by Britt Kelly
He had said it. The strange man with the pale face and unyielding arms had said the name of the Great God in the throne room. Ever since her father’s dream so many years ago she thought she would be the one to say his name. Over and over she had imagined herself teaching the King and Queen and all of her people about the Great God her father had seen. How he had come down from the sky and about the wounds in His hands and His feet. She knew they wouldn’t understand the wounds at first, as she had not, but in her dreams he Great God would wield her words as a mighty sword and change the hearts of her people. She would speak as her father had with penetrating power. She had loved to hear her father talk. Her father had always told her service to the King and Queen would allow her to be an instrument in the hand of the Great God. Yet years of washing the blood of the King’s diffident servants from the throne room steps had slowed her tongue. Whether it was from fear or patience, her bold truths remained encased in her mind.
Yet now the truth was known.
The Nephite had said all her father had known and so much more. The man who had shed blood so easily had brought the name of the great God before the King. He had protected the King’s flocks with the indomitable power of his sword. She had seen the arms herself, and blamed the strange man instead of the careless, cowering servants for the blood she would have to clean from the throne room floor. This bold man had said the name of the wounded God was Christ. Then he had explained the wounds and the plan of peace. She was bordering between respect and resentment for the Nephite who had lived her dream.
Her memory of all that had happened in the throne room that afternoon filled her mind as she went about her evening chores. She bent at the river, letting her work allow the amazement to overtake her anger. Her father had been right, she had felt that all along, but to hear a stranger use the same words to describe the Great God had overwhelmed her. Her mind raced through his words like a hummingbird, from the creation of all things to the wounding of the God and back again.
“Abish!” The sharpness of the call focused her mind. “The King has been killed by the powers of the pale man. The queen wants you to sit with her.” Abish startled. Sit with the queen? If the King was sick, she would sit with the Queen; if he was dead, she would need to wash the King, burn his clothes and make funeral robes. Confused, she hurriedly strapped the baskets of water to the goats and tried to hurry them back to the King’s house. She must be prepared at this moment with the water of mourning or the comfort her Queen needed. As she rushed the resistant goats, she could hear the dissonant cries of mourning from the King’s daughters.
She found the Queen by the King’s pallet; he lay motionless. Her glance at the King made her keep the jar of water in her hands as she knelt waiting the orders of the Queen. She didn’t have to wait long. The Queen in all her calm self-possession was a torrent under the surface. She waved the water away, looked at Abish and as slowly as only her royal discipline could allow demanded, “Tell me my husband is not dead.” It was a direct order. Abish looked more carefully at the King. What could bring a man of such bearing and strength to such an enfeebled state? How could such an alert man ever lie so senseless? His eyes were closed, his chest betrayingly still. Abish had never lied to the Queen, so she once again retreated to the safety of her practiced silence, hoping the queen required her ears not her tongue.
Her patience was rewarded; the Queen drew in a breath of strength and began “I didn’t see what enticed my husband to leave his throne. The servants said the strange man never touched the King, he just spoke about the Great Spirit; but when I came to the throne room, the King was on his knees, and unresponsive.” The queen reached protectively for her king’s shoulder causing an unwelcome clatter from her bangles. “The servants said his last words were about mercy. Why would he ask anyone for mercy? He was at his throne, surrounded by his men; how could there be danger from one Nephite?” Abish could see the Queen struggle to rein in her rushing thoughts, “Why do the servants not agree on what happened to their own King? Some say the man cast a spell on him, others say he spoke with power of the Great Spirit and even knew his name. “As the Queen ended, Abish became calm, steeling herself. This should be her unsheathing. She poised ready to be an instrument in the hands of God.
The Queen then, in her decided manner, quickly called for her husband’s servants. One by one they came and told the Queen of what had happened. All of the shepherds agreed that the master Ammon, for that was the Nephite’s name, had power from the Great Spirit; they felt the King was not dead but resting in the peace of the Great Spirit. Other servants spoke of the Nephite’s deceit. From the moment he had entered the King’s court they knew it was a plot against the King, and now that their King was dead, they came with their garments torn in the manner of mourning spitting at even the mention of the name of Ammon. They begged the Queen to let them bury their King with honor. Abish sat bewildered, her mind filled with repartees based on her ever observant mind and all the knowledge of her father; yet she must be silent before men, especially men the Queen had summoned.
