As evening approached on the second day, Nar made her way just outside the boundaries of camp, as she had done the previous night. She offered up her simple prayers and settled into the cooling sand to rest. The day had been hot travel and the going was slow. The camels and caravan did move as quickly as the unicorn did alone. Yet, the company was good and the children of Japheth were precious to watch. Selah was the oldest. At the tender age of four years, she had a multitude of responsibilities. At dawn and dusk, it was her job to milk the oldest camel, she had named Golum. Her tiny hands were strong enough for the task and she managed it well, rarely spilling a drop of the precious liquid that sustained the life of their nomadic family. She also helped her mother around the camp with cooking and mending. Since Japheth had no sons, as yet, the duties fell to the women to take up the slack for Japheth, plus manage the chores that fell traditionally to the women.
Rebekkah was the baby. With a round face, tanned to a golden brown from the sun, her smile was infectious, like her fathers. She bobbed to and fro, tied to her mothers back, as she was carted around the campsite. They were a happy family and loved Ha-Shem as they did one another. Nar felt a pang of emptiness and longing as she watched them together. She wondered who they were. Surely, they were not to be destroyed with the rest of the world. But she had been told that only one man and his family were worthy. Nar watched absently, into the distance, as a lioness and her cub skulked around a sand dune in pursuit of a small ibex that had wandered down from the hills, possibly, to find water. Sure footed and alert, the little mountain goat would be a resistant quarry. Closer, a desert fox with his long ears and big eyes, pursued a tiny rodent. As the two scampered over the fine sand, rivulets appeared where their paws had lighted. The desert seemed so alive this evening and Nar could not restrain herself from her grief. All of this world would be gone in a short time. Gone, like her beloved Perseus, because of the wickedness that overshadowed the earth. She could not help but place the blame on Lilith, with her conniving ways. This demon -witch was at the bottom of all of this and yet, even she, could bear children. There! It was out. Now the unicorn could see it for what it was. Among all the prayers and silent longings, this one thing had been denied her. All other species could multiply and replenish their kind, but Nar and Perseus had only each other. Their's, was a lone existence. One in which neither of them would have changed. They had enjoyed a good life together and Nar knew that Perseus loved her as much as she loved him. And so she was fulfilled-filled in as much as her affection toward the other of her kind but, should now have to admit, there was something definitely missing. A part of him. A part of her. The physical acknowledgment of their love.
She had never thought to question her maker. Things were as they were supposed to be. This had always been her thinking. Now she had seen a different way. A way that she would like things to be from a new perspective. Her perspective. As she pondered all of this, she barely heard the distant call of her name. It was a sound that emanated from nowhere, yet all around her. Nar was jolted out of her reverie as she became aware of it. The sound of her name came as if sound were spun backwards. Disjointed and hollow. She jumped to her feet when she recognized the voice beckoning to her. She pawed the ground, digging to find the voice in the desert earth, and to whom it belonged. Frantically she kicked and nudged and moved the sand.
"Perseus," she called, "Perseus, where are you?"
She used both her front legs now, like a dog searching for a bone.
"Please Perseus," she cried, "where are you?"
Nar sobbed heavily as the sand became damp and hard to move. Tiny accumulations of water seeped up into the sizable hole she had dug. She pulled hard and long to free her companion. Yet the more ground she removed, the farther his voice trailed off. Finally, frustrated and worn, Nar laid down in the deepening pool. She pressed her ear firmly on the ground and listened, silently hoping to hear her lover call her name one more time. She was rewarded by the far off mewl of her beloved mate.
"Be strong," came the adjuring declaration, "Be wise and be careful." The words came as sounds echoing off deep cavern walls. Reverberating in empty redundance. Then, closer..more in her head than out of it, came his mournful plea.
"Do not forget me. Save me." His voice had become strangled and thin. Mocking. Nar winced and started as her muscles became taut with panic and she choked on the rising bile in her throat. Many images crowded her brain and constricted her heart as she envisioned Perseus bearing endless tortures at the hands of the Lilim. Though he could not die, death might have been a blessing compared to the perverse pain and agony that the demons would impart. This was a comedy to them. Entertainment, at their victims expense. Nar exploded in a rage, never before experienced, and screamed into the night with a voice she barely recognized as her own. Then...
