by Kessee Anderson
“There he is, get him!” the scream pierced the jungle night.
Zezromihah pushed away from the tree base that served as his hiding place and churned his powerful legs up the slope, Mal'ach hamavet or angel of death, his war axe in hand. Got to get to the top. Keep moving. Don’t stop! Blood pulsed through his head. His white robes whipped in and out of the jungle foliage like a specter. Jungle branches and vines slashed across his face as he blasted up the deer path he had scouted earlier. Every other stride he quickly darted his eyes to his left hand. The ringed white rock gleamed. I don’t understand, but I will obey.
He immediately changed direction and plowed through a mass of overgrowth and foliage that looked impenetrable. Even his most practiced of steps in the jungle were no match for the density of the fauna he encountered. Half falling, half tripping, a shock of relief overcame him when he realized he had dropped into an undiscovered jungle clearing. The grade of the mountain coupled with the angular up growth of the dense trees became a perfect cover for his flight. In the past the dead of night always played to his advantage, he was the perfect warrior, but the donning of his white robes changed all that. The dead of night was no ally at all. He spanned the lengthy clearing quickly. Sweat was pouring from his brow unchecked. His breath came heavily from the duration and speed of his flight. Control yourself. Master your body. His pulse immediately slowed. His breathing hushed to a whisper.
Listening intently he could hear movement on the other side of the living wall of plantation he crashed through moments before. Glancing down to his hand a scene projected into his mind. He saw the war party on the other side. They had stopped.
“What!? Korihan, where did his trail go!?” fear gripped the voice, “I don’t like this…I don’t think the robed one’s are human…”
Korihan cut him off, “Of COURSE they are human.” Frustration mounting his voice.
“But he moves like a ghost! It’s as if he is the living embodiment of the Great Spirit! He is too large for even a nephite!”
Korihan turned on his companion, grabbing and wrenching his face close to his, “Look into my eyes!”, his deadly gaze held him, “Cumiset, by the blood of our dead brother we will find him! What is this ‘Great Spirit’ you speak of? When the signs do not come to pass we will then be justified in destroying them all.” the last words were whispered, yet penetrated the night air. Korihan gave one last wild eyed stare then slowly turned his gaze back to the darkened trail.
Though outwardly angry, Korihan himself was shaken inwardly. This is impossible…the trail is gone. Vanished. In no way could someone disappear at this point in the trail. Korihan was the most skilled and trusted tracker and scout in Gid-Goshan’s party. He was not looking forward to the upcoming encounter explaining themselves how they let the white robe escape. They continued searching for the better part of an hour. Korihan, spirit defeated, called them back to camp. As lithe and quietly as they ascended the jungle, just as quiet they left.
Once the search party reached more than a mile off, the vision closed to Zezromihah. He examined the white rock in his hand. It’s polished white marble fit smoothly in his palm. It was upside down triangular in shape with the top point aimed up his arm. the workmanship was beyond anything he had ever seen. The circular inlay mesmerized him, a ’v’ shape held it’s base while some symbol he had only seen amongst the temple, but couldn’t place, extended from the top moving down. He would catch himself becoming lost in thought gazing into its shifting and morphing form. It pulsed with a faint light. He didn’t understand what it was, but he did not doubt it’s power. Four thin gold chains held it to his palm. A thicker singular golden chain extended from the downward tip to a golden bracelet that was inlayed with markings he had only seen at one time in his life with the High Priest in the temple. The other three golden chains extended up to three golden rings, the rings were pure and metallic, yet bore an elasticity that conformed with his hands movement keeping the stone always in his palm. Each ring bore a jewel he had never seen before. His index finger ring had a darkened jewel in the shape of a night star gleaming, facing outward embedded into the gold ring. The ring his middle finger bore had a jewel fashioned into a moon encrusted into the gold. The ring bearing a curiously fashioned Sunstone with a face etched onto it’s surface had been the hardest to pull on his hand. It fit his hand perfectly, as if the master craftsmen who was it’s creator knew every nuance his hand offered, but it was the emotional pain it replaced that he was so attached to. For before the Sunring was placed on that finger, the ring of his murdered wife, his symbolic pledge of undying, unyielding love, his commitment of protection to her, the cursed daily reminder he had sickly become dependant on, that ring of memories had kept it‘s place on his finger.
In a start he looked around. Curse my mental wanderings! How much time have I lost dallying! In relief he realized he had about two more hours of night until the break of dawn. He offered a silent prayer of thanks to God for allowing his escape and moved from the clearing. He moved quickly out of the clearing and followed a trail up to the ridge of the mountain. Gathering his bearings he realized he was only two days travel by foot to reach the temple and Aminadan the elder.
