In the ninety-fourth year of the reign of the judges…
Tulekiah’s foot slipped, sending loose stones clattering down the mountainside. He froze in place, clinging to the mountainside, listening to the rocks echoing in the canyon below. Sunrise was still a few hours away, and the crescent moon hanging in the sky gave him little light. Still, Tulekiah peered through the darkness, searching for movement. After a few minutes, he decided it was safe. He found a sturdy foothold and pushed himself over the cliff edge. He sat for a moment, trembling from effort and fear. The mountain is crawling with Gadiantons; how do I get inside without getting caught? Never in all of his seventeen years had he heard of anyone returning from the Gadianton Mountains.
His eyes began to drift shut, and he couldn’t keep from yawning. No good. Tulekiah reached for his water bag at his waist. He took a long drink then splashed some of the water onto his face, cleaning away the dirt and, hopefully, his exhaustion. Rejuvenated, he started to rise. A heavy hand clamped onto his left shoulder, squeezing hard.
Tulekiah wriggled out of the man’s grip, but in the process the man nearly dislocated Tulekiah’s shoulder. He jumped back to appraise his attacker. The man was definitely a Gadianton. His hair was long and wild, reaching nearly to his waist. The only clothing he wore was a band of cloth around his loins. A picture of a snake, fangs out, preparing to strike, decorated the man’s chest. The remainder of the snake’s body wrapped around the man’s side and coiled onto his back. Tulekiah knew this was the Gadianton mark—each robber bore the snake somewhere visible upon his body.
“What’s a kid like you doing out in these mountains at night?” The man taunted, tossing his spiked club from side to side.
“I’m no kid.” Tulekiah said, trying to keep his fear from squeaking out in his voice. “I’m here for my brother; I demand that you take me to him.”
“You’re not in a position to demand anything.”
Tulekiah drew his dagger. “We’ll see.” He lunged forward, managing to slice into the man’s leg before another man grabbed him from behind and swiftly disarmed him.
“Well, Kumeni, I see you couldn’t even handle this kid.” The second man was taller than Kumeni and wore a short-cropped silver robe. He held Tulekiah tightly in his left arm; his right hand wielded a long spear with an obsidian tip. The shank of the spear was carved with intertwining serpents, gems sparkled in their eyes.
Kumeni grunted, holding his hand over the wound in his thigh. “I was only toying with him, Lehonti.”
“Sure,” Lehonti scoffed. He kicked Tulekiah’s dagger aside. “So, who is this brother you’re looking for?”
“Ah, yes, Pacumenihah. Did he not warn you of the dangers of traveling these mountains—especially alone and at night?”
“Take me to him.” Tulekiah insisted.
“No.” Kumeni slashed a scrap of cloth from Tulekiah’s cloak and tied it around his wounded leg. “Lamechi will decide what happens to you.”
Lehonti lashed Tulekiah’s wrists and ankles with cords and flung him over his shoulder. Then he and Kumeni took him to one of the mountain entrances—a slit in the rock, practically hidden between two large boulders. Inside, the winding path was lit by wall-mounted torches; in the silence of the mountain, Tulekiah could hear the flames snap and crackle. They stayed on the main path, although numerous caverns opened up on either side of them, dark and gaping beyond the reach of the torchlight.
Other Gadiantons appeared and disappeared; their passage was stealthy; Tulekiah was hardly aware of their presence. Finally the pathway widened, and Lehonti and Kumeni ushered Tulekiah into a large cavern. Everything—walls, ceiling, floor—sparkled in the torchlight. A large throne, carved right out of the wall, glittered with the dancing flames
Lamechi sat on the throne, adorned with the finest clothing his thieves could find. Jeweled bracelets and necklaces hung like vines from his limbs.
Lehonti pulled Tulekiah from his shoulder and dropped him in a heap on the stone floor.
“Bow before Lamechi, one of the Six Rulers of the Gadiantons.” Kumeni commanded.
“What do we have here?” Lamechi asked. He gave Tulekiah a brief glance before returning his attention to the tray of fruit at his side.
“A trespasser, in search of his brother, my lord.” Lehonti replied.
“A prisoner?” Lamechi wondered.
“No, my lord, one of us.”
Lamechi turned his head sharply toward the captive; a bunch of plump purple grapes dangled momentarily forgotten from his left hand. “Why do you seek your brother?”
