A colony of coral-pink flamingos stood one-legged in the shallow water of the Western Sea and stared sleepy-eyed at the runners on the beach. Forty-three young men, some as young as fourteen, jogged in line under the bright afternoon sun. Each young Nephite wore cotton chest armor and carried his bedroll and a bow and quiver of arrows slung across his back. They were on a secret mission to find the lost City of Zarahemla.
Lot, son of Ahaz, hardly noticed the flamingos. Tall and scrawny with a scant week’s growth of whiskers, Lot sucked on a pebble to ease his thirst. Sand filled his sandals, and flies swarmed up from the clumps of rotten, foul-smelling seaweed in his path. He glanced over his shoulder into the palm trees bordering the beach.
“Look where you’re going, monkey brains.” The taunt came from the runner behind him. Jarom was seventeen, the same age as Lot, but he weighed twenty pounds more. “What do you see over there? Lamanites?” Jarom laughed. “Don’t worry, little girl, I’ll protect you.”
Lot spit out the pebble, breathing through his clenched teeth. He reached under his chest pad and grasped the carved bone handle of an obsidian dagger that hung from his neck. If Jarom knew he had the knife, he’d probably cut off Lot’s ear with it–or worse. The knife had once belonged to Lot’s father, Ahaz, a priest in King Noah’s court.
The sandy beach ended abruptly in a rocky outcropping. Waves splashed on the boulders, filling shallow tide pools. Algae clung to the rocks, making the way wet and slippery. Lot slowed his pace.
“Move!” Jarom said and shoved him forward.
Lot slipped and fell on his knees in a tide pool. When he heard Jarom laugh, Lot exploded in anger. With one quick motion, Lot shed his gear and lunged at the bully. Both fell onto the rocks, pummeling each other with their fists. The other Nephite scouts gathered to shout encouragement at Jarom.
“Stop!” Captain Nathaniel shouted. He grabbed Lot’s arm and pulled him up. “What’s going on?”
Lot jerked his arm loose, slipped and fell again. The scouts laughed until the captain ordered them to be quiet. Lot climbed out of the tide pool, wet and angry. He squeezed water from his chest pad and in a moment of panic, realized the knife was missing.
“Lot struck first,” Jarom said.
“You’re both at fault.” Captain Nathaniel was a large man with a red beard and thick, hairy arms. Sweat glistened on his freckled nose. He carried the only sword in the patrol, a curved scimitar. “There’ll be no more contention. Jarom, go to the head of the column. Lot, you take the rear guard.”
Several scouts slapped Jarom on the shoulder as he walked to the front of the line. Jarom had coveted the lead from the beginning. Now thanks to Lot’s quick temper, he had it.
Captain Nathaniel handed Lot his soggy bedroll. “The Lord is humbling you. Learn from it.” He motioned with his arm and the patrol moved forward.
Lot lagged behind, pondering the captain’s words. The Lord had been humbling Lot for years. At one time his family lived in a fine house in King Noah’s palace compound. His father had power and prestige. His mother wore gold bracelets and dressed in fine woven cloth. Lot was the favored, first son. All that changed the day the Lamanites swarmed into the valley. Like a horde of army ants, they destroyed everything in their path. King Noah and his priests fled to the hills, abandoning their families. Lot’s father never returned. Now Lot lived in a mud and stick hut. His mother bent over the grinding stone, grinding corn for hours each day. Lot learned to hunt to provide meat for his mother and younger brother. And he learned to fight.
The patrol disappeared around a rocky point and Lot ran back to where he’d fallen. He found the knife at the bottom of the tide pool amid the waving, flower-like tentacles of a sea anemone. Lot held the blade up to the sun. It was translucent, a smoky-gray color, and sharp enough to slice flesh painlessly.