As he angled down the leeward side of the mountain in a far off distance the jungle carried a faint rhythmic beat of war drums. He knew the Lamanites were on the march, but the ensuing battle that was to unfold was not to be his…this time. His mission was urgent and he needed to move quickly to get the information he obtained into the right hands. The upcoming war was about to have a second front. A group had emerged of an ancient order that he had never encountered. Only one piece of the puzzle was left out, were these newly discovered ‘Gadianton’s’ vying for power? What was their aim and design? He had heard whisperings about them, but now he had irrefutable evidence of their existence. He needed sleep, but his mission didn’t allow it, using his war axe he cut through more jungle brush. The blessed edge of his axe cut through the vines easily… his mind drifted.
“I am fine with not cutting my hair, and not touching the dead, but no drink of the vine?” He smoothed out his white robes patterned after those his mentor was wearing. Zezromihah knew in his heart the truth of the command but wanted to feign disdain to see the rise it would bring out.
Aminadan the Elder smiled, “Do not be Laban and lose your head.“ sensing the half hearted rebuttal, the creases and lines of his weathered face exaggerated by the light of the fire as he looked away. The night was clear and the trainings had been long into the even times.
Aminadan paused for what felt an eternity, “Zezromihah, I know not all things, but I do companion with one who does. Feel into your soul, you know by the power of the Holy Spirit the truth of the Messiah. I am a simple man, simple in mind, simple in intelligence, but strong in wisdom and obedience. I have survived longer than any man amongst our ancestors and I owe it to obedience, even during the times we have been ravaged by war, I have felt God‘s protecting hand upon me. We are alike in some ways, though you are many seasons younger than me, you and your two brethren are the last of your great race. The Lord by the power of his spirit has chosen you to fulfill a sacred calling.” Aminadan’s bones creaked as his aged frame stood and he moved across the night air of the open plains to his makeshift tent of hides draped over poles. Minutes passed and he came back out, Zezromihah watched as the elder man resumed his position by the fire. Holding in his hand was what appeared to be bound parchment. The fire cracked and popped into the night. Winter was approaching.
Aminadan methodically spoke as he opened the bound parchments, “I have studied our scriptures, I have been caretaker for the plates of brass, and others written by our prophets, in order to preserve our history and ancestry.” Aminadan held his hand out holding the volume to Zezromihah, “The children of Mulek somehow kept this safe. It speaks of our order. The order you have been called. Nephi has revealed unto us the familial war in heaven before the foundations of this earth. But all of our knowledge of it was only the whisperings of the spirit that revealed unto us…until now. This was discovered up in the farther lands north. The book of the Wars of the Lord. Undecipherable till brought to me. I, the High Seer, with the power of Ur and Thum, I translated this into common tongue. I know it will be unlike yours, but I know you understand our language well enough to comprehend.”
Zezromihah opened the papers, diagrams and hieroglyphs unfolded before him, “Children’s stories?“ he smirked to himself. One diagram was of a giant mass of people, two figures were at the top etched in the forms of pleading their story to a greater. The massive audience was broken into three distinct parts. He made out words in the diagrams but his reading skill in the Nephite language was still weak. As he moved through the pages, an understanding began to open his mind. Battle formations, tactics, stratagems became apparent. “You are responsible for Helaman’s skill in commandeering…” his voice broke off in deep thought.
“Not I, the book. Well, not even the book, our God.” Aminadan gazed at the stars and the vast expanses of heaven.
Zezromihah moved from page to page absorbing the scenes that unfolded, “What are these shiny objects moving through the air here? They are not arrows? Some form of weapon?”
“I don’t know. But I do know that one division of the three began a war. They lost and were cast out.” A dread filled Zezromihah’s body at the phrase ’cast out’. He had encountered the ‘cast out’ only once and prayed it was to be his last…but he knew in his heart it was not to be the case. One page seemed devoted to a figure that stood out amongst the group with a sword alighted as if with fire holding back the throng of figures at bay. The next page he turned to held a word Zezromihah could tell was the heading of the page but didn’t understand it. His untrained toungue stumbled, “Kedushah…and I think another word, Nazir..?“
“According to the language of the Jews that word Kadushah is equivalent to your word ‘Tsinctosha’, in the Nephite common it means ‘Holy’. ‘Nazir’ is best translated into your language as ‘Quetzacosha’.”
“Don’t you mean Quetzalcosho, or amongst the others not of my kind Quetzalcoatl?”
“No, it is akin to your word for God, but not God. I think it refers more to an appendage of his power, not him exactly, I have heard the term Nazarite as a descriptor of the to be born Messiah, but I, and you are proof that you are not required to be God to have our calling.” His eyes gleamed at the thought.
