Mercy Victorious: Part 2 of 3

Fiction By Kyleigh // 12/1/2011

 {thank you for your comments on the first part! I've changed some things - though I haven't put it up on here, it was minor editing and taking out some of the redundencies in long sections of thought. Here's part 2!}

 

        Mia passed a plate to Lile.

        “How will we ever survive?” Lile asked. She looked at the thin slice of bread on her plate. A few peas rolled around it, and a tiny piece of cheese finished the meal.

        “The Creator will provide,” Mia said, handing Coem his dinner.

        For once, even he had a grim look on his face.

        “What good can you find in this?” Lile shot Coem a bitter look.

        “Lile,” Mia began.

        “No, it’s a valid question,” Coem said. “At least we don’t have no food. At least the sun will still rise. At least we have each other, and a house, and a way to make money so we can at least buy some things. Even if all that were gone, we still have the Creator.”

        “You can’t eat the Creator,” Lile retorted.  

        “Well, since it won’t matter for rations anymore,” Mia said. “You can come live with us, Coem. It won’t matter that there’s three of us instead of two. It wouldn’t matter if there were a hundred of us; we still wouldn’t get any food.”

        “We’ll survive, ma’am,” Coem said. “I’ve learned to scavenge. Sometimes I feel like nothing more than a hungry boy. I’ll teach you some of what I’ve learned. We’ll get food. And even when we can’t find anything, we’ll still trust the Creator’s provision.”

        “That’s right, my boy!” Mia said. “And that’s enough ‘ma’am’. We’re all family. I’ll be your grandmother just as I am Lile’s.”

        Lile looked up. “I guess that’s one good thing. Coem will always be with us.”

        Coem nodded and smiled.

 

                Coem returned from gathering his belongings from his lean-to to find Lile outside with the gryphons. He put his things inside and then joined the group outside.

                “You’re sure there’s no way to get us out?” Lile was asking.

“Aye, child,” Pavati said. “It’s a hard enough journey without the weight of a human. I wish we could; so many lives would’ve been saved.”

“There’s no safe place to land between here and the coast. Oh, I wish we could,” Soyala said.

“Or could you talk to the king of another kingdom and ask him to send supplies?”

                “It’s been tried. The ships can’t get near the ports.”

                “Curse the King’s pride,” Coem muttered.

                “Coem,” Pavati cautioned.

                “Sorry,” Coem said. “May the Creator show mercy upon us and bring the King to see things in proper perspective.”

                “That’s better,” the older gryphon said. “The king’s pride is more visible, but his is no greater than ours, and even if pride is not our greatest sin, there are other places we fail even more.”  

                “Why don’t you and Coem go for a walk,” Soyala suggested.

                Pavati nodded.

                Coem followed the gryphon. Once out of earshot of Lile, Pavati spoke.

                “How is she?”

                “She still refuses to seek Him. She refuses to even try to understand and know Him.”

                “Something tells me you were no better once.”

                Coem turned crimson. “I was much worse. It seems so different, though, when you’re on the other side of it.

                “You’re right, it does. There was a time when we feared for Awendela’s soul. My mother and father often reminded me of what I was like when I was her age. It requires much patience.”

                “But we may not have much time,” Coem said. “I’m sure Lile told you that they’re refusing to give food to the followers of the Creator. Lile and her grandmother are so weak already – I don’t know how long they can last with rations being cut yet again.”

                “We’ll try to come as often as we can. But we have errands in Panatea and the rest of Edaled.”

                “I know some things about scavenging – like the kinds of roots and bark you can eat. And thank the Creator we have a brook behind the house!”

                Pavati turned toward the cottage and stopped walking. “Keep your hope, my son.”

                The deep rumble of the gryphon’s voice comforted Coem.

                “And continue to trust in who you know Him to be. It will become what you cling to when you cannot understand how He is working. And it will be a great testimony to Lile.”

                “Keep praying for her. She’s struggling to be more positive – though it’s still of her own strength, not because of trust in the Creator.”

                “Prayer is powerful. Never doubt its strength, particularly in times like these. I think we’ve yet to see the full extent of what the Creator can do. Here’s a chance for Him to show His power.”

 

                Lile sat by Awendela as they waited for Coem and Pavati to return. Her thin fingers stroked the gryphon’s fur.