Evening came and Abish was called away to her chores. Her mind was filled with the things she should have said, so much that she could have told her Queen. After years of silence, the truths she treasured seemed buried too deep to surface. She knew this was her time, the time her father had spoken of when she would witness to the kingdom of the truth. She wondered if her father had felt this much apprehension, if the prophet Ammon ever knew weakness. The evening wore slowly into night. The queen continued her search for truth while Abish was gathering the animals to their shelters. She lost herself in the familiarity of her work and time passed quickly.
Abish spoke with the word gracefully pouring from her. She reminded the Queen of all the servants had said of the strange man, his powerful sword, accurate aim and gentle strength. Then she told the Queen of the greater power the man had; the power of God to do His work on the earth. Ammon was a prophet, a man who knew of the coming of a Savior. She recounted her father’s dream and his own long sleep after. She told the Queen everything she could remember and many things she never knew of the Great God which was called Christ. She felt the Master reinforcing her own weakness, overpowering her and edifying her. The words came through her, forming pictures she and the Queen could wonder at and learn from together. Near morning the Queen sat still while Abish stood up to once again do her chores, her head still floating. She had never before learned from what she herself had spoken. She had learned from her father’s words, and wondered at how he would pause and ponder at what he, himself, had just said. Now she knew that when the Master wielded his servant, the servant learned even while speaking. In the Master’s hands, the servant was a conduit of power touched and enlightened by all that flowed through it. The sword was purified and sharpened as it was formed and used, so with the servant of the Master. She pondered as she walked again to the well. She had served her Queen and her God well. She experienced the refreshing peace of having done what she had dreamed so long of doing. The Queen would summon Ammon, and would recognize him as a prophet.
Abish woke breathing as if after a run…it was a dream, just another dream. She had not spoken after all. She was still a servant girl, neither honoring her father nor the great God. She wept quietly in her overwhelming shame. All the mysteries and beauty in the dream was stale, kept too long in her mind.
Throughout the day Abish tried to focus on her many tasks, finding it necessary to soothe her fellow servants as she went. The servants’ worries had increased as the day progressed. The king had still not risen. Had the strong man tricked them all and somehow poisoned the king? Rumors flew among the servants. Abish wanted to comfort the Queen and share her knowledge, but her confidence was shaken. She found comfort in the only place she knew, her chores. There was much to be done. Many of the servants were fighting amongst themselves defending Ammon or flattering a son of the King to position themselves for future power. Amidst the conflict, water still had to be carried, animals fed and food prepared. Abish made herself useful to avoid the nagging pull that she should be serving elsewhere. After all, the Queen had called Ammon to the King’s side, yet still the King remained unchanged.
Abish would not prepare for a funeral as some servants did. She desperately, but quietly sided with those who believed the King lived. As long as the King lived, Ammon could still be revealed to her people as a prophet and she could still serve the Great God. She went through the day hoping that the King lived and she had not yet failed. If the King died, surely the only prophet she had ever met would be killed and with him the chance for her people to believe his words and find truth.
At the next sunrise, when Abish brought the water, the Queen was hopeful. Abish almost dropped the jar when she saw the change in the Queen’s eyes, she was calm and peaceful. Then tension and pleading of two days earlier had stilled either by her practiced royal determination, or some other force. She looked as Abish had always dreamed she would, after her conversion. It was Ammon. Abish shrunk into the corner feeling her complete shame. Had she been quiet to preserve her life for the right moment or had it all been weakness? Never mind , it was done and perhaps as it should be; the Great God had chosen a Nephite man to come that far way to do what she had not done. Or would not do. Or perhaps should not do. Maybe she was not meant to witness to the Queen but to live to observe it. Perhaps she was not worthy to preach of such a Great, Mysterious God.
In her self-pitying silence she nearly missed the ripple of energy that shook the room. The King stood! He spoke, and though he intended the words for his Queen, they burned Abish’s heart, remaking it, strengthening it, forging a new heart bursting with truth. The Great God still loved her. She could still serve Him. There was a place for her in his kingdom. She marveled at his love and the great light she felt burning within her. The treasure of her father given long ago was now glowing near the surface.
She could hear the King and Queen praying, Ammon the prophet praising Jesus, for that was the name of the wounded God. She saw the servants praying…and she joined with her own prayer of gratitude and amazement at the power of the Great God. One by one they fell to the earth overcome in the joy and an enveloping peace. The King and Queen had already fallen, Ammon and each of the servants fell; everyone fell into the sleep of the Great God, save Abish.
At first, little thoughts crept in her mind. What was she not feeling and experiencing? Why had she not fallen to the earth with the others? Should she continue praying? But she couldn’t think of anything more to pray. She stood up refusing to question. The light of her heart shone and she felt this, at long last, was her calling. All of her people needed to see the change that was happening to their King and Queen. They must know for themselves of the great God. Hadn’t her father spoken of the Great God gathering his people? Perhaps she was never meant to be his sword at all, but a simple servant to gather his people to hear the truth.
