Elspeth. She was completely hidden and the soldier didn’t seem to notice her.”
“They won’t scour the land looking for her, will they?” Liam wondered.
“I’m not that important,” Elspeth said.
“They might,” Timothy admitted. “Though I don’t think they’d go farther than Bonnar. I really don’t know. Elspeth is a traitor according to their laws, but she was not publically known as so.”
“What’s the difference between Elspeth breaking the law and what we would have done had we taken Elspeth from the gaol?” Liam asked.
“That’s a good question, Liam. Elspeth broke the laws of Sealyn that were contrary to the commands of the Creator. Things like not following the Creator, not praying, not singing His praises – things that He commands in His Law or that Adan tells us to do in His Word. However, if we broke into the gaol – or fought the soldiers – to free Elspeth, I believe that that would be acting contrary to how a follower of the Creator should. That would only aid Daron because it would give us a bad name, and the lies they speak of us would be true.”
“Then I’m glad we didn’t go with our original plan,” Liam said.
“Aye, so am I. This one worked much better.”
Jonathan stirred and sat up. “What time is it?”
“An hour or so after midday,” Jeffrey said. “When do you think we’ll be there, daddy?”
“Before dark, for sure.”
Jeffrey glanced at Kianna worriedly. Timothy understood the glance and nodded. “It’ll be fine,” he said. “Liam, hand me the books I asked you to get earlier.”
Liam handed his father the books, and they read from the Law and Word until arriving in Bonnar as the sun began to set.