                “Do you think this famine will ever end?” She asked.

                Awe shook her head. “I don’t know. Sometimes the Creator’s answer to prayer is to say ‘no’ or ‘wait.’”

                “Couldn’t it change without the Creator?”

                “No. He controls everything, even a sparrow falling, and He knows how many hairs there are on your head.”

                “For everyone?”

                “Aye.”

                “How can He?”

                “It’s just that. Part of understanding Him is knowing that we can never comprehend Him,” Soyala said with a small laugh.

                “Isn’t that frustrating?”

                “No, it isn’t!” Soyala laughed again. “Because you’re always learning about Him, and life is full of surprises and wonder as you get to know Him more.”

                “I guess that makes sense, in its own sort of way.”

                “It is in its own sort of way – because He’s not like us at all,” Awe said.

                “I don’t want to talk about that more – remember last time?”

                “Lile –“ Soyala began, but was interrupted when Coem and Pavati stepped back into the clearing.

                “It’s getting late and we have a long ways to fly tonight. There are still others in Panatea we must bring food to,” Pavati said. “Remember, we will be back with more food. Share what we have brought with others. Everyone is suffering.”

                Coem and Lile nodded, then watched in silence as the gryphons flew into the distance.

                “Let’s go inside,” Coem said.

                Lile said nothing, but followed him into the house.

                “I’ve prepared a place for you to sleep in the back room,” Mia said when they entered. “It’s not a bed but it’s something.”

                “Well, I haven’t had much other than the floor for the past few years, so this will be a change for the better,” Coem said, smiling.

                Lile stared at him. He really does find good in everything, and is so happy. How?

                “I’ve let you stay up far too late, Lile,” Mia said. “Get ready and then call me to tuck you in.”

                Lile turned to go, then turned back and gave a quick hug to Coem. “’Night.”

                “Goodnight, Lile.”

                Soon Lile called Mia from her room. Mia came in and found Lile in bed, the covers pulled up under her chin.

                “How are the gryphons?”

             “Well.” Lile said. “And well-fed.” She paused, then carried on, a hint of bitterness in her voice. “How can He let His people suffer like this?”
              “Adan suffered even more. We can’t presume to be better than Him,” Mia said.

“But Adan’s suffering was necessary. We needed it to be restored to the Creator. We don’t need this suffering.”

“Ah, Lile,” Mia said. “This is a very hard lesson for us all to learn, but I think it’s harder for the younger ones. Suffering will always be a part of life on Edaled, because of Nathan’s sin. The Creator’s followers endure even more suffering. Just as Daron hated Adan, so he hates us as well.”

                “Aye, that’s what Coem said. But how’s it good? Why doesn’t the Creator stop Daron?”

              “I don’t know why He does what He does and doesn’t do, child. But when you’ve begun to know Him, sometimes you don’t need a reason. When I tell you not to do something, you don’t ask for a reason. Why not?”

              “Because I trust you, and know you won’t make me do something dangerous.”

              “Aye. It’s like that with the Creator. We know that because He’s good and loving and faithful that He won’t desert us and that anything that hurts us draws us closer to Him and makes us more like Him, and anything that kills us takes us to be with Him.”

              “Is that why Coem is always so happy?”

              “You’d have to ask him. I think it’s that, and that he sees the Creator in everything.”

              “Well, goodnight, grandmother.”

              Mia kissed Lile’s forehead. “Goodnight.”  She blew out Lile’s candle and closed the door behind her.

              Lile closed her eyes and soon sank into deep sleep.

               

                Harsh knocking woke her the next morning. She jumped out of bed and dressed as fast as she could. The knocking had stopped. She heard voices from the front door, and ran there to find Coem and Mia standing on the front porch. She ran between them.

                “We’ve come for our horses,” a man said.

                Lile surveyed the scene. A group of twenty men stood in front of the house. None of them looked happy. Lile drew closer to Mia.

                “You never complained before,” Mia said.

                “There was never reason to before!” another man said.

                “I’m happy to return your horses to you, but could you explain why you want them so suddenly?” Mia asked.

                “Aye!” A man stepped forward.

                Lile gasped. The mean guard! She looked up at Coem, who had also recognized the guard.

                “We don’t want our animals housed with followers of the Creator!”

