“Maron, Maron,” her father whispered. “Wake quickly!”
Through the fog of sleep that held her, Maron heard her name but thought it was part of a dream.
“Please, my child.” The man shook her shoulder gently but urgently.
Struggling to open her eyes, Maron slowly became aware of her father. “But it is not yet dawn, and—” she started to say.
“Shhhh!” Her father gently laid his rough carpenter’s hand over her mouth. “You must be very quiet.”
What sleepiness Maron clung to fled as fear clutched at her stomach. “What is happening?” she whispered.
“Listen carefully, little one.” Her father squeezed both her hands in one of his. “I have just learned that some of Mocum’s warriors are planning to attack our people when we gather to listen to Teomnihah, the leader of our people in Kurom. I must get a message to him, but Mocum is watching me.”
“Speak no more, my father.” Maron sat up and began to pull her tunic over her nightclothes. “I will go. No one notices a girl of only ten years.”
“You are indeed a blessing to an old man,” her father whispered. ”I would send Melekib, but Mocum is watching him too.”
“My brother has done his part. Now I will do mine.” Maron finished lacing her sandals, then swung a cloak over her head and shoulders as she turned toward the door. “I will return before sunlight burns in the fields.”
She turned to face her father. By the dim candlelight she could see a slight grin turning up the thin lips above her father’s bearded chin. I have done something foolish again, she decided, but what?
“Do you not wish to know where Teomnihah is?”
Maron lowered her eyes. “Yes, my father.”
“Your acts must never be more eager than your thoughts,” he warned.
“It is a fault of mine,” Maron whispered. “But I will give more to my thoughts. I will not fail you.”
“You must not, Daughter. Teomnihah must not speak to our people this day. Now go. Go to Kurom, to the house of Jorish. Go with the speed of a lion. And may God travel with you.”
“He will,” Maron whispered. “And with His help, I cannot fail.” Silently she exited into the moonlit countryside. Kurom was a sixteen-thousand-cubit journey to the east. From the moon’s position, she guessed it to be about three hours until dawn. She must hurry in order to be back before Mocum’s guards noticed she was gone.
Swiftly, but carefully, she moved along the footpath to the road. Just before reaching it, she turned into the trees, and raced beside the road, being careful to choose the way that allowed her the most cover. There would be many guards. How thankful she was for the dark brown cloak her mother had made.
As Maron thought of the importance of what she was doing, her feet seemed to take wing and glide over the rocky earth. Strength and determination to prove herself to her father surged through her. Never before had anything so important been entrusted to her. Always Melekib did the exciting things, while she helped her blind mother. Always she—
Maron jerked to a stop and merged into the shadows. Struggling to keep her rapid breathing silent, she made herself as motionless as the tree trunk that concealed her. Ahead on the road a guard approached, a sword girded at his waist and his hand resting upon the hilt. Had he heard her as she had heard him? Fear tightened her stomach as the guard’s eyes searched the trees along the road. When he turned her way, he stopped and seemed to look straight at her.
With no visible motion, but with all her might, Maron pressed into the tree, wishing she were part of it. After a long moment the guard slowly turned and went on his way, still searching the tree-lined road. Maron waited until she could no longer hear his footsteps, then spent her fear in running.
It was the fourth day of the new year, and there had been much trouble along with the New Year celebrations. For the past few years, the people of Mocum had become bolder in their persecutions of the people who followed the prophet Nephi. To celebrate this new year, Mocum’s men had stoned many Christians and plundered the homes of the righteous.
The memory of the raiders’ cries and torches and cruelty sent Maron’s feet racing even faster. But she could not keep their words from ringing in her ears: “Where is this Savior you brag about?” they shouted. “Let us see if He saves you now!” Just the memory of the horrid words sent pricks of pain through Maron’s racing heart. Her family had escaped to the caves near the land Bountiful until the celebrating ended. Since then Mocum had set guards around the land and over the Christians to keep those who waited for the Christ from seeking revenge on the nonbelievers.