Tulekiah staggered to his feet. “To bring him home.”
Laughing, Lamechi turned away from the boy. “Once a Gadianton, always a Gadianton. The only way out is death.” He pulled a grape from its stem with his lips and sucked it into his mouth.
“You’ve deceived him! Tricked him into believing that by joining you he could protect his family.”
“Enough!” Lamechi rose from his chair and glared down at Tulekiah. “The only way out is death. We can arrange it, if you’d like.”
“No,” Tulekiah protested, his eyes wide with panic.
“Then we have nothing more to discuss.” Lamechi turned his attention back to Lehonti. “See that he is given a reminder to stay away from the mountains; then release him.” With a wave of his cloak, Lamechi disappeared from the chamber.
Kumeni rubbed at his injury as he moved toward Tulekiah, his club raised. “I’m going to enjoy this.” He glanced around the room; four more Gadiantons lounged around the edges. “Anyone else want in on the fun?”
The others nodded, arming themselves and moving to the center of the cavern. Lehonti watched as the men attacked the young man with their weapons. Tulekiah screamed in pain with each blow, but he spoke no words until a large group of Gadiantons passed through the room. They paid no attention to Tulekiah’s punishment; beatings were a common occurrence and interfering only meant more trouble.
“Pacumenihah!” Tulekiah called out to one of the younger robbers when the group moved through his line of vision. “Pacumenihah, come home with me, please.”
Tulekiah’s lips were bleeding, and his face was swollen, but Lehonti detected a flash of recognition in the robber’s face as Tulekiah called out to him. For a moment, Pacumenihah hesitated, looking toward his bleeding brother; then the press of the other robbers around him moved him forward. He turned away and continued out of the chamber. Tulekiah sank to the ground, one more blow from Kumeni’s club knocked him unconscious.
“That will do.” Lehonti said, holding Kumeni tightly around the wrist to prevent any further attack. The other Gadiantons backed off. “Let’s take him down the mountain and be done with him.”
“I’ve found him!” Jacob called out as he knelt beside the still form lying amid the rocks at the base of one of the mountain trails. “He’s alive, barely,” he told his mother when she dropped to her knees next to him.
“Tulekiah,” Kezreel whispered, carefully brushing her youngest son’s bloodied hair from his face. “What were you thinking?”
Tulekiah shuddered and tried to open his eyes, but he couldn’t. His mouth barely moved as he spoke. “Save Pacumenihah.” He drew in a deep, raspy breath and went limp again.
“Hurry, Jacob, we must get him back so the elders can give him a blessing.”
A few hours later, Tulekiah awoke. He lay upon a thick bed of soft furs; a heavy blanket was pulled up to his chest. Most of his swelling was gone—he could smell the acrid scent of the poultices his mother had used to tend his wounds—but his head pounded as loud as the drums of impending battle.
“Lay still, Tulekiah,” his mother commanded when he tried to sit up. “You have a long recovery ahead of you.”
“I don’t have time for recovery,” he argued, but he allowed her to ease him back against the furs.
“Yes, you do, young man, and you now have plenty of time to explain to me what you were trying to accomplish by entering the Gadianton Mountains.”
Tulekiah wrinkled his nose and let his gaze wander around the room. He was in his parents’ chamber; his father’s hunting bow and knife sat in one corner of the room next to a small pile of tunics and sandals that waited to be repaired—most of them Tulekiah’s. “I already told you; I went to save Pacumenihah.”
“How? Did you think you could just walk right in to their lair and whisk him away?”
He studied his hands. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Kezreel laughed, more a sound of exasperation than humor. “Well, I hope you learned something.”
Tulekiah was silent for a moment. “I did. I need to go back.”
“No! I won’t allow it. Tulekiah, you were lucky to escape with your life the first time. Going back is a death sentence.” Kezreel sighed. “We all miss Pacumenihah, but he made his choice. We can’t change that no matter how much we want to.”
Sitting up, Tulekiah said softly, “I saw him.” His mother turned to him, a hungry expression haunting her features—a mother desperate for news of her absent son. “While they were beating me, he came through the chamber with a group of robbers. I called out to him, and he looked at me. For a moment his eyes flickered with emotion; for a moment, he was the Pacumenihah that we remember.”