The image under the top inscription was of a man, thick mane of hair flowed and crested his shoulders, face was fair and cleanshaven, he wore whitest of robes, sword held in a sheath bearing the same markings he had seen during his rites of passage in the temple. The figures left hand was held out. An artifact was held to the figures palm; the ’white rock’. Zezromihah’s eyes moved toward his war axe, Mal'ach hamavet, it’s edge and head gleaming with the same faint light as the artifact he possessed in his hand. Closing his hand he then looked to Aminadan…his own artifact in his hand faintly gleamed. Had one not known where to look one would not recognize the barely audible glow.
“These are soul trying times. I know the Messiah will come. Lyings are spread about the time of his coming, many are saying the time has passed, and though many signs have shown themselves, Satan is in the hearts of many people and blinds their eyes to the truth. The sun shines at noon day and they deny it’s light. These battles have only been precursors to the Wars of the Messiah, these Messianic Wars. They have bloodlust for our people. They wish to subjugate and eradicate us as they did to yours all due to the traditions of their fathers and anger they harbor against my progenitors when they crossed the great sea. God is merciful however, and as much as Satan increases his rage, God increases his love.”
Zezromihah’s mind came back to the present. He opened the travel pack on his side and pulled out some dried meat. Jungle cat was a delicacy and he savored each bite as long as he could before he allowed it to depart to his stomache from his mouth. The trail was widening before him. The sun needled it’s way through the canopy covering him. I need to get off this path, it’s too well traveled. He hefted his war axe and began to make his own path. Quickly and deftly with the strokes of a seasoned veteran of battle he tore through the vines. He came across an open glade yet the air grew cold. An unnatural chill had embraced him. He slowed his pace. A great battle had taken place here weeks before. Armaments were rusting, bodies were scattered across the ground where the animals and insects of the jungle began to make work of the flesh. The smell of death penetrated his nostrils. Zezromihah headed the warnings of Aminadab, “Avoid the dead. Touch them not.” He moved his way around the edges of the battle ensuring every step to be safe. The ground felt unholy.
Movement caught Zezromihah from the corner of his eye. Someone had just bounded away from the glade and disappeared into the jungles bowels. A small whisper floated to him from across the glade in a different direction from the personage who escaped, “My brother…I’ve waited so long.” The hair on Zezromihah’s neck stood on end. On the far edge of the battlefield a man came from the deep shade. He sensed an uneasiness he had known only once before. The man was a Lamanite yet he was wearing the armor and trappings of a Nephite. Zezromihah recognized the shield was crested with the mark of Lehum a lesser general in Lachoneus’ army. The man’s steps were erratic and unnatural as if he was unsure of his movements.
Zezromihah needed to escape. Death was surrounding him to his front, though not knowing why, he was obedient in not coming into contact with the corpses though his gut instinct told him to charge through the middle of the field of fallen. He quickly skirted around the edge trying to put distance between him and the attacker.
“Who are you.” Zezromihah stated flatly. Forcing his mind into control of his emotions.
The wispy voice continued, “You are blind…brother.”
The shock came when the voice came to him perfectly in his native tongue. Zezromihah, visibly shaken, inadvertently fell to his own tongue in return, “I am not your brother.”
“Oh, you are my brother, ah, I forget…you are veiled.” the voice carried in wisps and guttural rasps. The voice seemed apart from the body emanating it. The warrior slowly moved across the field, at times slipping on the unsure ground filled with battle paraphernalia.
“State your name.” A shadow of violence inflecting his words. Zezromihah gripped his axe tight.
“Eurynomus.” The man kept moving methodically towards him.
“Means nothing to me.”
“As I said, you are veiled. But know this. I know you.” In a shocking display of speed the armored warrior sprang. Zezromihah jumped aside, swinging his axe upward with all his might. It cleaved the wooden shield in two. He glanced to the ground to ensure he was on safe footing apart from the fallen warriors that littered the ground. His left hand pulsed. The white rock burned bright. The assailant freed his arm of the shield and charged again. Zezromihah looked over his attacker. What manner of diseased abomination is this! Though lamanite in features the skin color was pallid and a dull hue covered his once brown skin. Sick gashes and chunks were ripped from his arms most likely from previous battles. Zezromihah was powerful, but even he knew his one swing into a shield was not the cause of this man’s current condition. His leggings were torn and frayed and it was apparent that this man’s staggering came from walking on half rotted bruised legs, but even in his sickly condition he was unearthly fast. The attacker leapt to the air sword aimed at Zezromihahs throat. Zezromihah sidestepped and whipped his axe in a side arc to deflect the blade. His left hand reached out and gripped the mans throat in mid air. The white rock flashed. Zezromihah’s powerful arm held the man in place. He noted in his mind , even fully armored, the man was light. Zezromihah in a fluid motion threw the man toward the battle pile, but as soon as the motion was done his strength drained.
