Hannah’s sandals beat rapidly against the ground as she hurried back to her house for dinner. Judging by how far the sun had dropped, she estimated it had been almost an hour since her mother had sent her to the market for a length of cloth. She had been on her way back when she ran into her friend Ruth. Hannah hadn’t meant to talk for so long, but she’d lost track of time.
As she ran, she caught sight of the Lamanite guards positioned around the settlement. She hated how they watched her all the time. Every time she saw them, she remembered that terrifying night two years ago when the fierce army had surrounded them. She had only been thirteen then. King Noah had taken flight leaving most of the people to fend for themselves. She could still clearly see the Lamanite’s faces in the light of the torches, their war paint glowing, eerily illuminated by the fire. Hannah’s sister, Adaya, had been one of the young women whose beauty had convinced the Lamanite army to spare their lives.
Sometimes Hannah still wondered at what cost their lives had come though. They were forced to give half their means as tribute to the Lamanite king. Her father, Moran, was a farmer and it took a huge toll on her family to give up half of what he grew. Even though Hannah knew that King Noah had been an evil man, at least he had only taxed them one fifth of their possessions.
When she got back to her house, her father and older brothers, Zerach and Manel, were still in the fields. Out of breath, she quickly waved and went to give the cloth to her mother. Hannah’s mother, Danya, was sitting up in her bed with a needle and thread as Hannah walked in the front door of their small hut.
“Where have you been?” asked Adaya from the kitchen.
“I met Ruth at the market and I didn’t realize how long we talked,” Hannah answered.
Danya laughed. “Always losing track of the time,” she said as Hannah handed her the cloth.
“I’m sorry,” Hannah said sheepishly.
“Come help me finish dinner,” Adaya said.
Hannah went to the kitchen and set out utensils and plates. They were having corn again. It was the most plentiful thing her father grew. Hannah had to admit that Adaya had managed to get creative using herbs from the garden and roots they found in the forest.
Soon, her father and Zerach came in from the field. Manel had gone home to his wife, Iana and their son Joshua. They sat at their makeshift table near Danya’s bed and Moran offered a blessing on the food. Hannah’s family was one of the few who had heard the teachings of Alma and believed. Danya’s illness had prevented them from going to the waters of Mormon and being baptized, but they all believed in what Alma said. The day that King Noah had sent his armies after Alma’s followers, Hannah’s family had not been among them, so they were left behind. Hannah often wondered what had become of them and why God couldn’t have just cured her mother so they could go. Once, Hannah had mentioned this to her parents. Her mother had said, “That’s not the way the Lord works. I don’t know what it is, but I believe there is a reason He wanted us to stay behind for now.”
Hannah had nodded as if she understood, but was even more confused by this proclamation. After dinner was eaten, Hannah helped her sister clean up. Sometimes she envied Adaya’s beauty and grace. At seventeen, she was the prettiest girl in the settlement, and had been offered marriage by many suitors. Her father had turned them all down wanting Adaya to marry someone of their faith. Hannah was sure that she would not have the same problem when she came of age.
Sensing her despondence, Zerach said, “Hannah, want to come on a walk with me?”
“Yes,” she answered enthusiastically.
It was almost dark when they walked out and their father cautioned them to hurry home so they could go to bed. Hannah let Zerach pick the direction. She was not surprised when he headed toward the outskirts of the settlement. They couldn’t go very far though or the Lamanite guards would make them turn back.
“I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like outside,” Zerach said as they looked out at the expanse of forbidden land.
“Me too,” Hannah answered.
“Don’t worry,” Zerach reassured. “We’ll get out again.”
Hannah laughed sardonically, “Yes, when they take us to be buried.”
“You need to have a little more faith,” Zerach said. Hannah was surprised at the seriousness of his tone. Seeing the look of surprise on her face he added, “I did not mean to sound unkind. I just want you to understand that the Lord will give us our liberty when it is right.”