Lot was running to catch up with the others when he heard an eerie scream. A Lamanite war cry! He rounded the point and saw a battle taking place on the shore. The bare-chested Lamanites looked more like fishermen than warriors. None carried swords. They fought with bows and arrows, knives and stone clubs. Captain Nathaniel stood waist deep in the surf, swinging his scimitar at the attackers. Behind him, two Nephite scouts stood chest-deep in the water. Each carried a young archer on his shoulders firing arrows at the Lamanites. Several had already fallen, their bodies lay bleeding in the surf. The remainder of the Nephite search party had run ahead, leaving this small group to keep the marauders at bay.
The Lamanite chieftain watched from the beach, tall and aloof. A bright-colored feather cape covered his bare shoulders and he held an obsidian-tipped spear. He suddenly shouted a war cry and ran toward Lot. Fumbling with the bow, Lot loosed an arrow and missed. The feathered chief was close enough now that Lot could see the jade plugs in his earlobes. Lot drew his bow, waiting. The Lamanite stopped abruptly, balancing the spear. In that instant, Lot loosed his arrow. The man screamed, a surprised look on his tattooed face, and fell with an arrow in his chest.
Lot turned and ran, glancing back to see the Lamanites splash to shore. They quit their attack on the small band of Nephites and knelt beside their leader, but not for long.
Lot rounded the rocky point and waited. The first Lamanite to clear the bend fell to Lot’s arrow, but the others kept coming. He quickly loosed the remaining arrows, then turned and ran. A stone club flew by his shoulder. He stumbled in the sand, shed his bulky gear, and scrambling to his feet, ran to the trees.
Temporarily blinded in the sudden shade, he crashed through the dense undergrowth. His heart was pounding in his ears as he grabbed the obsidian knife. He took a quick glance behind him to find his pursuers and slammed hard into a tree. The impact almost knocked him out. As he fell, the knife cut his hand, but Lot didn’t feel it. He crawled under the foliage and waited.
Moments later the Lamanites entered the forest. Lot heard the men sweep through the leaves with their stone clubs. He knew they expected him to jump from cover like a frightened rabbit. Lot cupped his hand and over his mouth to quiet his breath and tasted blood—his own blood. He grasped the dagger with his left hand and waited.
The wait grew longer.
Lot’s head ached. His throat was dry and his gut sick with fear. His right hand began to throb. Blood pulsed from the wound, pooling in the dirt. He clenched his fist and slowed his breath, trying not to focus on the pain. Flies crawled on his hand, attracted to the blood, but he didn’t move. After what seemed a long time, a parrot squawked. Parakeets chirped and squabbled. Somewhere among the trees a spider monkey chattered. Then he heard footsteps running toward him.
Lot jumped to his feet, slashing the air with the knife. His attempt was in vain. Blood drained from his head, and in a swirl of stars he crumpled unconscious to the ground.
A crash of thunder awakened him. It was dark. The air was thick with moisture and the smell of damp earth. Raindrops drummed the leaves in the tree canopy above. Lot grabbed for the knife but it wasn’t there. Instead, he felt a tight strap bound around his wounded hand. His heart jumped when he realized he wasn’t alone.
“Are you awake?” It was a girl’s voice, and she spoke his language.
Lot squinted in the dark. “Who are you?”
“Michal, daughter of Issachar. Keep your voice low. Here, I have water.”
Lot leaned on his elbow and drank from the folded leaf she held out to him. “What’s this?” he asked, holding up his wounded hand.
“You lost a lot of blood. The poultice will help it heal.”
Lot didn’t thank her. He wasn’t sure he could trust her. “Where’s my knife?” he asked.
“I have it.”
“Give it to me.”
She was silent for a moment. “How do you come to have such a knife?”
“It was my father’s.” Lot fell back on the ground, feeling weak.
“My father died in the battle of Shilom,” she said. Thunder crashed and seconds later lightning flashed. Wind whipped the treetops. “Who are you?” she asked.
“Lot, son of Ahaz, from the City of Nephi.” He didn’t think she’d recognize his father’s name. Shilom was a full day’s journey from Nephi.