Hope lit his mother’s eyes then faded. “But he allowed them to hurt you.”
With a slight shake of his head, Tulekiah defended his brother, “He had no say in my punishment. Had he tried to help me, we both would have been killed.” He paused. “If I could see him alone, I think I could convince him to return to us.”
“Impossible.” Kezreel’s mouth tightened into a thin line. “You’d be captured and killed before you ever entered the mountain.”
Tulekiah’s shoulders slumped. “I can’t give up on him.”
Kezreel’s face softened. “I know how close you two were, Tulekiah. I know you miss him. But we can’t rescue him, not the way you want to. All that’s left for us to do for him is to pray.”
“I don’t believe that.” Tulekiah crossed his arms. “Mother, if there’s a chance I can save him, I’m not afraid to return and find out.”
“You’re not going back.” His mother kissed the top of his head. “Now get some rest.”
Amgid watched Tulekiah twirl and slash as he practiced with his dagger. Two weeks’ time had given the young man his strength back, and both Amgid and Kezreel saw the determination growing in their son’s eyes—he was planning to return to the mountains.
“Looks like your ready to hunt again,” Amgid said when Tulekiah paused to catch his breath.
“Yeah.” Tulekiah frowned at the weapon in his hand. “It doesn’t feel right, though. I had my other dagger for so long that it almost felt like it was part of my hand.” He flipped the dagger in the air and caught it again. “This one feels cold and awkward.”
“Give it time,” Amgid counseled. “I’m sure you’ll get used to it.”
Tulekiah shrugged and turned back to his practicing, but the mountains in the distance distracted him. Looking back at his father, he said, “I’m ready for more than just hunting.”
Amgid feigned ignorance. “What do you mean?”
“It’s time to go back and get Pacumenihah.”
Resting his hand on his son’s shoulder, Amgid sighed. “You’re mother already explained this to you, Tulekiah. Pacumenihah is beyond our reach; all we can do is pray for him.”
Tulekiah kicked at the dirt with his sandal. “I have prayed father. My answer is that I have to go back.”
Amgid’s face reddened with anger. “Going back means certain death; it’s foolishness. The Lord would not ask you to do that!”
“Who are we to decide what the Lord would have us do?” Tulekiah asked quietly. “He asked Nephi to take Laban’s life despite the commandment not to kill. The Lord knows everything—He knows what Pacumenihah needs.” Tulekiah took a deep breath. “He’s asked me to go back.”
Amgid didn’t reply. He studied his hands for a few minutes then looked from his son to the forbidding mountains hulking in the distance.
“You can’t stop me, you know.” Tulekiah said softly. “Short of locking me up.” He placed his hand over his father’s as they twisted together in uncertainty. “I’m not trying to defy you and Mother. I’m only doing what the Lord has asked.” When his father still said nothing, Tulekiah slipped his hand away and started to leave. Then he stopped and added, “Pray about it yourself, Father. You’ll see I speak the truth.”
Most of Tulekiah’s scars were still pink when he felt the time had come to head back to the mountains, but some of the smaller ones had faded. He chose a quiet, moonless night; he strapped his sheathed dagger to his thigh, just above his knee, and lay impatiently on his blankets, waiting for his family to settle in to sleep. His parents’ voices drifted through the animal hide that separated their room from the other rooms. Jacob and Tulekiah’s other brothers, except Pacumenihah, had married and now lived in nearby homes. His two unmarried sisters slept in the adjoining room. Until Pacumenihah’s departure eight moons ago, they had shared this room, shared dreams and fears of the future.
Tulekiah shut his eyes, remembering. It was a night much like this one when Pacumenihah left. A light sleepier, Tulekiah had sensed Pacumenihah’s quiet movements; he had opened his eyes just as his brother raised the curtained door and prepared to step out.
“Where are you going?”
Pacumenihah paused. “I have to leave.”
“Where are you going?” Tulekiah repeated.
His brother sighed. “Remember how we talked about the Gadiantons and how they threaten to overrun the land? Well, I’ve found a way to protect us, our family, especially you, Tulekiah.”
“But where are you going?” he demanded, a little louder.
“I’m joining the Gadiantons.”
“What?” Tulekiah cried out.
“Shhhh,” Pacumenihah hissed. “It’s the only way. If I join them, they promised to protect our family. You and mother and everyone else will be safe—the Gadiantons won’t hurt you.”