As usual, Hannah nodded as if she felt the same way, but she didn’t.
Zerach put his arm around her shoulders. “Come on, let’s get home.”
When they got back to their hut, two men were standing outside talking with their father. Zerach slowed his step and a strange expression crossed his face when she saw them.
“Go inside,” he said to Hannah. She quickly obeyed and went to find her mother.
Adaya and Danya were inside silently waiting for Moran and Zerach to come back inside. A bad feeling settled in the pit of Hannah’s stomach.
“Who are those men?” she asked her mother.
“They are messengers from King Limhi,” her mother said.
“What do they want?”
“I am not sure. We’ll have to wait for your father to tell us.”
A few minutes later, Moran and Zerach walked back in with solemn expressions. Hannah knew she should be proper and wait for them to explain, but she couldn’t take the suspense.
“What is it?” she blurted out.
“Hannah,” Adaya chided.
Moran put up a hand to stop Adaya’s lecture before she could start. Without preamble he said, “The Lamanites are coming to war against us.”
“Why?” asked Danya from her bed. “We have paid our tributes and not risen up against them.”
Moran shrugged his shoulders. “We don’t know. The messengers said they are angry, but King Limhi does not know what they are angry at us for.
“Are they sure they want to battle?” asked Adaya.
“King Limhi saw them making preparations from his tower,” Zerach confirmed. “The messengers have asked that all the able bodied men take up arms and fight.”
Hannah drew in a sharp breath. Her father and brothers were farmers, not warriors. Her heart filled with dread and once again she saw the fearsome war party that had almost assailed them last time.
“They have asked that we leave immediately,” Moran said. “We will gather in the square and go out to meet them.”
Adaya was unable to hold in her emotions and started to cry. Hannah looked at her mother. Her already pale face was even whiter than usual and her hands shook. Moran sat on the bed with his arms carefully wrapped around her frail body.
Hannah just stared into space and felt the anger rising within her. How she hated the Lamanites! They had already taken their freedom and livelihoods. Did they have to lose their families as well before they would be satisfied? For a long time, nobody spoke. Finally Zerach broke the silence, “Father, it’s almost time to go. Let’s pray together before we have to leave.”
Moran looked up and nodded. As they knelt, Moran asked Hannah to offer the prayer. She shook her head. She knew that her family was shocked at her refusal, but Hannah didn’t feel like praying. Her anger was reaching extreme levels and it was getting more directed at God with every second. He could put a stop to all this, but it was still happening. Hadn’t they already suffered enough? Why was He allowing this to happen too?
Instead, Moran offered to say the prayer. Hannah didn’t listen to it very closely. She remembered her father asking the Lord to watch over them and to let them be victorious. He also closed saying, “Thy will be done”. After the prayer was over, everyone else seemed to feel better, but Hannah only felt worse.
Unable to hold it back anymore, she said, “It isn’t fair. God is supposed to be helping us, not making our lives worse!”
She felt bad at the stunned look on her parents’ and Adaya’s faces. Zerach however, just smiled and put his arm around her. “God isn’t doing this to us Hannah. Evil, selfish men are doing this to us. Remember what Alma taught about the Messiah and the resurrection? I know it doesn’t feel like it’s fair right now, but eventually God will make everything right.”
At this, Hannah finally felt a little better. She also felt guilty for her behavior. Zerach was right. She thought about the peaceful feelings that had overcome her when Alma spoke of a Redeemer and resolved to be more faithful.
Her father and brothers had taken tools from the farm such as scythes and pitchforks. They had also taken a small knife each, but they had only used them for hunting and cleaning fish and game. Hannah knew they were not trained for this kind of thing.
Manel brought Joshua and Iana over to wait with Hannah, Adaya and Danya. Hannah hugged her father and Manel tightly managing to hold back the tears, but when it was Zerach’s turn she couldn’t fight them anymore. They slid down her face and onto his robe as she buried her face in his shoulder and contemplated the horrible possibility of never seeing him again. She waited for her brother to say something comforting, but he just pulled back and smiled at her as he walked to the door.