                A chorus of “ayes” rose from the men.

                “And we want payment; they’re so thin they’re not worth much anymore!”

                “We have nothing we can give,” Mia said. “Except our horses and what feed we have left.”

              “What good will a horse do? Food is the problem for everyone, we don’t have extra to feed another horse!”

                “You could at least eat a horse,” Grandmother said in a quiet voice.

                “No!” Lile screamed, and ran towards the barn.

                Coem grabbed her and put a gentle hand over her mouth, then took her inside. They sat down on Coem’s cot.

                “Stay here,” Coem said.

                “No.” Lile stood.

                “Lile,” Coem pleaded. He furrowed his brow. “Please, trust us?”

                Lile looked at the floor.

                “I’ll save them if I can, but stay here.”

                Lile nodded and sat down again, watching as Coem returned to the porch.

                A few minutes later, he and Mia re-entered the house.

                “Well?” Lile stood.

                “We still have Goldie,” Coem said. “But no livelihood.”

                Lile looked at Coem. “That’s the first time you’ve said anything negative.” She said.

                “We all have trouble trusting the Creator sometimes, Lile.” He looked boldly at Mia and Lile. “But while I’m living with you, you won’t starve. As the man of this house, and by the Creator’s provision, we will – we will survive.”

                Lile watched Coem’s outburst open-mouthed. All of a sudden, Coem seemed much older, but also more impetuous. Was the famine now taking its toll on him, too? Was he just as hungry as she? Was he reassuring himself of his ability? Was he blaming himself for what had happened?

                “I’m going to the barn,” Lile said, and ran.

                Lile stood at the end of the stable, looking out into the fields beyond it. The kitten in her arms squirmed, and she held it tighter. When she heard footsteps behind her, Lile spoke, but didn’t turn.

                “So they’re really gone.” A sob escaped her lips. “I’m never going to see them again, Coem!”    

Mischief jumped out of her arms and ran into the empty fields. Lile covered her face with her hands and sat down on an overturned bucket.

Coem bit his lip and said nothing.

A few minutes later Lile looked up. “But thank you for saving Goldie. At least we have her.” She looked down the stable, peering into empty stalls until her gaze lighted on the only remaining horse.

“There was nothing more I could do.”

“It’s not fair! How will they care for their horses? What can they say against us? We cared for them well for so long!”

“They can say that their horses are thinner than four years ago, that they’re not as strong as they once were, and they can blame that on you following the Creator.”

“But that’s not true!” Lile cried. “Everyone is thinner. And it’s not our fault, it’s the Creator’s.” The young girl jumped up and ran.

Motionless, Coem watched her go. O Creator, help us!

 

A week passed. Coem found what work he could in Nera, but wasn’t able to earn much. What little money they did have was hard to spend because most people wouldn’t sell to followers of the Creator. Coem and Mia often stayed up into the wee hours of the morning praying. Sometimes Coem wondered if their case was hopeless. How will we survive? In those moments, he brought himself back to the promise he made, and to the Creator’s faithfulness. He remembered the gryphons, and became grateful for the stream behind the house, and that it hadn’t ceased its flow, and that there was some greenery on its banks. Many of the trees had died, but at least they still had bark. It’s not as bad as it could be, he concluded.

But the week ended, and there was no sign of Pavati. They had distributed and finished the gryphons’  supply of food a few days earlier. Lile waited on the porch for her friends, but they didn’t come.

“Where are they?” she asked every night when Mia came out to tell her to go to bed.

Mia shook her head, her thin lips pressed together in a hard line.

By the light of a small candle at night, she and Coem prayed and planned.

“We have to do something soon,” Coem said, “or there won’t be any of us left.”

“But what can we do? We can’t leave Nera, much less Panatea.”

Coem stared at the dim, flickering light of the candle. “We can gather people to pray for a change of heart for the King. We’ve been doing it on our own, but we must do it together.”

“Yes, it’s a start.”

“Don’t lose faith, grandmother. You have far many more stories of His faithfulness than I. Remember Him!”

Mia nodded.

“And,” Coem began. “This has been in my head for a while now, but now may be the time. Someone needs to talk to the king.”

Mia stared at the young man across the table from her. “Do what?” She breathed.

