Amalickiah and his closest cohorts in crime continued running through the jungle at a desperate pace. Amalickiah stopped and raised his hand for silence. His men all stopped and huddled near him. The only sounds were their heavy breathing and typical jungle noises. Exotic birds squawked and monkeys chided these new invaders of their territory. After a brief pause, it was evident that they were not being pursued. The men smiled, nudged each other in relief, and turned to Amalickiah for guidance. The group included Ammoron and the fourth judge, whose name was Ishmael. He was the judge who had been so quick to swear allegiance to Amalickiah's ploy to become king.
Still breathless and panting, but greatly annoyed, Ammoron managed to nearly stand straight. His shoulders heaved in and out as he tried to catch his breath. He wiped a bit of drool from his mouth and glanced back at the path they had just cut. With the observation of those waking up to a hopeless cause, he muttered, "Well, this is just great! We're 'free,' but we're in the middle of nowhere and we've lost our army!"
"Then we'll have to raise a new army," Amalickiah calmly retorted, without deterrence.
"How?! If we show our faces back at Zarahemla, we're dead men!" Ammoron challenged, more perplexed than annoyed.
"Who said anything about going back - yet?" Amalickiah corrected his less-than-brilliant brother.
There was hidden meaning in his words that only Ishmael caught. He offered the following point to Ammoron and the others, "I believe we won't be returning until we've raised our army." Ishmael turned to Amalickiah for confirmation. "Isn't that right?"
Amalickiah smiled his wicked smile and nodded confirmation.
Ammoron demanded a realistic answer and queried, "But, where will we find an army?! The only other people out here are Lamanites -" His face took on an incredulous expression, mixed with dread, as the dawning of an unfortunate realization emerged. With severe hesitation he began to verbalize it, "Unless -" he looked his brother directly in the eyes hoping to receive a contradiction to his worst fear.
Amalickiah did not oblige him, instead, he confirmed it, "Now you're using your head for something more than carrying around a dumb expression. Follow me men and I'll see you sit in the highest seats of power!"
Ammoron instinctively covered his with his hand and shook his head in disbelief. After a lifetime, he still could not believe his brother's audacity. He would, of course, continue to follow him. The other men rose and followed Amalickiah deeper into Lamanite territory.
~~~ - ~~~
Moroni had gathered the prisoners and marched them back to Zarahemla. Their numbers were such that even crowded together shoulder to shoulder and heel to toe, they still filled Zarahemla's grand city square. They were weaponless and surrounded by Moroni's soldiers. Moroni stood above them, on the catwalk that curled along the city wall wholly encompassing the Nephite capital city. He stood on the section nearest the city gate. The Title of Liberty blew proudly in the breeze behind him. The prisoners mingled in silence, defiantly awaiting word of their fate.
Moroni leaned with both hands on the rail before him and eyed the captives with a mixture of feelings that ranged from disdain to remorse. He had never personally been one to seek for power and had no patience for those others who did. He was a firm believer in pursuing only that which was for the greater good for society. This was the only reason he had accepted commission back into service.
He looked at the imprisoned group of his former Nephite brethren and his heart sickened and ached for those who had turned against their society and attempted to enforce a dictatorial government upon them by the sword. He saw them as lost and deluded souls needing saving, but knew all too well that he could not speak to them in tones of forgiveness and reclamation, as people in this state would not respond appropriately. They would see that tone as a sign of weakness and would remain wholly unrepentant and dangerous.
Moroni knew all too well that this group needed to be dealt with decisively, quickly, and harshly, if he was going to succeed at awakening them and the rest of the Nephites to proper beliefs and behavior. He stood up straight, ensuring that he had the group's full attention.
"You men have been led astray by a wicked and vain man who sought to be king," he boldly declared. "He sought kingship not because he wanted to benefit or protect this people, but because he sought his own, personal glory and riches!"
Moroni began to pace to hold their attention and to give him the ability to see all portions of the crowd. He wanted to see how well received his words were.
"We only seek to protect ourselves, our lands, our families, our religion, and our freedom. We have raised this Title of Liberty as a symbol of our desires and have sworn to uphold this quest." He gestured to the flag above the city gate.
He turned and pointed directly at his captive audience and sternly declared, "Those of you 'king-men' who will swear allegiance to liberty and to no longer fight against our peaceful society can continue to live among us as friends and brethren. Those of you who will not swear this will be put to death. Now!" To highlight the immediacy of the proposition, he commanded, "Those of you swearing this oath, bow down, that we may see."