Hannah watched Manel as he held three year old Joshua one last time. What if Manel never came back and Joshua never got to know how wonderful his father was?
Hannah and Adaya helped their mother stand so she could watch her husband and sons from the door. Hannah could see other men leaving their families. The sounds of crying came from all over the settlement. Moran, Manel and Zerach turned back to wave one more time from the gate and walked towards the market. They all watched until they were out of sight and then assisted Danya back to her bed. She was tired from standing and soon fell asleep.
Hannah, Adaya and Iana didn’t speak as they waited. Even Joshua was uncharacteristically subdued sensing the somber atmosphere. Night started to fall and Adaya suggested they try to sleep. Hannah rolled out her mat knowing that she would never be able to sleep.
As she lay down next to Adaya, Hannah asked, “What do you think is happening?”
“It is not our place to wonder,” Adaya said. “You really need to curb your impetuous thoughts and behaviors. It is not becoming to a young woman.”
Hannah knew that Adaya was only saying that because she was afraid for their family and didn’t want to think about it. Soon, Hannah could hear the others even breathing and knew they were asleep. Carefully, she got out of bed and put her sandals back on. If Adaya thought her earlier outburst was impetuous, she was going to be really shocked at this. Not that Hannah intended to be caught. She could sneak out, see what was going on and be back before the others woke at dawn.
Silently, she walked past the sleeping forms of her family and slipped into the darkness. Once she was a few feet away from her house, she broke into a run. She knew the perfect place to observe. Her pace quickened even more as she saw what she was looking for. A tree rose above the ground just outside the settlement. It wasn’t quite as high as King Limhi’s tower, but it should be enough for her to see what she wanted to see.
Carefully, she climbed to the highest branches and looked out across the thick jungle. It was quiet, but not a peaceful quiet. The very air was thick and tense. Hannah’s eyes tried to penetrate through the darkness for any signs of battle, but there was nothing. A few minutes later, she saw the Lamanite army advancing in the distance. Their torches lit up the tropical forest around them and their numbers seemed endless. Hannah knew that the Nephites were extremely outnumbered.
As she watched the enemy come closer, she wondered where the makeshift Nephite army was. She knew they had left, but could not see a camp or battle line anywhere. Sufficiently humbled by the graveness of the situation and her brother’s words to her, she prayed. She bowed her head and said, “Oh, God I know I do not have the faith of my family, but I want to. Please protect my father and brothers, let them drive the Lamanites away.” Now she paused trying to gather might. “And please give me strength to accept Thy will. Amen.”
When the Lamanites were only a few hundred feet away from Hannah’s vantage point she really started to worry. Where were they? Suddenly, she saw one of the Lamanites fall. The army halted and Hannah could count two or three more Lamanites fall. Understanding dawned on her. The Nephites were hiding in the dense vegetation and picking them off. It was the only way they stood a chance.
However, they were soon drawn out of their hiding places and the fighting really began. Soon, Hannah realized she had made a mistake coming here. The cries of dying men assailed her ears and she covered them in a desperate attempt to block it out. As much as the scene appalled her, she was unable to look away. On both sides the men exchanged brutal blows.
Her people were armed with nothing but what they could find. Very few had real weapons, but Hannah could feel their tenacity. They were fighting for a greater cause and as a result, fought with twice as hard as the Lamanites.
Hannah could not see any of her family, but she did catch sight of Gideon. He was a legend among her people. He could have killed King Noah, but in mercy had spared his life only to see his generosity ill repaid when Noah deserted the people. He fought with the strength of ten men and Hannah could see why he was so admired as a warrior. Lamanite after Lamanite was cut down in his wake.
Hannah knew she should get back before she was missed, but couldn’t help staying as she noticed that the Lamanites were being driven back. Her excitement grew as she saw that they were in an all out retreat. Leaving her perch, she sprinted back to her house to share the good news. The sun was about to rise and she knew she was going to be in trouble, but her jubilation drowned out any anxiety she felt.