“I want to try to counsel the king to change his mind. About the rations, and about the ports. Didn’t the Creator Himself say that they won’t know unless someone tells them?”

“Aye, but Coem…”

Coem waited.

“It’s a four-day journey. We don’t have enough food. How will you be strong enough?”

“I was thinking Pavati might be able to fly me. But they haven’t come in over a week. I wonder if something happened to them.”

Mia shook her head. “I don’t know.”

Neither said anything for a time.

“Pray about it,” Mia said at last. “And we will gather followers of the Creator together to pray tomorrow. Now it’s time to get some sleep.”

 

                “I’m not hungry,” Lile said, and pushed a piece of bark onto Mia’s plate.

                Coem shot her a hard glance. She returned it.

                “I know it doesn’t taste good,” Mia said, “but it’s the only food we have. Thank the Creator for trees.”

                Lile wrinkled her nose. “It’s not the taste right now. I’m just not hungry.”

                “You have to eat.”

                Lile pointed to Mia’s empty plate. “So do you.”

                “Now, Lile, I – “

                Lile shook her head. “You haven’t eaten anything all day. You have to eat just like the rest of us.”

                “So do you.”

                Coem reached out and took the bark from the plate, then broke it in half, and placed one on Lile’s plate, and the other on Mia’s. “No more arguing.” He finished his meager meal, then excused himself and went to the stable. He pulled his flute out of its hiding place and fingered the holes.

                O Creator, what will we do? Have you forsaken us? No! I can’t think that. He’s not like that; He wouldn’t do that. Am I forgetting what I’ve so often told Lile? He bit his lip. It was fine at first, when it was just me, and we at least had some food. But now I’m providing for others – I promised I would! Oh, Creator, I’m failing, and it hurts. I’m so hungry, so weak, so tired. I don’t have the strength to go on through more of this.

                “You don’t, but I do.”

                A small smile played on Coem’s face. Aye, you do. He put the whistle to his lips and began to play. See us through, Creator!

 

                “These are the trees we’re looking for,” Coem stopped by a tall pine tree and put his hand on its trunk. “You can eat the needles and the bark both. Neither very tasty as you’ve already noticed, but it’s something.”

                Lile looked up at the tree. “So how do we do it?”

                “The needles you grab. But there aren’t very many of those anymore, except on the trees by the stream. The bark is better on those ones, too.” He pulled a knife from his belt. “And to do the bark –“ He cut a line through all bark layers down to the wood of the tree. Then he used his hands and the knife to separate the bark from the rest of the tree. “This inner bark is what we want, though I suppose if we really wanted to, we could eat the outer as well.”

                Lile raised an eyebrow.

                “What? You don’t believe me?”

                “No, I do. It just seems so funny, eating a tree.”

                “Well, remember broccoli?”

                “Aye.”

                “That was trees, too.”

                “Mini-trees.”

                “Aye.”

                “Coem, where are the gryphons?”

                “I don’t know.”
                “They didn’t say anything to you about going away?” Lile asked.

                “No.”

                “Where could they be?”

                Coem shook his head. “I don’t know.”

                “They’ve never been gone this long!” Lile searched the skies. Something caught her eye. “Coem, what’s that?” She pointed between the tops of two trees.

                He shook his head. “Your eyes are much better than mine.”

                “It looks like a gryphon. But there’s only one. He’s coming closer!”

                It was indeed a gryphon, and it was coming closer. Soon it landed a short distance from Coem and Lile.

                “A woman called Mia told me I would find you here.”

                “Aye. That’s my grandmother,” Lile said.

                “I am Nayalta, friend of Pavati and Soyala.”

                “Where are they?” Lile asked.

                “Patience, child,” Nayalta laughed. “Three nights ago Pavati and Soyala were on their way across Panatea when they were hit with arrows.”

                “The King’s men, I’m sure,” Coem muttered, but then caught himself. “Sorry. It could have been anyone.”

                “That’s right,” Nayalta said. “The King has made some faulty choices, but we are still subject to his authority.”

                Coem nodded.

                “People are anxious for food and have been doing anything to get it, even those who claim to follow the Creator.”

                “How can they-?” Coem began, again angry. He stopped and bowed his head. “Forgive my impetuousness.”