All but six men bowed down. The six were scattered throughout the captives and stood, defiantly daring Moroni to act. Moroni did not hesitate. He pointed directly to them and gave them the chance to rethink their defiance, "You men, standing there. Do you make the oath of peace?"
"We do not!" the first man declared. A vain grin crept onto his face as he dared defy the man who he had often sarcastically referred to as "the mighty Moroni" in front of his comrades in earlier settings.
"Do you understand my words?" Moroni sought clarification, before exacting justice.
One of the standing men took a few steps toward this fellow prisoner who had spoken. He was unable to walk directly to his comrade, because of the press of the crowd, but the few steps he managed to take made it clear where his allegiance stood.
"We do!" the second man replied, "And we refuse to swear."
Moroni, having given them the opportunity to recant their decision, and being satisfied that they were knowingly choosing to defy liberty, saw no other option than to make an example of the men.
"Then there is only one alternative. Teancum, have these men brought forward," he called out.
Teancum, who stood down in the city square, motioned to his men. The crowd of prisoners quickly parted to enable Teancum's men to grab the six and brusquely march them forward to the feet of Moroni who still stood on the catwalk above the city gate.
Moroni magnanimously gave them one last chance to preserve their rebellious hides, "Do you men now swear?"
"We do not!" the first man again declared.
"So be it," Moroni replied simply.
He motioned to Teancum who had his men toss ropes over the joists in the gate. The six were hanged then and there. As they vainly struggled for breath, the still-bowed prisoners sneaked looks and were more deeply resolved in their decision to swear the oath.
Moroni returned his focus to the captives, "Now, how many of the rest of you want to join your stubborn friends?"
Moroni paced and eyed the prisoners. None of them moved. "Good. You men can now swear allegiance to the Title and must seek no longer to disrupt this people. Do you so swear? Rise and show us."
The men all rose and raised their right hands to the square.
"We so swear," the prisoners stated in unison.
During the course of this incident, Helaman had joined Moroni on the gate.
Moroni concluded the situation with these words, "Lest any man forget what has happened here today, I want the Title of Liberty posted high above each city's gate so that all may remember their oath. You men are now free."
Teancum's men raised their spears and swords so that their tips no longer pointed at the prisoners. Having sworn the oath of peace, the former prisoners were now free to return to their homes. By the rites of their society, breaking their oath now would be a black mark on their very souls. This people, even when rebelling, would not refute their oaths.
~~~ - ~~~
Moroni was seated around a table with Helaman, Teancum, Lehi, and two others. The room was just large enough for them to be able to pace around the table. It was their strategy room. On a far wall was a series of shelves from floor to ceiling. The shelving was covered by a curtain that hung partially open, revealing some of the many maps and documents they contained. The documents were written on scrolls that were loosely rolled.
There were no windows in the strategy room, as it was nested deep within the city's central building. All light came from hanging oil lamps. Only one, wooden door provided access to the room. It led to the main hallway in this building that also housed the council chamber where the judges met, as well as other governmental entities. While many records were kept in that room, the majority were stored in the lower, underground chambers of this complex, secured behind large, stone doors.
These stone doors were somewhat of a marvel. Made from one solid piece of granite-like stone, they were four feet wide, a foot thick, and nearly seven feet tall. While they provided ample security for the records they protected, they were carved in such a way that when the locking stone was removed a man could apply little pressure with one hand and push the one-ton doors open. They pivoted on a beveled corner that acted as a hinge on one side.
In the strategy room, the Nephite leaders discussed ways to prepare for whatever deeds Amalickiah had in store for them. Lehi was particularly concerned about letting Amalickiah remain on the loose. He added the following to the conversation that had been going on for quite some time, "Well, he certainly doesn't dare come back. Should we send a party after them?"
"No, they have too much of a lead and could easily catch our men off guard. I don't want to send my men blindly into some form of ambush," Moroni answered.
"If they do succeed in joining the Lamanites, they won't stay away for long. You can be certain of that," Teancum pointed out.
"I'm afraid you're right. We need to prepare ourselves and our cities for their return," Moroni conceded.
"Our cities?" Lehi was a bit perplexed and verbalized his confusion.
Anticipating the question, Moroni added, "Certainly. They know our cities as well as we do ourselves. They know their strengths and their weaknesses." He eyed his commanders to see who, if any, would understand what he implied.
The room was silent for only a moment, when Helaman observed, "What we have to do is change our cities in such a way that they can't use their knowledge against us. Correct?"
"Exactly," Moroni smiled.
"But, will we have time?" Teancum saw the point, but questioned their ability.
