Desert—God Help Me
Tobia watched Ishtar lead the sheep to their watering hole. Exhaustion sapped his strength and sorrow confused his thoughts. A faint light of hope tried to spark, but he could not keep it alight. He glanced down. The pain in his chest should show through…somehow. “Ishtar?”
With his gaze fastened on the sheep, Ishtar coaxed them to the waterhole. “Yes?”
“What happened to Vitus?”
Once the sheep began to lap at the water, Ishtar halted, propped his arm on his staff, and looked at Tobia. “When he lost his mind or when he lost his way in the desert?”
A grimace spread over Ishtar’s face. “I’m the last person you should ask.”
Tobia’s eyes glimmered. “But he’s dead now—gone forever. I should’ve kept a closer eye on him.”
With a quick shake of his head, Ishtar motioned toward a rocky outcropping. He waited for Tobia to shift into the shade and leaned against the cool wall. “When I first came here, I was a shell of a man, not unlike Vitus. I had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear. I was dead inside. But Matalah’s kindness rekindled a spark of life within me.”
“Was I not kind enough to Vitus?”
Waving as if to dismiss the thought, Ishtar glanced away. “Matalah gave me the freedom to decide—but I had to make the choice myself. In time, I decided to live and pay back his kindness. Only then could hope flourish.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Apparently, the Creator still has use for me.”
Tobia plopped down on the ground and sat cross-legged. “But it was God who struck down Vitus.”
“Are you sure?”
“Vitus called—demanded—that God speak with him and then lightning struck…”
Ishtar shook his head. “But He did not kill him, did He? Vitus followed in your footsteps for many a day after that.”
“But no one saved him when he wandered into the night. I didn’t even know he was gone until—”
Ishtar’s expression softened. “Tobia, you’re asking what happened between God and Vitus.” He peered over the horizon. “I can’t say and neither can you. All I know is—Matalah could not have saved me unless I wanted him to, and you could not save Vitus for the same reason.”
Pain tightened Tobia’s throat, and tears stung his eyes. “Ishtar?”
Ishtar met his gaze. “Yes?”
Longing tore through Tobia. “I want to go home.”
As a frolicking lamb nuzzled Ishtar’s hand, he patted it. “I’ll show you the way.”
Ishtar entered Matalah’s tent and bowed low.
Taking Ishtar’s hands, Matalah peered into his eyes, his face haggard and lined, looking older than his years. “Though my sons turned to evil, still, I pray on their behalf. May your fortune be better than mine.”
Ishtar blinked back tears. “I love you as I could never have loved my own father.”
Matalah nodded. “God knows…for I surely needed your love, my son.”
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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“Enjoyed the second book of the trilogy even more than the first and can’t wait for the next adventures…” Ellen
“The story was wonderful and well written.” ~Culver
“…characters walk in the sort of uncertainty that characterizes real-life” ~Pam
“a complex tale of sorcery, slave raids, and heroic rescues – dramatic events that bring the pre-biblical world to life.” ~David
Forced to leave his clan and his children behind, Ishtar staggers into a vast wilderness and encounters a desert nomad who loves him as a son. When foreign raiders approach, Ishtar must discover if he can move beyond madness, protect his people, and reclaim his family. Eager to know the source of Ishtar’s strength, a watching Universe must learn if humanity can save them from a spreading darkness.