“Impossible…” the rasped voice screamed as the man flew threw the air. Zezromihah fell to a knee. What is happening to me… He glanced up, doing all he could to prepare himself for another attack. His vision blurred as silence filled the grove. The unnatural chill in the air began to dissipate. He looked to his hand, the white rock fell quiet, the light quenched. He stood to his feet. Looking over toward the attacker he saw a sword from the midst of the pile coming through from behind where the man had fallen, impaled. Breathing in a deep relieved sigh, he fumbled out of the opposite side of the glade. He noted the tracks of the man who escaped the field, but he was in no condition to pursue and he had to complete his mission. A hollowness filled his body. He pushed on.
His movements that day were visibly slowed though he had recovered to a small degree. Do I have the contagion? He pushed on. What should have been only a two day trip became three and a half. For every minute he began to feel better, immediately a wave of hollow uneasiness would fill him the next. His mind was cloudy. By sheer luck he made the rest of the trip to Aminadan the Elder and the temple unnoticed.
He stumbled up to the temple gates. They were curiously unguarded. He walked through the front gate unchallenged and then stumbled across the open outer courtyard.
“Hello!” He bellowed as loud as his weakened state allowed.
Aminadan peered from an upper balcony, “Zezromihah! Hurry inside!”
Zezromihah pushed through the thick chamber doors.
Aminadan’s countenance fell immediately, “What happened to you?” Concern increased in his voice.
“I am just feeling ill, that is all. I bring news of this group known as ‘Gadianton’s band’, they are more organized than any group I have ever encountered. They are not just simply robbers as our leaders are stating.”
“No, keep your strength and tale. There is time to hear it later, I need to know what happened to you. Why are you in this state?”
“Let me gather my mind, it is cloudy.“ Aminadan directed him to a bench by the wall. His massive frame filling it as he laid down. Aminadan placed a cushion under his head. Zezromihah continued, “A day out I came across a wooded glade. If you leave off the road that leads to Morianton there are a series of back trails through the jungle. I came across the remnants of a great battle. A division of Lachoneus’ troops were met there by a Lamanite battalion. Both suffered many casualties.”
“I told you to avoid the dead! It’s part of our code--” Aminadan grabbed Zezromihah’s left hand. The light was quenched on the rock.
“I did! I came into no contact with the dead.”
“Then why this condition, you are defiled.”
“A man attacked me in that glade. He was alive as sure as I am. I threw him and he impaled upon a sword in a pile of rotted warriors.” A grave expression crossed Aminadan’s face.
“You touched his skin?”
“Yes, he jumped at me and I held him at bay. He carried the contagion. I think he passed it on to me. I sweat sporadically, and my body feels fine one moment, then in the grips of death the next.”
“You wouldn’t be walking if you had the contagion. No this is different.”
“It was strange, the whole glade was an unnatural cold, and he…”
“What? I have to know. What about the man.”
“He was a lamanite by birth, but he was wearing the crest of Lehum.“
“Lehum…he disappeared weeks ago.“ Aminadan interjected speaking more to himself.
“But he spoke my native tongue perfectly. He claimed to be my brother and spoke of my mind being veiled.”
“Yes. No one knows it outside of me and my brethren, and the bits that you have learned.”
“You must get up and come into the inner sanctum of the temple. We must begin the purification.”
“I told you..”
“No. You have touched the dead. I know not what unholy power that has been unleashed on the earth, but these are worrisome times indeed. The Gadianton group has made it’s presence known and now this…” his voice trailed off.
Now what?…What!?” Zezromihah implored as he forced his body to stand from the bench.
“The ‘cast out’ are finding themselves homes.” Aminadan spoke out matter of factly.
“Finding homes? What are you saying…” the weight of understanding shook Zezromihah to his very core.
“That is why we have been called. To fight the ‘cast out’. Satan’s unearthly minions. It has been spirit battles, possessions. It seems Satan has instituted a new low to his ungodly priesthood taking the broken shells of the dead and putting them to his use with his followers.
“He even gave me his name, Eurynomus. He said he was my brother.”
“That’s because he is.”
Zezromihah’s stomach fell.
“He is in his first estate and is doing all he can to get his second. Possession seems to be only one tool and it seems it’s not as useful to them now. Come, we have to get started. You will be useless for a week so we need to start now to get this done with.” Aminadab opened a side door of the inner sanctum and held in his hand a bag of grain. In his other hand he held incense and a vile containing oils. He motioned Zezromihah to sit down.
“I am sorry I have to do this for it goes against all your customs and traditions, but we have to take the first steps of purification.” Sorrow exuded from Aminadabs tender voice.
“I gave up strong drink. This will be nothing in comparison.” But it wasn’t, it turned out to be one of the hardest events of his life. The only event that eclipsed this was the loss of his family when his village was razed by the Lamanites. Zezromihah, one of the last three Anakim, Zezromihah, one of the last in a glorious race of giants whose ancestors crossed the great deep from a land only remembered and passed down through generations known as Hebron, could not keep the tears unabated as his glorious locks of hair were being cut from his head.