                “It is forgiven,” Nayalta said. “Pavati has sent food, but it may be the last for some time. All of us are very busy with the Creator’s work. Unless He assigns one of us to bring Nera food, we will not be able to.”

                Coem bit his lip, but nodded. “Lile,” he then said, “I need to talk to Nayalta alone.”

                Lile moved away.

                “I was going to ask Pavati this,” Coem whispered. “But now I can’t. The Creator has laid a burden on me to speak to the king.” He blushed. “Hopefully with more tact and less venom than I spoke in my rashness today. But I doubt that they’ll let me out of Nera. And if they did, I don’t know that I’d survive the journey. Would a gryphon bear me to the castle?”

                “That is a feasible task,” Nayalta said. “But I must confer with the others. I believe it is a noble task you desire, and we will help if we can.”

                Coem nodded.

                “Now I must away, I have already overstayed my time here.”

                “Godspeed,” Coem said, then stepped back as the gryphon flew into the distance.

 

                That night, thirty people gathered in Mia’s front room. Many stood or sat on the floor, and all had solemn expressions.

                “We’ve been meaning to get this organized for some time now,” Coem said, “But it didn’t work until now. As many of you know, we’ve gathered together to pray for the king. The Law says that the King’s heart is as a stream of water in the Creator’s hand, and He turns it wherever He wills. We have prayed for years on our own that the King would repent – but there is power in praying together, and in fasting – though we have no trouble fasting. Even so, it was because of the example of many followers of the Creator to seek Him in prayer and fasting that I requested that no one eat today. We will break our fast together by sharing what we have all brought. But first, let us pray.”

Coem knelt and began to pray.

“Creator, we come before you today, not by any works of our own hands, but because Adan bore your wrath in our place. By Your powerful hand, You have turned our hearts and souls and bodies to Yourself, that we might serve You and be used to further Your glory and Your Kingdom. You’ve turned such a wayward heart as mine. We ask that by that same power and might, You bring the King to repent of his pride and folly. Bring him to seek You and walk in Your ways. We pray Your will be done. In our human eyes, we feel it would be best if the ports would be opened that food may come in, and we ask also that the heavens might be opened and that rain might fall once more upon this land. People say Daron is stronger than You – show yourself to be more powerful still. If in Your sovereign will You choose to let this famine continue, give us the grace and strength to continue in Your ways. Sustain us by Your hand. All this we pray for Your glory and in the name of Your Son Adan.”

The next hour was filled with similar prayers from fathers, sons, and brothers. Soon Coem motioned to Lile and Mia, who rose and uncovered the few plates on the tables. Then the followers of the Creator began to eat and fellowship together. It was early morning before everyone left. Mia began to close up the house and prepare to sleep, but could not find Lile.

“Have you seen her?” she asked Coem.

He shook his head. “Might she be on the porch?”

“I checked. She’s not there.”

“What about the barn?”

                Coem took a candle from the table and went to the stables. “Lile!” He called. There was no answer. He stepped inside the dark barn. Goldie whinnied, but no other noise was heard. Coem waited. From a far corner, he heard a faint sob.

                “Lile?” He asked, following the sound. He found Lile sitting on the overturned bucket.

                “What’s wrong?” He sat down on the ground beside her.

                She said nothing, but moved her arms so Coem could see. In her arms lay the still form of a kitten.  “How could He do this to me?” She cried.

                Coem said nothing. His face twisted in agony and he hid his face in his hands. “Why, Creator?” He said aloud. “Be merciful to us! We are weak!” His shoulders shook. Every guard down, he began to weep. “Do you not hear our prayers?” He put a hand on Lile’s knee. “Oh, Lile, I don’t know why He does what He does, and I don’t pretend to know. And I don’t see right now how it can be good, but I know enough of Him to know it is somehow.”

                “I want to know how,” Lile said. She held Mischief’s body closer. His fur was wet with her tears. She looked up when she heard footsteps.

                Mia knelt by her granddaughter’s side and put an arm around her shoulders. No one said anything for a long while. But the same question weighed upon all three of their minds: How long will this go on? 

Comments

Oh noes da kitten! *cough* I

Oh noes da kitten!

*cough* I mean...

Good chapter. I liked it and stuff... Wow, this comment is pathetic.

Anna | Fri, 12/02/2011

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

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