“I was captured by the Lamanites nine years ago.” Michal said. “I’ve been a slave in Topoxte’s village. They left me behind with the women and children when your troop attacked. That’s how I escaped.”
“We didn’t attack,” Lot said. “They ambushed us. We’re on a peaceful mission—searching for the land of Zarahemla.”
“The land of our fathers?” Her voice quickened. “Take me with you. I know the trails through the jungle.”
“You’ve been to Zarahemla?”
“No, but I’ve been as far north as the Land of the Desolation.”
Lot didn’t recognize the name. “King Limhi sent us to seek aid from Zarahemla.”
“Is King Limhi a coward like his father, Noah?” Michal muttered a Lamanite curse and didn’t wait for an answer. “If Noah’s priests hadn’t captured the daughters of the Lamanites, my father would still be alive.”
Lot quickly changed the subject. He told her about the fight on the beach and Captain Nathaniel’s bravery. “I have to rejoin the search party,” he said.
“Are you strong enough to walk?”
Lot pushed himself up to a sitting position and waited for his head to stop spinning. Michal took his arm at the elbow and helped him to stand. At that moment there was a crack of thunder and a simultaneous bright flash of lightning. In that split second he saw her face. Lot jerked his arm free. Michal was young, probably close to his age, but her face had been tattooed. A wide ribbon of blue dots crossed her cheeks and the bridge of her nose.
Like a blind man in a maze, Lot stumbled through the dense foliage, weak and in pain. Michal pressed on. “How do you know the way?” he asked.
Lot cupped a hand to his ear and heard waves crashing against the shore.
As first-light penetrated the trees, Lot was better able to see the Nephite girl. She was tall. Her light brown hair hung in two long braids in the Lamanite fashion and she wore traditional Lamanite clothing. Her cotton blouse and skirt were made of colorful, woven cloth. Lot saw his father’s ceremonial knife tucked in the rope belt at her waist.
The jungle woke with the sun. Howler monkeys roared like lions to announce the dawn. Lot spotted one of the black demons in a tree and threw a stone at it. Left-handed, his aim was poor. He was looking for another stone when Michal stopped him. “The monkeys are a good sign. They wouldn’t roar if the Lamanites were near.”
They rested in the shelter of an ancient ceiba tree. Its thick roots bolstered the trunk and offered them a hiding place. Lot gazed up into the wide-spreading branches high above and saw bats returning from their nightly haunt.
“We’ll sleep too,” Michal said. “It’s too dangerous to travel during the day.”
Lot was about to argue but he realized Michal was right. She not only dressed like a Lamanite, she thought like one. “I’ll keep guard first,” he said.
Michal shook her head. “We’re safe for now. You sleep; I’ll find something to eat.”
Lot was exhausted but the pain in his hand kept him awake. He untied the strip of cloth Michal had torn from her skirt to make a bandage. The cut was deep and caked with darkened blood. It split his palm from his wrist up through his middle fingers, exposing the bones. He rewrapped the bandage but couldn’t tie it with his left hand. He’d have to ask for Michal’s help.
The thought angered him. He didn’t like the idea of depending on Michal. She broke the trail. She hunted for food. She still held his father’s knife. Easing the pressure of the bandage had lessened the pain, and Lot fell asleep.
He woke to a sweet, fragrant aroma. Michal sat beside him slicing a mango with his father’s ceremonial dagger. She arrayed the pieces on a broad leaf as if she were serving a feast to the king. Lot propped himself up on his elbow and ate hungrily. “Thanks,” he said, wiping the juice from his chin with the back of his hand.
Michal placed the knife on the ground next to him. “Take it. It’s yours.”
Lot reached for knife but she stopped him, placing her hand on his. “There’s one condition. Promise me that if Topoxte’s men find us, you won’t let them take me alive.” Lot looked into her grey-green eyes. He knew what she expected him to do, and she was deadly serious. “Promise,” she said again.
