Millicent sat in her house. Outside a villager stood guard, and inside were three very obsequious and attentive women who waited on her every whim. Except for her main whim, which was to sneak out of building.
In her purse was a vial of some pentothal, in case she needed to help with surgery. Millicent was always well prepared.
Smiling at her attendants, she managed to fiddle in the bag and load up a syringe full of the anesthetic. Then she stood up, tried to strike a pose of divine inspiration, and fainted to the floor.
The women ran up to her. “She is having a vision!” one of the said. Millicent jabbed her with the syringe.
“Sister has fainted!” said another of the servants after Millicent’s victim tumbled to the ground. “She is communicating with the goddess!” She and the other woman fell to her knees, making them easy targets for Millicent’s needle.
Shortly after that she had pushed out a few of the large bricks of salt and crawled out into the night. She skulked through the shadows and slipped into the large tent she had seen Tshombe enter earlier.
[Preparedness for the drugs, then an interpersonal spend—Intimidate, I think, to convince the women she was in the throes of a vision—and finally Stealth.]
“Explain it to me again,” she said to Tshombe.
The older woman looked up from the large codex she had spread out on a lectern. “Ah, yes. Tomorrow we will sacrifice you. I am not surprised to see you. I know you are very resourceful.”
“But explain to me why you have to do this. I mean, if I wanted to be out of here I’d be out of here, and if I wanted you dead, you’d be dead.”
“It’s nice that you think so.”
“I know so.”
“Why? Because you are going to cast your magic on me? Do you not think that I am protected by my god too?”
“This has nothing to do with magic. Anyway, the point is, I like the world too, and I have friends too, and we both want the same thing, which is the world to continue. So I think it will work a lot better if I understand why this has to be done, and if I believe it—because if I don’t, I don’t think this will work as well as you want, because we’re dealing with a Liar!”
“You don’t need to believe it, you just need to fall into the Mouth tomorrow.”
“Explain it to me anyway.”
“You cannot destroy the Liar without destroying the world. The Liar and the world are one. You think of them as separate; I do not.”
“Why are the Liar and the world one? Why not the Messenger and the world? Why not anyone else?”
“I do not know. I just know what is.”
“But how do you know? And don’t say the Liar told you, we’ve established that’s not trustworthy.”
“I have researched this in these books.”
“I’ve got all night. Show me.”
Geronimo was having a sleepless night. He patrolled the perimeter of their makeshift camp ceaselessly, determined not to let anyone surprise them. He had just reached for a cigarette when he thought he heard something behind them. He turned around for a moment, but saw nothing.
When he turned back he saw Simeon standing in front of him.
“Simeon,” he said.
“How strong is your faith, Warrior of God?”
“It’s very strong. It is the most important thing.”
From the shadows stepped Maryam and Mahabet, leaning on a stick that was shaped almost like a serpent.
“You know we have powers to combat the Mouths,” said Simeon.
“Please aid me.”
“For us to unleash the volcano, and for the Elders a thousand years ago to calcify the Mouth, required the sacrifice of our most purified and sanctified warriors, people who had studied in the ways of the Guardians for all their life. They had to sacrifice their life in the effort. You understand that this is the largest Mouth, the ultimate Mouth…the Last Mouth. The Mouth that will eat the world. We do not have enough Guardians left. There is only the three of us. But you must understand that the reason it is possible to sacrifice a Guardian is that a Guardian spends his life not only gaining knowledge, but regaining his innocence. How strong is your faith, Warrior of God?”
“It is strong enough to sacrifice myself if I am called upon.”
“That is not the sacrifice that is being asked. To complete the ritual we need the sacrifice of innocents.”
Simeon paused and stared out at the village of Dallol. Some children were running around the fire, and the faint sounds of their singing came to them on the wind. “There are innocents in that village,” he said.
“I cannot stand for that. My faith dictates that I am to protect those innocents and never allow them to be harmed.”
Maryam stepped forward. “You argue this? You believe in Yeshua? You believe in the Son of God, who was the most innocent of all, and he sacrificed to save people.”
“It was a choice that he made. I cannot allow what you ask for.”
“Do you think the mother of Yeshua wanted to allow his sacrifice?”
“She was not happy about it, but it was his decision…”
“Was it? Was it? Have you not read your Bible? Do you not remember the Garden? He begged for it not to happen.”
“I don’t think that is right. I don’t believe that it is correct in my faith, to sacrifice the innocent.”
Mahabet stepped forward. She spoke, in beautiful, elegant Spanish. “And who are you to know what innocence is? You have been born in sin. You have never seen God. You have never known God. And you say this to me, that you will decide who is to live and who is to die, who is innocent and who is not?”
“I’m not deciding who will live and die, I am saying I will not participate in the death of innocents.”
“And so the great evil will happen, and you will allow this?”
“There should be a way to prevent the evil without the death of children!”
“Such choices are not always given to us, as I had to learn, much to my detriment.”
Simeon held up a hand. “I understand, Warrior of God. I hope you are right. I fear you are not. We have watched and prevented this for a very long time. Every year that has passed, I have grown wearier and wearier of this burden. Perhaps it is best that we fail finally, and this endless life of drudgery with it.”