She threw the door open breathing hard and shouting, “We’ve done it! The Lamanites are retreating!”
Her mother, Adaya and Iana were all awake. At Hannah’s pronouncement of victory, they all sat around Danya’s bed hugging and crying for joy. Soon, they heard the door open behind them and Hannah jumped up to greet her father, Manel and Zerach. Something wasn’t right though. Only her father and Manel stood shadowed in the dim light of dawn.
“Where is Zerach?” she asked with trepidation.
The anguished look on her father’s face was all the answer she needed. She barely heard her mother’s voice telling her to come back as she ran out the door towards the battlefield. Zerach could not be dead. It was inconceivable to Hannah that she would never again see his smile or hear his laughter.
When she came to the place where the fighting had taken place, she saw the bodies of the dead and wounded as they were either covered or their wounds treated. She ran through the multitude searching for her brother’s face. It was a mistake. He had just been separated from them and any minute she would find him alive and well.
After awhile, another emotion began to grow in her. It was an indescribable desolation. Zerach was really gone. In despair, she dodged the men trying to get her away from the ghastly sights around her and plunged into the undergrowth.
She found a secluded spot, sat down and began to cry. Her sobbing became uncontrollable and she had to gasp for breath. Hannah forced herself to stop. If she kept it up, they would find her and make her go back. She didn’t want to face anyone yet, so she stayed quiet and tried to stay hidden. That’s when she heard a rustling sound coming from a few feet away.
Afraid it was a Lamanite waiting to ambush her she sat still and listened for exactly where it was coming from. Hannah heard moaning from another bush to her left. She warily went to investigate and was met with a surprising sight. A Lamanite was lying on the ground, barely conscious. Coming closer, she realized who he was. She had only seen him twice from a distance, but there was no mistaking it. He was the Lamanite king.
Suddenly, she realized the choice she was faced with. This man was the reason her brother was dead. It was his fault. She could either bring him help, or leave him here and let him die. He was far enough off the path that no one would probably find him. The anger inside her argued that he deserved it and she was completely justified in letting him die. Turning around, she started to leave. She only took two steps when another voice spoke to her. Hannah clearly heard Zerach say, “I am not gone forever. No matter what wickedness this man has done, you know the right choice is to save his life. Please do not walk away.”
Hannah turned back to the man and started to yell for someone to help. Soon, three men cut through the vegetation toward them. One looked at who it was and said, “This is the Lamanite king.”
“Finish him off,” the second man said bitterly.
“No,” the third man said. “We must take him to King Limhi.”
The first two men treated his injuries then put the king onto a stretcher and took him away. The third man led Hannah back to the settlement where they found Moran searching for Hannah.
“The king may want to see you as well,” the man said leading her and her father toward the tower.
“What is going on?” Moran asked. Hannah quickly explained how she had found the king and now they were going to take him to Limhi. Hannah became nervous as they approached Limhi’s dwelling.
Inside, the king was counseling with Gideon and his advisors. When they came in, he gave a questioning look until he saw who was borne on the stretcher.
The men carrying the stretcher set it down in front of Limhi. The one who had wanted to kill the king back in the forest said, “We have found the Lamanite king among the dead. His own people have left him and we have brought him to you. Let us kill him.”
“Do not kill him. Bring him here so that I can see him,” Limhi said.
The men complied and brought the Lamanite king closer. “Why have you come to war with my people? We have kept our oath, so why have you broken yours?”
The Lamanite king was weak and Limhi had to lean down to hear his answer. “I have broken the oath because your people have taken the daughters of the Lamanites captive. I became angry and commanded my army to rise up against you.”
Limhi seemed confused. “I have heard nothing about this, but I will search among the people and find out if they have done this deed you speak of.”
