Dark was the desert…
Silas spread his arms towards Heaven, knees buried in the sand, falling prostrate on his face to the Lord. He wept inconsolably. The moon’s rays shimmered through his thin, silver hair.
“This is the dust of my people,” he murmured, tasting the salty earth. “The remains of this nation for a thousand years. What then am I to do but honor thy request?”
A figure arose from behind him casting its long dark shadow across the desert floor. “My king…”
Silas stood, and the figure lifted back the hood of his cape. The man was elderly and bald, disfigured by kyphosis, frail from the fingers of time.
Silas spoke, head bowed in solemn disparity.
“The Lord has answered me, Eli. She must go to him. She must ride the majestic, white horse. She must offer herself as his bride.”
Eli sighed. “These are not the words of the Lord, your majesty. You listen to the breath of demons. The light of the moon has weakened your judgement.”
“Not so,” answered Silas. “The Lord has promised he will send us redemption. Behold…” Pointing across the blackness in its wide expanse, the king spun round in a circle until he stumbled from dizziness.
Eli reached for his arm to steady him. “What do you think you see?”
“The campfires of our enemies surround us,” replied Silas. “The Euphrates has gone dry, and the kings of the East are upon us. So, it is written. So, it shall be.”
“There is no escape from prophecy, your majesty. Pray and cleanse thyself in preparation. Evil begets evil. Hand over no trinkets. Bow not to its pestilent requests.”
“Look, then,” Silas signaled. “Two riders approach from the North. They come for her.”
“Do not do this, your majesty. These are the devil’s henchmen. They come in destruction.”
“We are the last of our kind,” whispered Silas. “The final hope for our people. By virtue of their request, the riders will prove to you the will of God, for only you have heard my words of sacrifice. Only you know what God is proposing.”
“King Silas?” The tallest of the two soldiers stood at attention on his horse, awaiting a reply. His gold armor glistened from the flicker of torches. His headdress was bright with plumage.
“I am he,” said the king. “We are a peaceful nation. Our people mean no harm, and we are one with the nature of the earth. What then do I owe thee that we may live in harmony together.”
“I am General Magna from the court of Lathens. King Bolthor sends to you these tidings, that you and your people are a menace and a contagion. You will all be eradicated at dawn lest he see the most miniscule reason to grant you mercy and restitution.”
“We have no army,” cried Silas. “No weapons, no threat. Tell your king we will welcome him with kindness. We will share all our bounty, our land, our crops, our homes.”
“Bolthor has no use for your bounty, Silas.” The general leaned over his horse and stared into the king’s eyes. “You are vermin and swine. Your weakness shall be your undoing. All you have has been given, and you have no means to protect it. Thus, you will die.”
“The Almighty has sworn to protect us,” Eli interrupted. “Be wary of your intentions, lest he strike you down.”
“Who are you, old man, to claim alliance with God? I will slice you into morsels for the king’s breakfast.” The general retrieved his sword from its sheath and pressed the blade against Eli’s cheek. “Where is your God now?”
“ENOUGH!” The second soldier yelled, and the general withdrew his sword. This soldier was dressed more plainly without decorative metals or plumage. His armor was solid black, and it reflected no light. His face was as pale as smoke. “There is a jewel in this village that Bolthor desires, the only thing of value you have. Give it to us, Silas, and the king may reconsider his plans for devastation.”
“We Will Not!” Eli screamed, lunging towards the dark invader.
Silas stretched out his arm and held Eli back. “What jewel do you speak of? We have no precious stones here. We mine only for food and life-giving water. The luster beneath the moon is the sand, the dust of our people, the crystal remains of our fathers.
“The jewel,” answered the dark stranger, “is a fare mortal whose blood runs warm and whose eyes are the stars of purity. She has a name, and you call her Amira.”
“She is not for the taking,” Eli warned. “Go back to your king and tell him that the jewel remains.”
With that, the gold general drew his sword and sliced off the head of the advisor. Eli’s blood spewed into the sky as his body fell to its knees, then collapsed beside the hooves of the enemy horses.
The dark soldier drew his torch to his face where his pale complexion grew softer, and his eyes glowed with kindness and serenity. “You have dreamed dreams, Silas. You have heard voices. What do they tell you?”
“They have told me to hand over my daughter, the princess. They have told me your king will treat her with honor, that they will marry before the witness of nations, and that their union shall give us peace.”
“Truth speaks to us in dreams, Silas.” The pale soldier smiled. “Gather her up, then. Place her on the silver stallion as your dreams have instructed. Prepare her as you would any offering, adorned nude in white silk and sheer linens that the king may gaze upon her beauty completely. Surely her loins will afford you every mercy.”
“This is your promise?” demanded Silas.
“I shall carry her personally to the exalted one as your gift of peace.”
“And if he refuses?”
“There will be no refusal,” the dark soldier replied warmly. “Your daughter has been requested. Her sensual beauty is legend.”
Silas turned to his servants who were struck with terror, eyes fixed on the face of the dark rider.
“Go to my daughter and bathe her. Anoint her with exotic emollients until her brown skin shines like the harvest moon. Shave her smooth as a desert dune that her wetness may glisten, and her bead bulges plumply like a fresh morning berry. Dress her in the finest silk, translucent as evening mist, so that the waves of her peaks and the curves of her valley belittle all loveliness that surrounds her. Place her on the silver steed. Send her forth, a golden goddess. Let the sands part before her like the lips of a lover.”