Michal lifted his wounded hand and retied the knot. “Tonight you’ll wash off the blood in the sea. The salt water will clean it.” Almost as an afterthought she said, “I found the Nephites’ trail.”
Lot felt a surge of relief. “That’s good.”
“No, not good. If I found their trail, I’m sure Topoxte’s men found it too. They’ll gather the other tribes and strike again. This time no one will escape.”
“I have to warn them.”
“You’ll walk into a trap.” She lay down on the bed of leaves and turned her back to him. “I’m not going with you,” she said.
“Where are you going?”
Lot ate the remaining fruit but it was tasteless now. For a while he considered returning to the City of Nephi with Michal. He needed to report to King Limhi and tell him what happened to Captain Nathaniel and the search party. Michal needed his protection too. It made sense, but at the same time it sickened his stomach. He looked over to where Michal slept, snoring lightly. Would her family welcome her home? Lot doubted it. Girls who had been captured by the Lamanites were shunned, and Michal’s tattoo would mark her for the rest of her life.
A parrot screeched and Lot reached for the dagger. If the Lamanites had tracked Michal to their hiding place, he would have to slit her throat. The idea was loathsome to him.
When Michal woke a few hours later, Lot knew what he had to do. “Take the knife,” he said, placing it on the ground beside her. “You’ll need it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have to join the search party. We’ll get through to Zarahemla. It’s the only hope we have left in the City of Nephi.”
“You’ll get lost.”
“I’ll follow the shoreline like we did last night.”
Michal sat up, hugging her knees. “I’ve dreamed of going home for so long. It’s what kept me alive.”
Lot could hear her quiet sobs. “When you get back to the land of Nephi,” he said, “send word to King Limhi. Tell him what happened to Captain Nathaniel and the others.”
Michal picked up the dagger and handed it to Lot. “Take me to Zarahemla.”
The afternoon rain came again, and they continued north as they had the night before. Lot felt stronger and they kept a faster pace. After the storm passed, Michal led the way to the beach. The waves were rough, pounding on the shore. Standing knee deep in the surf, Michal untied Lot’s bloodied bandage. He plunged his hand in the salt water but quickly pulled it out again. The wound burned like fire.
“Don’t be a baby.” Michal gently lowered his hand into the water. A wave slammed against their legs and she lost her balance, falling against Lot. He smelled her wet hair and felt her soft shoulder. Michal, daughter of Issachar, he thought, you’re a brave girl. Then she let go of his hand and they walked back to shore. Michal used rain-rinsed leaves to make a poultice and carefully wrapped his hand again. “How does it feel?” she asked.
They traveled all that night, stopping only for short rests. It was almost dawn when Michal motioned a warning to stop. They knelt down in the undergrowth. “Someone’s coming,” she whispered. The bird and monkey chatter had ceased and Lot heard a strange thwacking sound. Someone was clearing a path through the jungle.
“Lamanites?” He reached for the knife.
“No,” Michal said, standing up. “They would never make so much noise. The Nephites are here.”
Lot ran forward to meet the patrol. He found Jarom at the head of the column slashing through the underbrush with the captain’s scimitar. “We thought you were dead,” Jarom said. His body armor was ripped and blood-stained and his bruised, swollen nose had been broken. He explained that the search party had been ambushed twice since Lot killed the Lamanite chief. There were less than twenty Nephite scouts left. They gathered around Lot, weary and beaten. Two of the stronger young men supported Captain Nathaniel, holding his arms on their shoulders. They gently lowered their captain to the ground and Lot knelt beside him.
“Lot? Thank God you’re here.” The captain’s voice was weak. Bloodied bandages wrapped his leg and torso.
“This is Michal,” Lot said. “She’s lived with the Lamanites and she knows the land. She can help us find Zarahemla.”
The captain shook his head slowly. “We’re going back to the land of Nephi. The mission is a failure.”
