Chapter Twenty-one

Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. Matthew 2:12 NKJV

 

Folly lounged on the arm of Herod’s throne, yawning and looking around her with sheer boredom.

Really, it was too easy.

The slightest thing set him off. Folly rarely had to even whisper an idea to him anymore; she would merely point, his face would pucker, flood with red, spittle would fly, and almost always someone ended up lying dead at his feet.

He wasn’t fun anymore. She wasn’t even sure what she was doing here.

Ah, yes. Avoiding Lucifer. She still hadn’t figured out why the mightiest angels in the realm had vanished from her sight; why she was never able to regain their trail. And she wasn’t about to tell Lucifer. In the guise of searching, she stayed above ground and stayed busy. Mostly. She didn’t think she would find anything—she really didn’t—but better to look busy than to make up answers she didn’t have.

“Mighty Herod—”

Folly snorted. Really, the wheezing, bulging figure wedged into the too-small-for-him throne could hardly be called “mighty.” Unless the fact that he killed at whim whomever he chose made him lay claim to that particular title. But, no. Of all the men who had come and gone over the course of time, Herod was the least likely she would call “mighty.”

“The wise men from the east you asked to see.”

“Send them in.”

Folly jumped off the throne and darted behind it. Her fingers shook as she clasped the rigid marble. Wise men? Could Wisdom possibly be here, after so long with no movement, no sign from her?

Folly peeked around the corner, waiting for the servant to return with Wisdom’s students.

They entered after what seemed an eternity, even to Folly. Folly scanned the room. Again. A third time.

Her shoulders slumped. No angels.

Praise the maker.

She shook her head, bewildered that those words would be the first to spring to her mind. She didn’t correct herself, but gingerly returned to her perch as pleasantries were exchanged.

“Tell me”—Herod rubbed the rim of his goblet in a clear sign of agitation, despite the almost pleasant smile on his face—“I hear you have been asking in town for a”—he coughed—“King of the Jews. Have you found him?”

All seven pairs of eyes before him lit eagerly. One man stepped forward, bowing.

“We have not, Great Herod. Have you word of where we might find Him?”

The words slipped in and out of Folly’s mind, not bothering her in the least. Kings came and went like sawdust. She scanned the room again, her focus on spotting those horrid, pesky angels, who might appear at any moment, before they saw her.

“I have, actually.” Herod waved forward several of the chief priests and scribes. “May I ask when the star first appeared to you?”

Folly glanced at Herod, brow puckered.

Star?

She turned back to survey the room, but listened more closely.

The wise men consulted their scrolls, while the scribes of Herod’s kingdom stood nearby with their scrolls.

They started jabbering about dates and times, and Folly huffed and rolled her eyes.

Boring.

She jumped off the throne and made a circuit of the room, just to make certain she hadn’t missed anything or anyone.

One of scribes from Jerusalem stepped forward and unfurled his scroll.

Folly rolled her eyes again.

Great. Just great.

She turned and headed for the doors. Maybe it was time to check outside.

If she had to listen one more time to these idiots endlessly debate about what the ancient writings meant, she was going to tear the rest of her brittle hair out. The meanings were as plain as the beards on their faces, but no one understood, and no one could keep from making it a huge argument.

As much as Folly loved arguments, arguments about the Scriptures were an entirely different matter.

The Words of Life seared into her flesh as well as her spirit, their clarity ringing true and painful in her ears. She loved the division and debate they caused; she just didn’t want to be around to hear the dreadful Words themselves.

“In Bethlehem of Judea. This is what the prophet says:”

Folly stopped short, her breath catching in her throat and strangling her.

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

Folly nearly doubled over. With a shriek, she jumped over the heads of the wise men, her spindly wings beating furiously. Landing next to Herod, she clutched his arm, her fingers digging into flesh that could not feel her.

“You fool! Do you not understand? This is not just a king! This is the king who threatens my rule—Lucifer’s rule! Do something!”

A pleasant smile lifted the corners of Herod’s mouth, and he unknowingly flicked Folly’s hand aside.

