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Prelude to Destiny

         74 BC. Deep within the heart of an ancient rainforest. 

~~~ - ~~~ 

A large and powerful hand took a firm hold on the edge of the animal skin door-flap. It paused a moment before pulling it open. At first, the contrast between the inner tent and the burning sun left the soldier unable to see within the tent. However, his eyes quickly adjusted and soon he could make out the silhouette of his commander sitting at his writing table on the far end of the opening.

The large, Nephite warrior had to stoop to enter his commander's tent. Once within, he was able to stand erect as he prepared to report his findings. He stood at attention. This was done out of respect, not out of fear of reprimand. The soldier's feet were clad in sandals with their tie-off leather thongs interwoven up his muscular calves. His uniform was a blend of sheepskin about his loins and a leather breastplate covering more sheepskin on his chest. He had removed his helmet before entering and sheathed his long, double-edged sword.

The tent was made of animal skins. The fur had been carefully rubbed off, leaving just the smooth, malleable leather. It was four paces long and half as wide. Three, evenly-space center poles supported the roof, with a pole in each corner and another at the center of each wall. They were tall, sturdy poles, but slender so as to make them more portable. Although the tent could be cleared out and rolled up at a moment's notice, it offered a sense of dignified presence. The poles were straight. The leather walls were clean.

The soldier paused only briefly before calling for his commander's attention, ""Captain Moroni!"

Using rigid and calculated military discipline, the soldier, one of Moroni's junior officers, took two more steps within the tent to face his superior officer. At the tender, young age of 25, Captain Moroni had gained the respect of the Nephite nation and had been anointed as its supreme military leader. He was beloved by his army and feared by his enemies.  He now sat at a portable, wooden table lashed together with ropes made of indigenous vines to ensure its sturdiness. Parchments with charcoal writing covered the table. Some were unrolled. Others were still curled and lying within their leather and bamboo holders.

Captain Moroni was studying the parchment on the top of the pile. He had placed a leather water flask on one end and a razor-sharp, bone-handled knife on the other, to hold back the edges, which begged to curl back together again. The parchment bore a map of the area etched onto its surface. The commander had heard his officer, but momentarily remained in his thoughts as he completed his study of the map.

He had already begun to look up as the officer repeated his announcement, "Captain Moroni!" Then, he added, "Captain Lehi reports that he and his men are ready."

Moroni now offered the man his full attention and responded, "Excellent. We attack at dawn then. Tell the men to post guards and retire early. I expect heavy fighting tomorrow."

The soldier nodded, turned, and promptly left to fulfill his new orders. Moroni paused. He eyed his map again briefly, then rose and exited the tent. He made his way through his army's campsite, walking between the many tents housing his soldiers. He could catch snatches of conversations as he passed by their tents.

He heard talk of home and family, or of intended loves. He also heard several references to the food, the hike, the living conditions, and of course, what the morning would bring. Word was already spreading that they would engage the enemy in the morning.

He came to the guards he had posted earlier at the camp's perimeter. They straightened up when they saw him, "Captain Moroni, sir, may we help you?" one particularly tall and muscular guard asked as he pulled his vertical spear closer to his chest. His breastplates and armor were polished to a bright and noble shine.

"No, thank you," Moroni replied. "I'm just surveying the area."

"Yes, sir," the guard replied.

He continued a littler farther away, allowing himself to be alone in his thoughts and stood at the edge of a grassy clearing on the hillside. He looked contemplatively down the tree-lined hillside. There were traces of a river in the distance with the dense rainforest beyond. Faint wafts of campfire smoke could be seen rising intermittently throughout the forest on the far side of the river.

In the distance, he could see exotic birds take flight, flutter above the trees and then seek new perches. Just as they settled down, a couple of other birds quickly flew skyward again to make way for some mischievous monkeys who were jumping from tree to tree. If it were not for the smoke, and the enemy that it represented, it would have been a beautifully impressive scene.

In the years that Moroni had led the defense of his people against their mortal enemies, the Lamanites, he had seen more than his fair share of conflict. Words intended for no one other than himself escaped his lips.

"I had really hoped to avoid this," he sighed. "If only they would listen. How can a people be so filled with hate?"

Moroni paused again, deep in thought. The setting sun cast a brilliant orange and reddish hue on his sun-worn face. He sighed again as he thought of the pending conflict. Renegade Nephites had broken off from their society to join the Lamanites and incited them up to war against their former brothers. It was a cycle he had seen far too often and was afraid he was bound to see repeated. He shook his head, dismayed at the apostates' loss of opportunity. Then, with a look of resolve, he turned and headed back up the path to his camp to retire on this eve before the battle. As the last rays of sunlight vanished, he reentered his tent and settled in for the night.

©1999, 2003, 2012 by Douglas V. Nufer

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