“If you do that, you’ll die,” Michal said. “I can lead you to the Land of Desolation. You’ll be safe there. The Lamanites won’t follow. They believe it’s haunted.”
“Is it far?” the captain asked.
“We’ll have to cross the mountains,” Michal said. “I’ve never been there, but I know the way.”
Captain Nathaniel nodded. “I hope I live to see it.”
“We’re going to follow this girl?” Jarom’s voice was sharp. “She might lead us into a trap. I say we keep going south to the land of Nephi.”
“Give me the scimitar,” Captain Nathaniel ordered.
Jarom dropped on one knee and the captain reclaimed his weapon. He handed it to Lot. “Lead us to this Land of Desolation.”
Lot stood with the captain’s sword in his left hand and faced the Nephite scouts. “Are you willing?”
There was silence for a moment and then Jarom spoke again. “Don’t you remember who this is? He’s the son of Ahaz the traitor and coward, the pagan priest who stole a daughter of the Lamanites and brought death to hundreds of Nephite warriors.”
Lot saw the surprise and hurt in Michal’s eyes and his hand tightened on the hilt of the scimitar.
“Lot is a traitor like his father,” Jarom said. “He took this tattooed…”
Before Jarom could say another word, Lot jabbed the sword hilt into his face. Blood gushed from his broken nose and Jarom cried out in pain. He buckled over, covering his nose in an effort to stop the flow.
“I’m not my father,” Lot told the Nephite patrol. “And I’m no coward. Captain Nathaniel trusts me. You can too.”
Lot knelt beside the captain. “Pray with me now.”
Everyone except Jarom got down on their knees. Lot bowed his head and prayed for guidance and protection. He asked a blessing for Captain Nathaniel. When the Nephite scouts got back on their feet, Lot was in command. “We’ll rest until nightfall,” he said. “No fires. No noise.”
A short while later, Lot found Michal alone. “I want you to have this now,” he said, holding out the obsidian knife.
She nodded. “It will never be used unrighteously again.”
The patrol started at dusk, following Michal’s lead through the jungle. Lot walked behind her with Captain Nathaniel’s scimitar strapped to his waist. The moon was slow to rise. Its sliver of light kept the patrol hidden. They hadn’t gone far before they heard the sound of drums—ominous, pulsing beats coming from the south. A short while later the drums were answered, this time from the north. As they climbed higher, the air grew chilly. The palms and broad-leafed jungle trees gave way to scrub oaks and brush. At dawn they had crested the ridge and descended into a high mountain valley.
Lot called for a halt beside a pool of clear, bubbling water. The limestone sinkhole was an oasis surrounded by lush trees. The young Nephites stepped down to the water’s edge, sprawled on their stomachs and drank like dogs. Captain Nathaniel lay on a blanket, feverish and in pain. Michal pressed a calabash gourd filled with water to his lips and a wet cloth to his forehead. When she returned to the pool for more water, Lot followed. “Will he live?”
Michal shook her head sadly. “The wound is rotting.”
Lot kicked a rock into the water. “How much farther?”
“The City of Skulls must be close, down in the valley.”
The Nephites lingered at the water’s edge. Those who had food shared with those who had none. Lot remained on guard. Cupping his bandaged hand over his eyes, he gazed back along the trail. What was that movement in the brush? A deer? A wild turkey? Metal glinted in the sun. “Lamanites!” he shouted. “Run!”
War cries filled the air.
Michal ran and the Nephite scouts followed. Lot and Jarom remained behind with Captain Nathaniel and three others too wounded to flee. They took shelter in the trees from the Lamanite arrows. “Over here,” Jarom shouted. “There’s a place to hide.”
It was a rock building that had lost its thatched roof years ago. After helping the wounded inside, Lot and Jarom guarded the entrance. Arrows rained down over the walls. The Lamanites shrieked in anger but then were strangely quiet.
“What’s happening?” Captain Nathaniel asked.