Tulekiah shook his head. “But at what price? Pacumenihah, the Gadiantons are wicked men, they’ll make you a wicked man. You can’t join them, no matter what they promised.” He reached out to him and was relived when Pacumenihah clasped his hand upon his forearm.
“I’m sorry; I’ve made my choice.” Pacumenihah embraced his younger brother quickly then disappeared into the night.
The memory faded, and Tulekiah realized that his parents’ voices had quieted as well. He heard nothing but the rustle of the slight breeze and chirping crickets. Slipping outside, Tulekiah allowed his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Ahead of him, the Gadianton Mountains loomed black and foreboding in the distance.
Pulling his cloak tighter around his shoulders, Tulekiah took a deep breath.
At the whispered sound of his name, Tulekiah whirled around, his heart racing, his hand already reaching for his dagger.
Amgid emerged from the shadows; recognizing his father, Tulekiah released his dagger, letting it remain in its sheath. His father approached him silently and handed him a bundle. When Tulekiah unrolled it, he found a cloak and a small pack of supplies.
“I thought my hunting cloak might be of use to you.” He gestured toward the pack. “There’s some dried meat and a skin of water, in case you need it.”
“How did you…”
“Just go, Tulekiah.” Amgid pulled his son close for a moment. “Go with God.”
Ascending the mountain without the aid of moonlight was more difficult; Tulekiah was unable to maintain the pace he had used during his first climb. As the night progressed, he realized that he might need to find a place to hide before the sun rose. Finding a cave was not an option; those were most likely employed by the Gadiantons. He toyed with the idea of searching for one of the openings into the Gadianton lair and finding a deserted tunnel to hide in, but as he crept passed a cluster of large boulders, he spotted an opening that might just be large enough for him to squeeze into.
Tulekiah climbed up to the opening and wriggled through it. The space that he found himself in allowed very limited movement. He was most comfortable if he sat with his knees pulled up and his head resting on them; if necessary he could stretch out either his head and arms or his legs, but not both at once. Figuring he wasn’t likely to find anything better, Tulekiah draped his father’s gray cloak around his body and tried to go to sleep.
He drifted in and out during the three hours before dawn. The slightest sound scared him awake, and then he would sit, trembling in the blackness, wondering if someone was hovering nearby, waiting for him to give away his location. Eventually he slumped forward with exhaustion, sleeping until the next snapping twig jerked him awake again.
When the first faint trickle of light hit the mountains, Tulekiah gave up on sleep. He stretched his arms and then his legs before quietly shifting his position so that his back pressed against the largest boulder and he could just see through one of the slits in the pile of rocks when he leaned forward on his knees. Tulekiah pulled the hood of his father’s cloak up over his head as far as he could, draping his face in shadow. Now all I have to do is stay motionless until sundown. He winced at the thought. No, just take it a little bit at a time.
The sun brought the mountainside to life. Gadiantons traversed the nearby paths in an almost continuous stream, sometimes in groups, sometimes solo. While most were preoccupied with their journey or their coming exploits, some glanced around with suspicion. Often their gaze lingered on Tulekiah’s hiding place, and he struggled not to move or make a sound.
By late morning, the warm sun creeping through the rocks started to put Tulekiah to sleep. He would startle awake when his head started to droop forward. After hitting his head on the boulder behind him several times when he jumped awake, Tulekiah decided he was better off not fighting. He rested his forehead on his knees and leaned his body against the rocks on his left, hoping the stability of his position would keep him from moving in his sleep.
He was more exhausted than he realized. The next time Tulekiah opened his eyes, the sunlight was melting behind the peaks to the west. In the fading light he saw a Gadianton standing just a few feet away, a look of intense concentration on his face. The certainty that the man was listening and looking for him shot a heavy sensation of fear though Tulekiah’s body. He wondered what noises he had been making in his sleep to alert the man.
Tulekiah remained still, breathing slowly and deeply through barely parted lips. He hoped the man would give up and go away, but as the minutes passed, the Gadianton stayed where he was, his head cocked to one side as he listened. Then the man turned so his entire body faced Tulekiah’s boulders; when he turned, one of the fading shafts of light played across his face and Tulekiah barely stifled his gasp of recognition. Lehonti. If he captures me again, I’m dead. He began desperately praying in his mind, begging the Lord to keep Lehonti from detecting him.