“Mocum does not believe,” Maron whispered to herself as she ran, “that we Christians would never hurt anyone as we have been hurt.” Tears stung her eyes, but she blinked them back and made her feet move faster. Her sides ached and tree branches whipped her face as she stumbled on through the darkness, but she would not let herself rest.
To stop the dreadful memories, Maron began singing to herself songs about the long-awaited coming of the Savior. As she approached the protective shadows of the nearest building in Kurom, a strange feeling caused her to look up. The stars seemed oddly cold and sad, even though the moon was bright and the sky cloudless. As she pondered this curiosity, Maron suddenly became aware of something eerier: There was no sound but her breathing—no insect or bird noises, no animal sounds, no wind rustling the trees or weeds. Nothing. Nighttime was always a quiet time, but not this quiet. The silence was more frightening than any sound she had ever heard.
Urging her tired body on, Maron carefully skirted the main street of Kurom. Why had she been so anxious to come? Why had she thought it would be exciting? Maron bit hard on her bottom lip to keep it from quivering. She had not really thought of the danger or expected to have such strange feelings. “I must find Teomnihah!” Maron whispered to herself. “I must find the house of Jorish.”
There were no fires, no people, no sounds as Maron edged along the path to Jorish’s home. Tapping on the door, she called softly, “Jorish, Jorish.”
The door opened a crack. In the dimness Maron could see only the white of an eye peering out. “Who is it?” a harsh, whispery voice asked.
“Maron, daughter of Tat. I have a message for Teomnihah from my father.”
The door opened, and Maron slipped into the darkness. Finally a taper was lit, and Maron saw that the floor was covered with men on sleeping mats. The man who had opened the door turned to her. “What is the message?” he asked.
“Are you Teomnihah?” Maron asked.
“No,” the man said.
“I am.” A man sleepily turned on his mat to face Maron.
“I am Maron, daughter of Tat,” Maron whispered, though she didn’t know why. “My father sent me to warn you that you must not speak before our people today.”
“How did you get here?” Teomnihah asked.
“I ran.” Maron smiled proudly, forgetting her worries for a moment.
“Past the guards?” the man with the taper asked.
“I was careful,” Maron answered.
By now all the men were awake and stirring.
“You are a very brave girl,” Teomnihah said, “but Mocum has already gained control of the city and will allow no meeting.”
Maron’s heart fell. Her trip had been for nothing. Her message was not needed.
“Is there more news?” asked a man Maron recognized as Jorish. He stepped over the mats and men and came into the candlelight.
“No, only that Mocum has heavy guards around Bountiful. My father fears that he will make the Nephites his slaves.”
The men exchanged worried glances.
“I am afraid things are no better here. You must go back,” Teomnihah told her. “However, I do not like to see one so young go so far alone.”
“I will come to no harm,” Maron assured him quickly. “I came, and I will go back safely, for God is with me.”
Teomnihah looked at her intently. “Would that all Nephite fathers had daughters like Tat’s,” he said, smiling.
“At least let us feed her before she goes,” Jorish said.
Maron hadn’t noticed before how hungry she was. But as Jorish started pulling brown bread and cheese from a shelf, her stomach growled. The men laughed, and Maron felt her face flush with embarrassment.
A loud banging at the door silenced those in the room. “What goes on?” a deep voice asked.
Jorish looked at Teomnihah, then replied. “I am preparing the morning meal.”
Maron heard the man spit against the door before he continued, “Can’t even sleep like normal people. Always up before the sun. Let me see this breakfast party.”
Maron noticed the fearful looks on the faces in the room. She also noticed the men’s attempts to not let her see their fear. Teomnihah motioned, and the next thing Maron knew, she had been picked up and stuffed inside a large basket. Her head spun and her heart raced. The confusion and shuffling noises and a suffocating feeling all turned and churned and pounded inside her as a lid slammed over her head.
“Open!” the man outside growled. But before anyone inside could move, the guard began beating down the door. The sound of splintering wood pierced the basket where Maron huddled, and the intruder’s voice, now inside the room, cried, “Stop! Stop where you are or you will never move again!”
(To be continued.)