“Go, my friends. When you find the child, return here, please, that I might worship him as well.”

Folly groaned. Of all the times for the wretched, stiff-necked people to choose their own way instead of hers.

The wise men bowed deeply.

“We can see that Wisdom smiles upon you as well. We would be happy to share the news of the King once we have found Him. Shalom.”

Herod nodded affably.

“Shalom to you also.”

As the contingent of wise men and all of their servants filed out of the hall, Folly clutched his sleeve.

“No! No! Send someone to follow them—find the child immediately! Don’t wait for them, by then—by then, it might be too late!”

Herod stood and left the throne room. She followed him, sputtering.

“Seriously, this doesn’t bother you more?”

He paused at a window and looked out, his knuckles white on the goblet he still clutched.

“Ah. It does. Then do something! You can’t just—”

He waved her away—or, rather, the thoughts that kept pelting his mind, not letting up, not giving him rest—and lumbered down the hall to his chambers, ringing for a concubine.

Folly tried to follow him into his personal chamber.

“Hold it, girly. You can’t just barge in on a couple unwanted.”

Lust blocked her with a hand to her chest.

“But if you just—if you had heard…”

Lust held up her other hand.

“Save it. This is my specialty, not yours, and I want you out.”

Folly tried to dodge Lust’s splayed hand.

“But it’s imperative he makes the right decision…”

Lust shrugged and pushed Folly all the way out of the room.

“Then give him nightmares about whatever it is till he can’t rest. Force a decision. But not now. Now, it’s my time, and I don’t want to be bothered with a backstabber like you. An angel needs to have fun every once in a while, you know. And that means having you nowhere near me.”

The door slammed in Folly’s face.

Folly tugged at her once fiery-red hair. She could walk right through the door, but she didn’t want to spend the rest of the night arguing with Lust. This was too important to let Lust slow her down.

She turned and jumped into the air, directly for Lucifer’s underground dwelling. She berated herself the entire way.

“This is why I haven’t been able to find them—they were hiding from me! They were hiding this from me! And I was too stupid to notice.”

She fell to the ground outside of the dark cave that led to her unwanted home. She clutched her head and wailed, “No!” curling into a ball on the rocky ground. How could she have been so blind? So complacent, wasting precious time lounging on Herod’s throne instead of seeking harder for the angels’ purpose?

She groaned and started crawling toward the entrance. Lucifer was going to kill her.

 

Wisdom stood outside of the wise men’s tents. She smiled as they excitedly spoke about what the new King meant for the future of Israel, their words colliding with each other’s in good-humored expectation.

She shook her head. How sad that these precious men understood far more of the new King’s purpose than the rest of Israel.

Where Israel wanted an earthly king to save them from Rome’s iron rule, and a kingdom of their very own, these students of hers understood the King of the Jews’ reign was much more vast than all of Israel could imagine.

He would rule for all of eternity.

Wisdom straightened as their words penetrated the strong burlap of the tent wall.

“We must return to Herod immediately and tell him all we have learned.

Her jaw clenched. Not if I can help it.

She waited until slumber overtook the seven one-by-one.

Stepping into their dreams, she swirled them around her until they became one.

Cries of surprise and pleasure greeted her. She smiled.

“Greetings from the One True God. I am sorry this is not pleasant, what I have to say, but I must warn you. Do not return to Herod. He has deceived you with his vain words and puffed-up countenance.”

Their feelings quickly changed from pleasure to horror.

“He intends to kill the Child, not worship Him. Go home another way.”

She lovingly gazed into each one’s mind before separating the dreams and handing them back to the dream-holders.

The men groaned and tossed in their sleep.

“Belteshazzar!”

“Haddad!”

“Wake up! All of you! I’ve had a dream.”

“I have as well.”

The men stirred, all rushing to relay the same, strange dream to each other.

“Then we are agreed. We leave quickly, and by another way.”

After a chorus of “yeses,” the wise men roused their servants, took down their tents, and fled.