The air around her became charged and she heard laughter all about. The stench that heralded the presence of the lilim wove into the aural sounds of the laughter. It took on a life of its own and invaded all of her senses concurrently in a nauseous wave.
"So," cooed a woman's voice, "what have we here? The ancient pet of our pitiless parent. My, my how easily we are torn from the bosom of He that created us, when given the free will to do so!"
The words dripped sickeningly into the mind of the unicorn. Swirls of sand and mist rose up before her and the shape of a woman materialized. Her hair was the black of a ravens wing, and flowed in strands around her waist. The red of her garment billowed in an imagined breeze and splattered, like blood drawn in the heat of battle, at her feet. The woman stood statuesque as the last grains of sand and water comprised the remainder of her being. A lurid smile stretched across her alabaster face. Dark and penetrating eyes seared through the heart of the grand beast that she faced. Nar did not move. Nor did she breathe for a single moment as she came face to face with..Lilith!
"O ho", laughed Lilith, ‘"Oh Perseus, where are you?'" She mocked, then laughed louder as she took a step toward the unicorn.
Nar lowered her head to point her spire towards the black heart that beat in the bosom of her nemesis.
"What's this, little horse, do you think that your ornament can kill me?" Lilith challenged.
"I know that you are immortal and you have practiced a black art, but you can be wounded!" Nar replied.
"Do you wish to do me injury, Nar?" The use of her name caused Nar to shudder.
"I wish to do you no harm. I have come to make you a bargain." Lilith's words were smooth and hypnotic, "You can trust me, Sister."
Nar shook her head, "I cannot trust you. You have stolen Perseus!"
"Aw, but Perseus awaits you. I have taken him to a secret grotto, come with me, I'll take you there."
Nars eyes were growing heavy and the voice was invading her mind again. Tempting to take her away from her task at hand and the mission. She shook her head again to clear the fog. But Lilith continued spellbinding her.
"Do you wish to come with me? Perseus is waiting. What is it you wish for, most in your life, than to spend all time and eternity with your mate! I can give you that! What has HE given you? Only tasks and the care of these simple creatures called humans."
Lilith waved her hand toward the caravan, then snorted with self-righteous indignation. Nar fought the trance that she was falling under, shook her head again and began to advance toward the sorceress. Lilith was going on and on about the frailties and weaknesses of the human race. How easy it had been to turn their minds and hearts away from their Creator.
"They are like sheep" she said, "lambs to the slaughter and the great HE, draws the blade.
"You are human, as well, Lilith," whispered Nar, almost at her side, "you were created as one of them."
Lilith swung around and almost gored herself with the horn of the unicorn. Her face contorted as she hissed and spit. Lilith backhanded Nar across the face so hard that she was forced to take several steps to regain her footing.
"I... was created EQUAL to that simpleton of a man. He wished to lord over me...to put my needs, my wants, second to his own. Our equality was not as such. He bid me to cook and clean and to do the basest of chores. I was created to rule...NOT to serve! We should have had every creature attend to our every need or want. Look at this pitiful family here. The wife tends to the children, to the camp and to that muddle-headed husband of hers. What does he do?"
"He keeps the herd in good order. Finds the best prices at market for the offspring and manages his family with love and respect for the laws of his God." Nar was trying not to lose her patience.
"He is still a man. Whatever dead ‘God' he serves, will not save him. He has inherited ‘free will' the right to choose for himself...and I can help him make the choices! I am their God now! They will all worship me and I will make them love me and do MY will...not their own.
Then will HE know who has the power over this earth. He has made the rules, but I can break them! Join me Nar. You and Perseus can rule with me. The frail beings cannot fight against us. Let us reap the rewards and riches for ourselves. What else have you to lose?"
Nar shuddered at the thought of keeping company with such a vile creature as Lilith had become.
"I think not, Harlot! I will complete the mission and then I will be back to find Perseus! Then we shall see who has charge over things."
Nar held her sleek jaw high as she spoke the words, knowing that if it took until the end of time, she would find her love. The twisted smile across Lilith's face, broadened into what could be interpreted as amused.
