Betrayer: The Deception
“Look, Shu. It’s just a statue.” Ishbi poked the prostrate figure.
“No statue looks like that. It’s got hair even.” Shu looked out the entrance of the cave nervously.
“It’s so realistic.” Ishbi got on his hands and knees to look at the face. “Someone must have tipped it over.”
“We need to leave. Tell Master.”
“And she’ll beat us for neglecting our chores,” Ishbi chided as he sat on his haunches.
“We are neglecting our chores!” Shu threw his hands up.
“Look at this. It’s like an injury.” Ishbi traced a long scar across the bare back of the figure. “Have you ever seen a statue carved like this?”
“No. And you shouldn’t touch it. Spirits, Ishbi.”
“I don’t sense anything.” Ishbi shook his head. “The hair is like strands of the purest silk, even.”
“What if it’s a god? What then?”
Ishbi sighed as he leaned down and looked at the face of the figure again. “He looks like a sad god, then.”
“Because there are no offerings.” Shu looked around the cave. “Just this stuff.” He pointed at a pile of equipment.
“Perhaps he can help us, Shu.”
“An injured statue? Did Master hit you on the head?”
Ishbi scratched his skull thoughtfully. “Not that hard. I’m her favorite.”
“We need to leave. Perhaps Master hasn’t noticed yet.”
“We always get back late.” Ishbi sat up on his haunches again. “Shu, this is important. I can feel it.”
“Ishbi.” Shu sighed and crossed his arms.
“If it’s a god, perhaps he would appreciate us.” Ishbi looked around. “He’s too big to stand back up. Help me roll him over.”
“His face is in the sand. What god wants his face in the sand?”
Shu sighed and knelt down beside him. “If the god wakes, I’m blaming you.”
“This has to be marble. He is very heavy.” Ishbi grunted as they both pulled on the arm. Shu stuffed rocks underneath to prop the figure up, and they continued pulling and pushing until the figure rolled over onto its back with a heavy thump.
“Look at that!” Ishbi pointed to another injury. “And it’s got milk on it.”
“Who put milk on the statue?” Shu looked around, nervously. No one was hiding in the cave, however.
“The sand is soaked with it,” Ishbi said. “It doesn’t smell like milk, though.” He dabbed at the wound with his loincloth. “Looks like it’s oozing milk.”
“Our god is bleeding?” Shu leaned over. “He was in a battle.”
“Can we heal him?” Ishbi looked around.
“We’re slaves, Ishbi. Just what are we going to do?”
“We’ve got the herbs we harvested for Master.”
“No. We’re both in enough trouble already,” Shu said firmly.
“There are medical supplies in that satchel.”
Shu and Ishbi fell back, yelling out. The statue was looking at them.
He looked at the pile of equipment. “On top, over there.”
Both of the kids scooted away from the figure then dropped on their faces, trembling with terror.
“Please. I have lost too much blood.”
“We’re not worthy,” Ishbi said breathlessly, keeping his face in the sand.
“He did it. He forced me to roll you over!” Shu yelled as he covered his head with his arms.
“Shu!” Ishbi glared at his friend.
“Were you not trying to heal me?”
“We’re not supposed to be here. Master will punish us,” Shu said quietly.
“Shu. Quiet. The god wants our help,” Ishbi chided. He glanced over at the pile. “If we help you, will you bless us?”
“I would be most pleased.”
Ishbi hesitantly got to his knees. Shu shook his head but Ishbi grabbed his arm. They both kept their heads down as they shuffled on their knees over to the pile. “This large bag?”
“The same. Bring it to me.”
“Master is going to be so angry,” Shu whispered.
“We’re helping a god. She should be proud,” Ishbi said as he dragged the bag over to the figure.
“What are your names, young ones?” The figure opened a pocket on the satchel and pulled out an ornate, brass cylinder.
“I’m Ishbi. This is Shu. We forage herbs for our master.”
“I am called Lo’rel.”
“Lord Lo’rel, I hope you are pleased with us,” Ishbi said, bowing low.