Wisdom smiled and immediately returned to Mary, Joseph, and the young boy, Jesus.

 

“He what?”

Folly cringed, her fear too great. She couldn’t have acted brave if she wanted to. She held her arms over her head as a sob escaped.

“I tried, master, I really did, but Herod wouldn’t listen! And now it may be too late—”

Lucifer spun on her.

“Too late? Why do you say that? What do you know that you aren’t telling me?”

Folly folded further into herself.

“N-nothing. I meant this matter has been hidden to us for so long, we may not get a chance to act again. Who knows what they plan…”

Lucifer clomped down the heavy stone steps, stopping before her. Folly shied away.

“Look at me.”

Folly tried to, she really did, but she couldn’t make her skittish gaze rest on him.

“I said, look at me!” he roared.

He clutched her hair and snapped her head back. Her gaze touched his briefly before she slammed her eyes closed.

He flung Folly away from him in disgust.

“Take me to Herod. Now! Hate. Fear. You’re with us. Folly, move!”

Folly scrambled to her feet and bolted down the corridor. Fear clung to her like sticky, sweet sap, never letting her far from the cloaked figure.

They rushed to Herod’s court.

 

“It is done.”

Folly nodded, feeling cold. Numb.

“Death is beside himself with joy.”

Folly didn’t want to hear about it, but Lust kept talking.

“He can’t stop drinking the innocents’ blood.” Lust snorted. “He runs from corpse to corpse, lapping up the blood as if he can actually taste it.”

Folly shuddered and moved farther away from Lust. Her hands shook as she halfheartedly fingered the crude strategy board Lucifer had constructed to resemble the ones they had used in heaven.

It was what she had wanted. It was. Death. For every child two and under in the town of Bethlehem. It had been her idea, whispered into the heart, solidified by Fear and Hate, and carried out by Herod. Then why did it make her feel so sick inside?

Lust continued to talk it out, describing in great detail the scene Folly had hidden from.

Folly shut out her words.

She had turned her back on the destruction, watching instead the steady stream of little ones the angels carried upward and out of her sight, searching for a sign the one they hunted had been killed.

Instead wretchedness as she had never felt descended upon her soul.

She had vomited. Then fled.

Now Lust was bringing it all back.

Folly launched the three-tiered coal board against the wall. It shattered.

“Will you shut up? I was there, okay?”

Folly stormed out of the room, not caring Lucifer would be furious she had destroyed his future plans.

She clenched her jaw. Oh, well. She would make another board once the whore left her alone.

Regret clawed at her throat. It was worse than the hatred she felt constantly for the maker and his creatures.

Since when did she care about the maker’s creatures?

 

Wisdom waited patiently for Michael, sword drawn.

The even breaths of the three sleeping on the ground comforted her heavy heart.

“Oh, Maker,” she whispered.

She straightened as Michael dropped lightly beside her.

“What news, Commander?”

He shook his head.

Wisdom dropped her head in sorrow.

“Your charges?” he asked.

“Safe. Unharmed,” she barely managed to whisper past the tears clogging her throat.

“Praise the Maker.”

Wisdom forced herself to speak.

“Gabriel warned them just in time. If Joseph hadn’t acted immediately…” her voice trailed off.

She hiccupped a sob.

“I know, Wisdom. I know.”

Another sob escaped.

Michael sheathed his sword and drew her into his burly arms.

Wisdom sobbed for each precious life who, although each child was now with the Creator, had been so lovingly handcrafted for a long, plentiful life on Terra.

“I know, Wisdom. I know,” Michael murmured against her hair.

Wisdom cried harder, her weeping the only prayer she could utter before the Maker.

If only there wasn’t such evil in the world!

Her sobs lessened as her eyes took on a steely glint.

She would fight. She would fight till her final day as a warrior, all evil that rose against Love Himself.

 

Wisdom and Folly: Sisters by Michele Israel Harper, Chapter Twenty-one. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.

The Promise by giuliaraineri on DeviantArt and her website. Copyright © 2012-2015 by giuliaraineri.

Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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