Moroni presented the following string of logical conclusions, "As we've seen, insurrection doesn't begin in a single day. Infiltration into enemy ranks takes even longer. He has to win friends before he can gain confidences and build up a force. I have no doubt he'll accomplish the climb, but it won't happen in a day. Yes, I'd say we have time. Just not time to waste."
"You have my full support. As always," Helaman dutifully replied.
"And ours as well," Lehi and the others agreed.
"I knew this, but it's good to hear you say it out loud. You are all true men, defenders of the faith and the faithful." Moroni thanked his men for their loyalty. Then he added his own pledge of devotion, "Helaman, in this act of defense I do not in any way mean to usurp the leadership that you represent for this people and myself. Our countrymen and I must still look to you to lead us to trust in the Lord. I wholly realize that swords and spears are powerful weapons, but there is no equal or substitute for having the Lord on our side. I will continue to look to you for spiritual guidance."
"I knew this as well, Moroni," Helaman responded. "And I continue to be impressed with your devotion. For my part, I will step up my efforts to visit each city more regularly; to keep these people in line by making it clear to them who it is that gives them breath and grants them life; to help them gain an appreciation for their role in maintaining the freedom and liberties they now enjoy."
Turning to strategic relations, Moroni added, "Lehi and Teancum, we know that faith is essential, but without works we aren't worthy of His help. We must fortify the cities in such a way that Amalickiah would never expect. Let's begin with our weakest city."
Moroni walked over to the shelves, pulled the curtain aside, and retrieved a scroll. He brought it back to the table and unrolled an old map. He placed some clay drinking flasks at the corners to make it lay flat. The men rose and came around to his side to view the map.
"That would be Ammonihah. Here. It's still not been fully repaired since the last Lamanite attack." Teancum identified the target city, and put his finger on the spot.
Moroni agreed, and began to unfold his plan. "Now, first, we'll dig a trench around the entire city. We won't cart the dirt off. We'll put it to good use. We'll move all of the dirt up against the city walls. We'll have to raise the walls themselves, or rather build higher walls on top of the existing structures. This would make the ditches even deeper. We'll place spears and hurdles in the ditches and along the walls to hinder attempts to scale them. At the top of the dirt walls we'll build a series of reinforced shielding for our archers to peer through. Over the city gate and at each corner we'll build high towers, halfway between each of these towers we'll place weaponry rooms for storing spears, arrows, and boulders for fending off attacks -"
As Moroni described his plans, his officers' eyes grew wide. He sensed their concern, paused and asked, "What is it?"
"Sir, no one has ever built such fortifications before," Teancum stated.
"Yes, I know. That's exactly why we're doing this," Moroni pointed out.
~~~ - ~~~
Amalickiah and his men were on a tree-filled hilltop. They were crouched down, looking out toward a city of Lamanites. To the far side of the city, farmers could be seen tilling fields. Walking the catwalk along the city wall, two guards performed their routine duties, while additional guards were posted by the city gate. Beyond their line of vision, safely within the city's protective city wall, other Lamanites were going about the duties of a typical day. Merchants plied their wares, couples wandered together, children dashed in and out of hiding spots playing games.
"There it is men. The land of Nephi. Stronghold of the Lamanites," Amalickiah proudly announced.
Centuries earlier, a man named Nephi had led his people out of the Old World to the Promised Land. Lamanite aggression forced them to abandon their first, small settlement. They moved into the wilderness, inland and northward to a find a place where they could be free from Lamanite interference. They had settled in the valley that Amalickiah and his men now surveyed. Here they took the time to build a mighty city. They called it the city of Nephi, out of love and respect for their honored leader.
To further show their respect, the people took on Nephi's name and became known as "Nephites." It was not long, however, before the Lamanites again rose up against the Nephites in a series of wars that seemingly had no end.
The Nephites eventually abandoned their beloved city of Nephi and moved still farther north, hoping to live peaceful lives. They established the even far grander city of Zarahemla. This became the Nephite's new chief city. Although it was much more splendid and offered greater protection than any other city in the land, the Nephites still longed for the day that they would be able to overcome their Lamanite foes and return to their beloved city of Nephi.
Until that time, the Lamanites continued to occupy the envied city and used it as their chief stronghold, out of spite as much as out of any other purpose. This, then, was the city that the Lamanite king considered his home, and which bore his throne room. And, it was here that Amalickiah had dared to lead his men.
Ammoron could not help but cower very low, yet he dared to poke his head up high enough to take in the view. He exclaimed, "I never thought I'd live to see it." He continued to try to make out more of the distant images of life within their enemy's city. Curiously, he noted that there appeared to be no signs of preparations for war.