“They’re staying back,” Lot said. “I don’t know why.”
“I do,” Jarom said. He had gone to the far corner of the walled enclosure to retrieve arrows that had fallen there. “This place is full of bones.”
“We must be near the City of Skulls.” Lot thought of Michal and felt his gut sicken. Was she safe?
Jarom scowled at Lot through bloodshot, swollen eyes. “We’re going to die here, too,” he said. “Our bones will be left to rot.”
“That’s enough.” Lot didn’t want the others to hear.
The sun rose higher and the heat grew oppressive. They sat against the wall, seeking shade. Flies tormented the wounded, and the captain became delirious, calling for water. There was none. Despite Lot’s efforts, Captain Nathaniel died in the heat of the day. Lot wrapped his body in a blanket and covered it with rocks.
It was long after dark before they left the enclosure. A signal fire blazed in the distance and they walked toward it. “Hello, the camp!” Lot shouted when he thought he was close enough to be heard. Someone ran to meet them. It was Michal!
“Thank God, you’re alive,” she cried, rushing into his arms. Lot hadn’t slept in almost twenty-four hours. He was hungry. He was dirty. And he’d lost his friend, Captain Nathaniel. Yet Lot felt relieved knowing that Michal was here. Yes, he thought, thank God.
They entered what had once been a large city. Well-constructed stone buildings surrounded an open court overgrown with brush. A man-made pyramid rose at the center, topped with a stone temple. The Nephite scouts had fueled the bonfire with wooden tables and benches taken from the abandoned buildings. They cheered when Lot and the others arrived but their mood quickly changed when they learned Captain Nathaniel had died. Lot sat before the fire eating a bowl of beans Michal had brought him, and the young men gathered, wondering what Lot planned next. “We’ll stay here a while,” he said. “We’re safe and the wounded need to rest, but Captain Nathaniel would want us to continue the search for Zarahemla.”
“The search is over, Captain Lot.” Jarom spoke the title derisively. “Don’t you see it? This is the City of Zarahemla.”
Lot ignored the jibe, glancing up at the vacant buildings. “I hope not. If this is Zarahemla, we’re too late.”
After finishing his meal, Lot asked them to climb the pyramid. The likelihood of a Lamanite attack was small, but he thought they would be safer on high ground. Storm clouds had blown across the valley, obscuring the stars. Forked lightning danced on the mountains and thunder rumbled in the distance. The Nephite scouts held up their wind-whipped torches as they ascended the steep staircase to the temple. They entered the great hall and stared in disbelief. Skeletons clad in metal breastplates lay about the stone floor, their swords and shields beside them. The young Nephites began poking about the remains, looking for valuables.
“Stop!” Lot shouted. “These were once valiant warriors.”
Michal had left and Lot went to find her. She stood at the open doorway, gazing out at the once-great city. Raindrops splashed on the stone steps. Eerie flashes of lightning illuminated the streets and buildings below. “Is this really Zarahemla?” she asked.
Lot shook his head. “If it is, there’s no hope for the City of Nephi.”
They returned to the hall and found the Nephite scouts gathered at the stone altar. Lot heard their excited voices. In the light of a flickering torch, he saw the glint of gold. “What is it?”
“Gold plates,” Jarom said. “There are more than twenty of them in a stone box.”
Lot held one up to the light. “There are engravings on this plate,” he said, handing it back to Jarom. “King Limhi should see them.”
“King Limhi, why?”
Lot heard the challenge in his voice. “He might be able to decipher the inscriptions.”
“These markings? They look like pictures to me, not writing.”
“The plates may explain what happened to these people. If this is Zarahemla, King Limhi must learn what happened here.”
Jarom closed the stone box. “I found them,” he said. “They’re mine.” He grabbed one of the ancient swords and carved an arc through the air, threatening Lot.
“Put that down.” Lot stood empty-handed.
“You can’t tell me what to do, Captain Lot, son of Ahaz.”