At this, Gideon took the king aside. Hannah could barely hear him whisper. “King Limhi, please do not blame the people. What about the priests of King Noah roaming the wilderness? Couldn’t they be responsible? The Lamanites are planning another attack and now they believe we have killed their king as well. They will show no mercy. There are very few of us left. Ask the king to appease them so that we may live. Abinadi’s words have come true because we would not turn to the Lord. It is better for us to be in bondage than to lose our lives.”
Limhi thought for a moment, then agreed with Gideon and turned back to the Lamanite king. Quickly he explained about King Noah’s priests and that they must have been the ones who kidnapped the Lamanite women. He asked the king to have mercy and keep his people from attacking them again.
To Hannah’s surprise, the Lamanite king was placated. He promised to tell his armies not to slay the Nephites and enter into a covenant of peace. At this point, Moran put his hand on Hannah’s shoulder. “Come on. I do not think they need you to speak to them. We should leave.”
As they left, Hannah could almost feel Zerach’s presence beside her. She knew in that moment that she would see him again, that he was happy, and that she had done the right thing.
Many years later, Hannah stood in the darkness with her husband and children eagerly waiting for the signal. Ammon had said that the Lord would provide a way for them to escape tonight, and this time, Hannah’s faith was unwavering. As they waited, her thoughts turned to the bittersweet events of the past years.
The Lamanite king had been true to his word. When his armies returned, he went out and told them to cease fighting. The Lamanites took their king and departed back to their own land peacefully.
However, the situation had not gotten better for the Nephites. Instead the Lamanites became even crueler to them. The Lamanites worked them harshly and battered them. After taking these new abuses, some of the people went back to King Limhi and requested that they take up arms again. Limhi granted their petition, but at a horrible price. The Lamanites overwhelmed the Nephites killing many of them. There were numerous widows and orphans. Everyone, including Hannah’s family, did what they could to take care of them all.
Feelings of fear and despair ruled the land for many years. The Nephites went to battle a second and third time with the same disastrous results as before. Finally, the people were humbled. Hannah had watched as they became little more than slaves, their spirits finally broken. They began to turn to the Lord and prayed fervently for deliverance. Once the people humbled themselves, the Lamanites began to ease up a little. The Nephites were not treated as badly as before, but they remained in bondage.
Hannah hated to see so much suffering among her people, but at the same time grew more optimistic that the Lord would soon take mercy on them. She had seen her own share of heartbreak over the years. Only a year after Zerach was killed, her mother finally succumbed to illness. Her final words to her family admonished them to stay faithful to the Lord.
Adaya found a good man and married within a year of their mother’s passing. Just another year after that, Hannah met Jacob. His family had been converted to the Lord after the first battle with the Lamanites and they were eventually married.
All the while, King Limhi cautioned them to be on the look out for the priests of Noah who would come into the settlements and steal food. Limhi also admonished the people to provide for the orphans and widows of the battles. He also never went outside the city without his bodyguards. It was on one of these outings that he met a man called Ammon.
At first, Limhi believed him to be part of the wicked priests and threw him into prison. Once this proved to be a misunderstanding, Limhi welcomed him with open arms. Ammon taught the people and many of them accepted the gospel and wanted to be baptized, Hannah’s family among them.
Limhi gathered the people together one day to have them all decide what to do about getting out of bondage. It was decided that the only way was to escape. They knew there was no way they could win their freedom, so they decided to take all their families and get out.
It was Gideon’s idea to get the Lamanite guards drunk and then sneak past them as they slept. Now, Hannah waited with her children, grasping Jacob’s hand and praying for the all clear signal. Soon, they heard Ammon’s voice telling them to move forward. They began their perilous journey out the secret pass past the sleeping guards. She did not breathe until her family was clear of them.
The farther away they got, the more Hannah began to relax. Her joy was complete when they finally topped a rise and Hannah saw the city of Zarahemla. Jacob picked her up and swung her around. Their children laughed and danced around them as they made their way to a life of freedom and joy in a new land.