"Poor little beast. Still holding onto faith for a creator that cares nothing for you. Why has HE not saved you or your dear sweet Perseus? Why?? I'll tell you....because HE won't break His own laws, even to save the creatures he claims to love so much." Lilith stormed and went on, "You cannot save him either, if you do not join me. Perseus will die a horrid death and it will be on you. There is your free will, how will you use it?"
Nar held her temper in check as she replied evenly, "Perseus can not die. He will suffer much, I am sure, until I return for him. But he will survive."
"Are you so sure, Nar?" Asked Lilith. "I don't think so. For my children have been feeding him bits of fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I stole it when I convinced that sycophant, Eve, that it was her duty to know all things. It's funny though, outside of the garden, the fruit begins to wither and become bitter. It opens the mind to despair and isolation. It quickens the blood and dulls the senses and the body begins to age, and eventually dies. But you needn't worry. I won't let him tarry in this world, or mine, for very long before I tire of his torture and rip through his chest so that he can watch the last few moments of his beating heart, in the palm of my hand."
Nar gasped in horror, but her attention was suddenly drawn to a voice behind her. Japheths wife, Hannah, clung tightly to a small clay bowl. As she churned something around in it like oil and herbs, she quietly chanted and prayed, reciting the incantation. Nar recognized it as the one given to man for protection from Lilith's evil. Lilith's body began to return to sand. Grain by grain, like cornmeal as it runs between the fingers, she sifted herself back into the desert floor. Little flashes of light and lightening followed her as her form disappeared into the dunes. Nar heard her voice, vile and ugly, call something from the depths, but could not make it out. Nar exhaled loudly. Only when the swirling sands went silent and still, did she breathe.
Japheths wife rushed to the side of the unicorn. Stroking her mane and checking for injuries, the kind hearted woman spoke matter-of-factly.
"You were lucky you were not seriously hurt. Your face is slightly bruised, but I should think that to clear up straightaway. How do you feel?" Hannah continued to minister to Nar.
"I'm fine, Hannah. Tired. How did you know to come to me?" Nar sealed her attention to the woman who had just cast Lilith from her presence.
"I have been busy this night" Hannah began. "I could not sleep and when I heard Selah choking, I knew it would be a long one."
Hannah sat on the side of the pit that Nar had dug earlier and continued her story.
"I no sooner vanquished the hands from my childs throat, then had to chase the dreams from Japheth. He was calling out such cruel and wicked things. I knew then, that the only one left to torment would be you. So I prepared the bowl again and hurried to see that you were in no danger. Under the circumstances, I knew that you would be more vulnerable at this time. Any female would be." Nar looked at Hannah, puzzled.
"Why do you say this, you still have your husband in your tent?"
"Of course, but we are all much alone when it comes to bearing our children, yes?"
Nar was dumb struck. "CHILD! What child? How can you know this?"
Unnerved and exhausted from her episode with Lilith, Nar shook violently. Everything she had ever wanted, Perseus, a child, a family. Here, now, it was all possible, but the world was being prepared to be destroyed in a matter of days. Perseus was gone and she never would have known that she carried a child within her until it was too late.
"I have been a midwife many times, for both man and mammal. Did you truly now know?"
Hannah was a bit perplexed. She was under the impression that the unicorns were given to great insights and this would be a natural intellect.
Nar found her resolve and confided to Hannah, her mission. She would need help in finding this man and would beseech Ha-Shem to extend his mercy to save Jeth's family. Hannah cleared her throat and a thin smile stretched across her face.
" My husbands father is called Noah. The same as the one you seek." Hannah blushed, then continued, "We are blessed that we met in our travels, no? The One has made it fortuitous."
Nar laughed out loud, while she wondered in her mind, of just how great a scheme Ha-Shem's plans were and where they all fit into them. Perseus would have enjoyed the irony of it all. Her smile faded as the emptiness placed a stranglehold on her heart and constricted her belly. A wistful smile returned...a child, she thought. She cocked her head and nudged Hannah gently. Hannah placed her arm over the neck of the unicorn and the two of them headed to the camp to inform Japheth of the nights events.