Lot backed against the altar as Jarom advanced. “Who’s captain now?” Jarom jeered.
Lot glanced about for a weapon. There was none within reach.
“Seize him!” Jarom ordered. The Nephi scouts stood motionless. Enraged, Jarom shouted again. “Do as I say! There’s enough treasure here for all of us.”
“Lot!” Michal screamed. She held out the obsidian dagger.
Jarom cursed, lunging at Michal with the sword. He knocked the knife from her hand and it shattered on the stone floor. Obsidian shards scattered everywhere. Lot launched himself at Jarom and they fell, wrestling for the sword. Tiny pieces of obsidian glass cut into their bare flesh. Lot’s wounded hand was useless, immobilized with the bandage, and Jarom was able to gain a chokehold. Michal’s screams echoed in the stone hall as Jarom tightened his grip on Lot’s neck.
Struggling to free himself, Lot thrashed about on the floor, gasping for breath. His ears were ringing. His vision dimmed. Then suddenly it was over. The young Nephites pulled Jarom away, pinning his arms behind his back. Jarom raged with hate. He pleaded with the Nephite scouts to let him go. “The treasure belongs to us. We found it!”
Lot stood, wobbly on his feet, and rubbed his sore neck. Michal came to his side. One of the Nephite scouts handed him Captain Nathaniel’s scimitar. “You are our captain now, Lot.”
When Lot woke the next morning, Jarom was gone. He never returned.
Lot and the Nephi scouts explored the valley for many days and each time they found more grisly bone piles. The evidence was all around. Zarahemla had been destroyed. “I don’t believe it,” Michal said. She sat with Lot at the top of the temple pyramid, looking out at the city. “This can’t be Zarahemla. My grandmother told me stories of Zarahemla. It was a wondrous city, and it had a righteous king. The Lord would not allow the people to be destroyed.”
Lot glanced at Michal and smiled. She wore her hair in the Nephite fashion now, knotted at the back of her neck with a red hibiscus flower tucked behind her ear. Lot thought she looked beautiful. “The gold plates may hold the answer,” he said.
Lot didn’t want to believe that Zarahemla had been destroyed either, but he ordered preparations to be made for the trek back to the Land of Nephi. “The Lamanites may be waiting on the other side of the mountains,” he told the Nephite scouts. “The breastplates and weapons we’ve found here will protect us.”
“No,” Michal said. “The Lord will protect us.”
They made quick progress through the pass with Michal as their guide. At dawn they were once again under the tree canopy in the land of the roaring monkeys. Michal sat beside Lot as they ate their meal. “I asked you once to take me to Zarahemla,” she said. Lot nodded and Michal gently took his hand in hers. The knife wound was healing but there would always be a scar. “Well?” she asked.
Lot smiled. “Someday I’ll take you to Zarahemla,” he said. “I promise.”
3 thoughts on “11: The Lost City of Skulls”
Oh, YES! This is an excellent story! It kept my interest from beginning to end, and I kept nodding and thinking, "Yup, this could have happened exactly like that." I loved the descriptive details that made me feel as though I were right there with the characters. I would definitely read more by this author.
Fascinating exploration of what could have happened on that mission.
I realize that this story is geared towards the event of finding the city, but I feel like Lot's character could have maybe a different arc to it. He's pretty much the same person at the beginning as he is at the end. Stuff has happened–he's fought with Jarom, his captain died, he met a girl–but I'm not sure how those things caused growth or change in Lot.
You've given Lot such a great backstory with his father as King Noah's priest. I would love to sense more of that identity struggle (the "I'm not my father" stuff you have during the fight) at the beginning, and then have it grow, and then be resolved somehow at the end. Lot succeeds on his external quest–the search for Zarahemla. If his internal quest were more clearly defined and given an arc, this would be an even more successful story.
As it is, it's a very exciting adventure. Well done.
I think I can echo Emily on this one almost exactly.
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