Then the tickle began in his nose.
Tulekiah wriggled his nose, trying to eliminate the sensation, but it remained. As slowly as he could, he brought one hand up and tried to hold his nose tightly with two fingers until the feeling was gone. When he released his nose, the tickle returned. He held his breath and prayed, yet the sensation persisted, and he knew he could not keep the sneeze from escaping. He tried to muffle it against his arm, but Lehonti perceived both the noise and the movement.
With one giant leap, Lehonti was against the boulders; his spear poked through a crack, pressing against Tulekiah’s ribs. “Come out or you die,” the Gadianton demanded.
“It’s a little tight in here,” Tulekiah replied. “If you don’t pull back a bit, I’ll die trying to come out.”
Lehonti chuckled and eased his spear back a few inches. He peered through the rocks. “I’ve heard your voice and your attitude before.”
Tulekiah wiggled his way out of the rocks, glad to be able to stand up straight. “Yeah, but last time I had to leave without my brother.”
“You wear your scars well,” Lehonti said as he studied Tulekiah’s face, moving his head from side to side with the flat side of the spear.
Tulekiah leaned back, at the same time snatching his dagger from its sheath on his leg. But the Gadianton was quick. He slapped the flat side of the spearhead on Tulekiah’s wrist sending the dagger clattering against the rocks. Holding his injured wrist against his body, Tulekiah glared at his captor.
“I am no threat to you! All I want is to see my brother, to speak to him, alone.”
“To what end? Do you not have other brothers? Other family members? Why not let this brother remain with us?”
“If Pacumenihah remains in wickedness, he is lost to me, to my family. He is a part of us; we need him. I need him.”
“You are a tenacious young man.” Lehonti said; his eyes flicked over Tulekiah. “What is your name?”
“Well, Tulekiah, you’ve managed to impress me with your courage.” He lowered his spear. “Meet me at the cave beyond those trees to the north when the moon rises. I think I can arrange a short visit with your brother.”
Tulekiah grabbed his dagger and moved behind the boulders as Lehonti disappeared. His fear and excitement made it nearly impossible for him not to fidget as he waited. Finally a sliver of moon crawled into the sky, and Tulekiah crept from his hiding place toward the cave. When he arrived, he found the cave empty, although a small stack of crates, only partially filled with supplies, and a cooled ring of ashes told him that it had been occupied within the past few days.
Hearing a noise outside, Tulekiah slipped behind the crates and looked cautiously toward the cave entrance. A figure appeared in the opening; the faint moonlight behind the man obscured his features, but Tulekiah knew his brother’s build.
“Pacumenihah,” he whispered as he stood up and moved toward him.
“Tulekiah? What are you doing here?”
Tulekiah reached his hand out toward his brother. “I’ve come to bring you home.”
Pacumenihah laughed, cruel and mocking like Lamechi’s laugh when Tulekiah told him he was there to free his brother. “I’m a Gadianton now, little brother; this is my home.” He took a few steps closer and studied Tulekiah’s features. “Did your beating teach you nothing?”
“I saw you look at me. I saw in your eyes that you could still be the brother I remembered.”
Pacumenihah shook his head. “You saw only pity, Tulekiah. You are my brother; I did not like seeing you in such pain, pain that I could do nothing about. But I have no desire to return with you or to live as our parents would have me live.”
Although Pacumenihah had shaved his head as many of the younger Gadiantons were prone to do, his eyes were still the same deep brown pools Tulekiah remembered. Fine apparel had replaced his worn tunics, and jewels and other luxuries adorned his wrists and neck. But deep down, he must still be Pacumenihah! “You told me you were joining the Gadiantons to protect our family, but our family is incomplete without you. Pacumenihah, the danger to your soul while you reside with these robbers is far worse than any physical danger our family may be in because of them. Please, come back with me.”
“I’m sorry, Tulekiah. In joining the Gadiantons I had to embrace their society. I’m afraid there’s no road back for me. This is where I belong.”
“Pacumenihah, listen to me!” Tulekiah demanded.
“It’s too late,” Pacumenihah growled back. He placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder. Tulekiah gasped when he saw the small coiled snake painted on the back of Pacumenihah’s hand.