"You'll see a lot more than its outer gate, I assure you!" Amalickiah prophesied with a self-indulgent smile.
"You're not planning on going in there are you?!" Ammoron was again fearful.
"Of course. How else will we gain our army? From the birds and monkeys in the trees?" Amalickiah boisterously slapped his brother on the back of his head while the others laughed.
Undeterred in his apprehension, Ammoron insisted on a plan, "What are you going to do? Walk right into town and ask for enlistments?"
Amalickiah's smile broadened while a plot hatched in his head, only to be hinted at for the moment. "Oh, that's close. But, I'll be a lot more subtle than that. Yes, a lot more subtle. Follow my lead if you value your heads."
Amalickiah began a quick decent toward the city, through the jungle. The others followed. Some half-hour later, Amalickiah stumbled out of the jungle to the clearing nearest the city's main gate. His clothes were disheveled. His men emerged the same. They all stumbled to their knees, panting for breath.
"Guard, guard! Thank goodness, guard!" Amalickiah called out in a desperate, weary voice, maintaining the lead as they crossed the field toward the city, and purposely called attention to himself.
Two guards by the city's gate noticed the commotion and rushed to the Nephite strangers with their spears pointed at their enemies.
"Guards, thank goodness we made it! We must see the king! We must warn the king!" Amalickiah continued.
The first guard was somewhat incredulous, "Warn the king?! You, a Nephite, warn the king? What do you care about our king?"
Amalickiah feigned intense indignation and chided, "Apparently, I care a great deal more than you do! Hurry! I must warn the king!"
The second guard took extreme exception at the gall of this Nephite intruder who dared to chide a Lamanite. He narrowed his eyes, clenched his teeth, moved his weapon into position and firmly declared, "And we must warn you. Stop where you are this instant, or you'll not breathe another breath!"
To the shock and dismay of his brother who slunk toward the back of their group, Amalickiah ignored the threat. "Fine, fine, do with us as you will, but first we must see the king."
The guards were surprised at the audacity of this man who should have been pleading for his life. They recognized that there must be something unique about this warning he claimed to have for their king. They stepped back and spoke to each other in hushed, hurried tones, while keeping a watchful eye on their captives.
They discussed the likelihood of Amalickiah actually bearing news for which, should they prevent it from reaching their king, they could be held accountable. During this discussion, three more guards rushed out of the city gate and moved in to surround Amalickiah and his men.
"What's all this about?! Where did these Nephites come from?!" the largest of the three additional guards demanded.
"I haven't a clue," the second guard replied. "They've just appeared from the jungle, claiming to need to warn the king. They seem in earnest."
"A warning for the king? What sort of warning?" the tall guard queried.
"We don't know yet. We've been trying to find that out," the first guard pointed out. "I say we bring them to the captain and let him decide what to do."
"Agreed," the third guard stated. Then, turning to Amalickiah's men, he sternly ordered, "Up, you men! Step in line!"
They bound Amalickiah and his men's hands behind their backs and took them through the gate into the city. The group was marched to a prison while curious and concerned Lamanites watched them pass. Amalickiah observed the guards speak to their captain, but was unable to overhear the conversation.
The captain disappeared through a doorway. Amalickiah and his men awaited word on their fate while continuing to be well guarded. The captain finally returned and motioned for them to be led to the throne room. The throne room door opened widely, bringing the room into their full view, as they cautiously entered.
The throne room had obviously seen better days. The tapestries on the walls were fading. While the humid air had taken its toll on them, it was evident that the years, and perhaps centuries that had passed since they were first hung there, had taken an even greater toll on their once-brilliant colors. An ancient chandelier of jewels and gold, lit by candles hung from the central rafter. Torches filled each walls interspersed between the tapestries.
The stone floor had a long, hand-woven carpet that led directly from the throne room door to the throne itself. Its reddish-purple color was fading, and the edges of the carpet were frayed in many areas. The throne itself was made of both stone and wood.
Its dais had a stone foundation that had once been carved with images of serpents and vines. Over the years, these images had all but worn off. Two wooden steps built to cover the original, stone steps. These were made of dark wood and also carved to depict the original vines and serpents.
Much of the same treatment had been given to the throne itself. The king's seat, chair back and armrests were covered with a dark wood with ornamental carvings imitating those found in the original stone. Simple, dark red cloths had been placed on the wood, for the king to sit upon. The king himself now sat in his throne, governing all things pertaining to the Lamanites. At this time, that included conversing with these unlikely visitors from the north.