Lo’rel pulled a brass patch out of the satchel and fumbled with it. Ishbi instinctively reached out and grabbed it, then froze.
“Put it over my wound, Ishbi.”
“Yes, lord.” Ishbi positioned the patch over the injury. It immediately changed in size and shape to fully cover the wound.
Lo’rel grit his teeth. “Okay. This is going to scare you. But you must not flee.”
Ishbi and Shu glanced at each other. “Lord?” Both of them flinched when a pyramid-shaped brass contraption appeared out of thin air beside Lo’rel.
Ishbi fell face down again while Shu scooted away.
“Rise. I’m in need of your assistance quickly,” Lo’rel said. He nodded at the contraption. “The tube, plug it onto the patch.”
Ishbi timidly pulled the tubing out of the device and looked at the patch. A nipple had formed in its center. He pushed the tube onto the nipple and flinched when it seated itself.
“You really are a god,” Ishbi said breathlessly.
Lo’rel glanced at the boy, amused. “How old are you?”
“Twelve years. Same as Shu,” Ishbi said, trying not to gape.
“Your language cannot describe my age.” Lo’rel looked at something in the air then put the brass cylinder back in the pocket of the satchel. “When you look at the night sky, my years outnumber the stars you see.” He smiled. “But we may have different definitions of a god.”
“You were in a battle.” Ishbi looked at the scorched black fabric that hung off Lo’rel.
Lo’rel sighed. “Yes. And it is not over.”
“Who was victorious?” Shu asked, then covered his mouth, looking down at the sand.
“There are no victors in war, young one. Only survivors and casualties.” Lo’rel looked at Shu sadly.
“Was it the storm last night?” Ishbi asked quietly.
“Young ones, do you not have a master to return to?”
Both of the children looked downcast. “We have found a god. Can we not stay?” Ishbi asked. Shu nodded.
“I have no home that you should occupy,” Lo’rel said as he shifted a little. Lights on the device next to him changed and he closed his eyes. A large flask appeared next to it, and a funnel opened up in the device. “Pour that in, please.”
Ishbi looked at Shu. Shu nodded and poured the liquid into the device. The funnel closed and the flask vanished from Shu’s hands. He looked at his hands in wonder. “If you can do this, then our home is your home.”
“Your home belongs to your master,” Lo’rel said.
“She is getting old. Perhaps you can bless her?” Ishbi said.
Lo’rel raised a brow. “A slave seeking blessing for a master?”
Ishbi looked down. “She is a good master. We were unwanted and she took us in.”
“If she dies, we will be sold again,” Shu said quietly.
“You cannot return to your home of origin?”
Shu and Ishbi looked at each other. Ishbi fidgeted and looked down. “I was born into slavery. My parents were prisoners of war. Shu’s home of origin no longer exists.”
“War seems to have colored your lives as well,” Lo’rel said sadly. “I should like to meet your master. But not as a god.”
“You will always be our god,” Shu said.
“Then return here in seven days and we shall meet your master,” Lo’rel said, sitting up a little. He winced and lay back down. “I shall be strong enough then.”
“Lo’rel is sufficient.”
“Lo’rel,” Ishbi said, nodding.
“We are very late. It will take us too long to walk all the way…” Shu stopped, his eyes wide. Both of them were standing by the gate of their home.
Ishbi turned around in a circle and looked at his hands.
“You’re back early. You should have harvested more.”
They looked at their master as she walked up to them. She lifted the bag off Shu’s shoulder and examined the contents critically. She raised a brow and smiled. “Very good. I am impressed.”
“We found a large patch, Meyam. All growing together,” Shu said, still a little stunned.
“Well, go get washed up and help with dinner preparations then,” Meyam said, pleased with their haul. “For once you are back in time to eat while the food is warm.”
“Yes, Master,” Shu said, grinning. He pulled on Ishbi’s arm. Ishbi blinked and looked at him. “Come on. We need to get washed up.”
“We were at the cave. Then here,” Ishbi whispered as he numbly followed Shu. “He is truly a wondrous god.”
“Yeah. And he is ours,” Shu said. “Surely we’ll be blessed.”