For the first time in her life, she left her servant’s duties and ran unsent out of the king’s house. She ran through the streets, going first to the place of her family. She had found her voice and though it still sounded tenuous to her, she could see the people responding. All of the King’s people had heard of his mysterious stillness, and had wondered and worried. Some ran with curiosity, some ran hoping the King would be dead, and some ran to hear of this God Abish had spoken of. Others ran to know the truth whatever it would be, but whatever their reasons, all who could, ran to the King’s throne. Even the shepherds and those in the fields had come at Abish’s summons.
As she finished gathering her people to hear God’s words she marveled. It had taken her much longer than she anticipated and she hastened to be in the King’s place to watch the King and Queen and the prophet Ammon testify in such a way as to change the hearts of the people. She was gathering her people, she was serving God.
Joy had carried her back to the King’s house, but once there a fierce contention overwhelmed her. A man lay near the prophet Ammon with his sword unsheathed and anger still clouding his face. Abish felt the dangerous pulsing of the crowd. The shouts of the crowd were frightening, “Monster Nephite! He must be killed”
“You kill the Nephite, I won’t touch him. He’s bewitched and any who dares approach the cursed ones will be cursed themselves!”
“The King is weak; he kills his own people, but not this Nephite! We need a new King!”
She looked at the King, his Queen, and Ammon still in their unmoving repose. Her tears flowed as she felt the weight of her failure. She needed someone with God’s power to raise those sleeping and to speak. Had she gathered her people for this? Had she misunderstood? Was her desire to run only to escape the isolation she had felt as the other servants had all been overwhelmed in the spirit of the Great God while she had been left untouched? The light that she thought had shone so brightly in her heart earlier flickered amidst the blasts of contention surrounding her.
They must rise.
A wave of clarity passed through Abish. She could remember her father filled with the power of God laying his hands on her mother’s head and her mother rising from her sick bed. That was the power she needed but lacked, yet the moment was here and would not wait. She moved hesitantly towards the Queen as she prayed and prayed for her rising. She hoped beyond hope that it would be enough, that she would be enough. The crowd seemed to pulse more slowly and the noise seemed far away and blurred. She walked around the fallen man, stepping over his outstretched sword. What would happen when she touched the Queen? Would she herself die? Would the Queen really rise? Or would nothing happen at all? Uncalled and unanointed as she felt, Abish knew what was needed and felt the power of God surge through her. The power of the Savior must be enough. This would either finally be her true unsheathing or it would break her.
She knelt down gently and reached to take the hand of her Queen. Through the power of Jesus and the piercing touch of Abish, the Queen rose. Abish fell forward and like a rushing wind the clamor of the crowd came back. The Queen, indomitable, praised Jesus with a loud voice then continued to speak many words that at first Abish could not understand. As Abish stared up at the Queen, trying to understand her words, it was as if her father was whispering their meaning to her. His voice became so strong, she turned expecting to see him and instead saw angels surrounding her. She turned wonderingly and saw angels accompany the Queen as she raised the King, helping to steady him. Other angels raised the servants who had fallen. The beauty was like nothing she had ever seen.
She would always pause at this point when she later told of the angels she saw that day and all they had taught her. Some things didn’t go into words easily. It all sounded so distant and miraculous, while the change in her heart was so real. On that long ago day, the power of God had caused the King to rise and calm his people; all had heard of the truth of the Great God. The power of God had pierced the hearts of the people and many had converted. The sword that had been unsheathed to divide and change her people had changed to a gentle wind easing their way. The hand that had wielded the sword now comforted and calmed. Chores still needed to be done, food still needed to be prepared and contentions still happened, yet the people were different. There was a softness and openness, even in the King and Queen. Nephites came and went and trade increased. There was less maneuvering for power and more seeking for truth. Abish still gathered goats and carried water, but with peace in her heart and a story ready to be told.
4 thoughts on “9: The Unsheathing”
This gave me a new perspective on Abish. I appreciate the insight.
I'm sick of purely introspective fiction, but I do love the idea that Abish would resent Ammon. That is brilliant.
though heavy on description (I'm not a fan), this carries a historical feel to it, including some knowledge and insight. Abish is a real person and we are privy to her thoughts and feelings.
thank you for the comments. I'm glad my story made you think or you found parts insightful…even if you didn't like the style or description.
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