"Who are you and what is this news you wish me to hear?" the Lamanite king demanded. He had on a loose vest made of monkey skins. His bulging belly protruded uncomely from within the confines of the vest. The jewels in his golden crown were interspersed with brightly-colored feathers. His mood looked ill and suspicious.
As Amalickiah attempted to step forward, a guard blocked him with his spear. The king waved the guard aside. Amalickiah was able to step forward. Behind him, his men remained encircled by several guards pointing spears at them. Amalickiah bowed and knelt before the king, showing all the deference he inwardly wanted others to show to him.
"Oh, great king, I thank you that I might speak to you this day. I am Amalickiah, a Nephite by birth, as you can plainly see by my pale, uncomely skin. But, I am your humble servant from this day onward."
The king was pleased with the prospect of a Nephite who knew his manners and his place. He maintained his gruff exterior, however and repeated, "What is your news?"
"Oh, great king, I wish to save you. You and your beautiful people."
"Save me? From what? From whom?"
"Oh, great king, from the Nephites." With the dropping of this bit of news, Amalickiah bowed himself low to the ground and lowered his eyes to the floor, implying submission to the unfortunate "truth" he had been compelled to reveal to the king.
The king sat upright, wholly surprised by this news. "The Nephites? The Nephites! They've sworn to leave us in peace. Why should I need to fear them?"
Amalickiah turned and spoke to his men, but with the obvious intent that the king overhear him. "You see. You see that this king is a man of his word and he does not take oaths as trifles. He would not refute his word."
The king was irritated that Amalickiah would dare to speak to others in his presence, but was even more impatient to learn to what Amalickiah was referring. "Of what do you speak?" he demanded in a deep voice that echoed through the hall.
Amalickiah turned back to the king and again feigned humility and deference as he perpetuated his lie, "Even as we speak, great king, the Nephites prepare for war, in spite of their supposed oath. I am a man of honor. I cannot live among a people who don't honor their oaths. I have come to warn you of their treachery, lest they take you and your peaceful people unawares."
"The Nephites prepare for war?!" the king stood at this news.
Amalickiah nodded. The king flumped back down onto his throne, sat back and pondered the implications of the Nephites breaking the oath that they themselves forced upon the Lamanites.
"Unheard of!" the Lamanite ruler muttered to himself. Then, with a resolute look he declared to his court, "Very well. We will not be taken off our guard."
Already the king had begun to ignore Amalickiah and his men as he began to give orders of preparation for another war. Amalickiah would not be so easily forgotten, however, and dared to interrupt the king's intentions by calling out, "Oh, great king, I have come to aid you."
The king turned his gaze and attention back to Amalickiah, who continued to kneel before him. He incredulously asked, with more than a subtle hint of indignation at the thought, "Aid me? I need no aid! My armies are mighty enough."
"Yes, great king, they are," Amalickiah continued. "They are the mightiest of armies with brave, bold warriors, but I can make the battle quick and spare your men from trouble."
"How? How can you do this?"
"I am a Nephite by birth. I have lived my days among them. I have dwelled in their cities." Amalickiah rose to his feet as he continued. "I have seen their fortifications. I know their strengths - and their weaknesses." Amalickiah paused to allow this to sink in. "And I wish to share all of this knowledge with you, great king. For I wish that you will be my king, and I will be your servant."
The king smiled as Amalickiah bowed with exaggerated subservience. He had completely fallen for Amalickiah's ploy. Ammoron and the others, still guarded, looked at each other and nodded approvingly in admiration of a master schemer.
~~~ - ~~~
Within a few short days, a proclamation from the king had been written, copied, and was in the process of being posted throughout the Lamanite city. The proclamation declared the Nephite's intention to attack them. It further stated that all men were to arm themselves and report for duty. Husbands and wives read the proclamation on various city walls. Wives cried and men shook and scratched their heads in disbelief. It was beyond their capacity to believe that the Nephites could possibly go against their word of honor.
Other men, who boldly longed for war and the splendors of battle, read and nodded with enthusiasm. The people became split in whether or not they believed there was a real threat. Rumor had it that the supposed war was a hoax, generated to take their minds off of this year's poor crops. The king's men called for representatives from each of the Lamanite homes. Some men risked public censor and potential execution by refusing to take the weapons offered to them.
The king required weekly updates on the preparations. Guards bore the unnerving task of reporting protests to their superiors. As word got back to the general populace that many were refusing to take up arms against the Nephites, others took courage and joined in the protest. An increasing number of men spoke out about not breaking their oath by taking up arms.
©1999, 2003, 2012 by Douglas V. Nufer
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