“This must be the last time we meet,” Pacumenihah said with the faintest hint of tenderness. “Farewell, Tulekiah.”
Before Tulekiah could respond, Pacumenihah crept out of the cave and disappeared into the night. He felt numb; his legs lost their ability to hold him up, and he sank to the floor. How could I have come so far only to fail? Tulekiah shook with sobs, but his pain was so great that his tears refused to fall.
Tulekiah’s sobs quieted, and he raised his head.
“You must leave the mountain. As dawn approaches, more guards will be sent to patrol the area; if they find you, you’ll never make it out alive.” Lehonti gestured for him to exit the cave.
“Let them find me. Death can’t be any worse than the crushing hurt I feel at losing Pacumenihah.”
Lehonti sighed with impatience. “If they capture you, and connect you to him, Pacumenihah could die as well.”
Tulekiah rose shakily to his feet. “I came here to save him, not cause his death.” He donned his cloak and hurried on wobbly legs out of the cave.
“This way.” Lehonti led Tulekiah west of the cave to a little-used path. “Few Gadiantons pass this way, especially at night. It will take you to the south end of the village.”
Tulekiah started down the path, and then turned to thank the Gadianton for his help. Lehonti was gone.
Kezreel dropped her grinding stone and ran to embrace Tulekiah when she saw him approaching. He cried out when her arm pressed against his wrist.
“Just my wrist,” Tulekiah said flatly.
She examined it carefully. “It may be broken; let me wrap it with a poultice and immobilize it; that should ease the pain.”
“No,” he sighed, “nothing can ease my pain.”
“What happened?” Kezreel asked.
“I saw Pacumenihah, alone, just as I wanted.” Tulekiah pressed the back of his hand into his eyes. “He refused to come back with me.”
Kezreel wrapped her arms around her son and held him as he cried for his brother. Several minutes passed before Tulekiah was able to compose himself.
“Why did the Lord let me go? Why was I able to see him, but not save him?” Tulekiah asked when he finally pulled out of his mother’s embrace.
“I don’t know, Tulekiah. Maybe the Lord knew that you needed to see him again. Maybe someday the memory will help Pacumenihah. We may never know.”
“I wish I’d been caught and beaten again rather than feel this aching hole in my heart.”
“With time, it will ease.” Kezreel hooked her arm through Tulekiah’s and headed into the house.
A few nights after his return, Tulekiah lay awake on his blankets; the throbbing in his injured wrist kept him from sleeping. Some of Pacumenihah’s belongings still sat in the corner of the room, near the door. Tulekiah slowly stood up and moved over to look at them. Many times he had sat next to the small pile afraid to disturb the items and upset the chances that Pacumenihah was coming back. This time he reached in and sorted through the stuff.
He held up Pacumenihah’s extra tunic and robe. They’re in decent shape, and they should fit me. I’m always ripping my clothes anyway. Tulekiah set the clothing aside and picked up a small braided leather bracelet. A single turquoise stone decorated the middle. Rubbing his finger over the stone, Tulekiah sighed and closed his eyes.
Pacumenihah found the stone when we went hunting in the South Wilderness, near the sea. Father bought the leather in Melek on the journey home and made the bracelet for him. Tulekiah let the bracelet slip from his hand. He treasured it above any of his possessions.
“Tulekiah?” The voice came from the other side of the hide that covered the doorway.
Tulekiah felt his heart leap with hope. “Pacumenihah?” he whispered as he moved to the curtain door and pulled it aside.
A Gadianton stood in front of him, but not Pacumenihah. “Lehonti?” Tulekiah almost didn’t recognize him without his fancy robes and his decorated spear. He had several cuts on his upper arms and a gash in his stomach bled freely. “What happened?”
Lehonti shrugged and tried to smile. “Once a Gadianton, always a Gadianton. Lamechi didn’t take the news of my departure well.”
Tulekiah was about to ask more, but Lehonti started to wobble. He moved forward and caught the robber before he hit the ground. “I’ll get my mother; she’ll know how to help you.”
Lehonti’s eyes fluttered, but he reached out and grabbed Tulekiah’s hand. “Wait. I don’t have much strength. I need you to know that you didn’t fail.”
“Pacumenihah is coming home?”
The Gadianton swallowed hard and looked away from Tulekiah’s hopeful eyes. “No. But you did save someone, Tulekiah. You saved me.”