©2012 Misty Moncur
We ran through the forest. My feet were light on the soft ground, but my breaths were coming more heavily now. Tec was stronger and faster, but I kept him in sight. I had to. I didn’t know where we were running to or why we had to run so fast, but I knew it had something to do with those Nephites.
Tec was tearing across the terrain. Some might have said it was with wild abandon, but I knew Tec. He was deliberate and exacting, and he did not waste movement, especially when there was urgency. Through the dense pines, over fallen logs, up inclines and down their opposite slopes. We had been reared in these hills and they belonged to us.
As I ducked a low hanging branch, I saw Tec draw his bow on the run and reach back for an arrow. Then he disappeared from view.
What was over that next rise?
“What are you doing here? Protecting Nephites?”
I stopped in my tracks at the top of the rise.
“These are not the men who killed Zaaron,” Tec declared.
No of course not. Those were the Nephites we had just led through our lands toward their home. Those were the men we had helped escape. These, these were just more Nephites—but it was becoming clear that Tec had become entangled with them too.
Josiah glanced around at the Nephites surrounding him and the men from my village. “A Nephite is a Nephite. You betray the Order to protect them.”
I stood still to catch my breath and watched the scene below me. The men from my village had their weapons drawn, and they faced off against a band of Nephites. My brother stood between the two groups with his arrow trained on Josiah, a man he had looked up to, learned from, fought beside.
“These men are under the protection of the Order. They are under the protection of Zaaron.”
“Zaaron is dead,” Josiah accused.
“And you would dishonor him?” Tec shot back. Then, to my mortification—and a little bit of vindication—he lowered his voice and sneered, “You have a habit of dishonoring the wishes of the dead.”
They stared at each other in silence, and after one of the Nephites had interpreted for his kinsmen, everyone in the small clearing was silent.
Josiah increased the tension on his bow string.
“Honor his wish. Go home.” Tec spoke as if he had a right to command Josiah. He didn’t. But Josiah owed my brother humility—deference at the very least—and they both knew it.
Neither arrow moved.
Morianton tried to cajole his leader. “He is no longer our brother, Josiah. You don’t need to listen to him. Kill him! And avenge Zaaron’s death!”
Still, neither arrow moved.
I didn’t think I could face down Josiah, but I had to. I could end this quicker than anyone.
Because Josiah owed me something too.
“Stop it, you big babies!” I yelled as I finally got my feet moving again. “Zaaron was not dead when I left the village. There is no need to avenge him.”
Everyone turned to look at me, and I hoped they would believe my bravado. My heart was racing, and when my eyes met Josiah’s, I almost couldn’t breathe. I’d had more breath when I was running.
“Put your weapons down,” I said as calmly as I could. I hoped my terror was not showing. “Tec is working under Zaaron’s orders.”
“Is this true?”
“These are not the men you’re looking for. Those men have already passed into Nephite lands; we tracked them.” A lie. “Tec is to spy among these.” Another lie.
But it was not as if Josiah had never lied to me.
Finally, Josiah lowered his weapon a notch. “Is this true?” he asked Tec again.
“Yes, what Ava says is true.”
Yet another lie.
I made my feet move again until I was between Tec and Josiah. I knew Tec would drop his weapon, but I had no idea what Josiah would do. I tried to ignore the sting of the insult when he did not lower it. Willing tears not to form, I reached up and put my hand on Josiah’s bow until at last he released the tension on the string and allowed me to push the weapon down. His infallible pride remained in the set of his jaw and the stiffness of his shoulders.
“I need you to take Ava home,” Tec told Josiah. “She is interfering with what I must do.”
I would never agree to go with Josiah. Not him, not his rude men. I would rather be bound and sacrificed at the great temple in Ishmael.