I don't come here often, on my own. I don't often see the point when I can never fully withdraw my spirit from this place. But I come here now, for my mind is not at ease. My sister speaks with words that taste wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
"Giver!" I cry out. "Savior! LORD!"
"Anka Kendra, do you really doubt the words that I have given her? Your sister's the dreamer. The one to whom I speak."
I spin around, around, and around, but I see no one. My heart thuds within me. "I have no peace!"
"Would you take this from her? This opportunity for which she has thirsted for so long? The poor, poor child. Every thing given unto her is taken. How much have you robbed from her?"
"My sister and I struggled through our childhood, each with our own vices," I answered. "I know the wrongs that I have done to her. Who are you? Why do you hide from me?"
"I am terrible to look upon. Has your sister not told you this? Anka Kendra, your sister has been given many blessings. Will you steal them from her in your envy?"
"In my envy, I left her to them." I lift my left hand, white light spilling from the diamond of my ring, my Ankulen refashioned after it was broken. A feeble light in the blackness "Who are you, and what mean you with my sister?"
"I mean her for great things. Let her go that she might accomplish them."
I take a step back. "No. I was ordered to never abandon her for any cause. I slipped from my duty, a second time, but it is my duty just the same. I know my God. An unchanging, unfailing God. He would not call me to abandon her. Who are you?"
"Blasphemous child!" the voice rebukes me. "Did you not hear? Do you not know me. I am Abbah, I..."
"I know you." My voice drops, and my eyes narrow at the nothingness. "I know you, for I have fought you many times on my sister's behalf. I name you Lies, for you offer her comfort, security, and love, but give only prison and pain. Be gone from her!"
I receive no more answer, just a cackling laughter that fades away. The clouds do not fade.
You've done it. You've fought it and won. Remember the power that you wield here? Oh, why do you stay away, Anka Kendra?
Why do I stay away? I look around myself at the darkness. Why is it so dark. If that tempter is gone, then it should have cleared?
It should have...
"You!" I cry out, remembering why I stay away. "Vanity, you cannot tempt me! I am not your weapon!"
But I just hear an echoing laughter that wraps around my heart, pulling down.
I'm powerless. Who am I to think that I grasp this power. It's not real. Who am I to deny the blessings given to my sister? Who am I to think I can claim the blessings of...
Oh, you worthless, worthless child ... you don't even belong here. You should still be running. Running. Running...
"GIVER!" I cry out. "SAVIOUR! LORD!"
And, suddenly, there is a break in the clouds. One, shining, beam of light. It's been there the whole time, I realize now. I just couldn't see it. He's been here the whole time, but I had to wrestle first.
"Giver," I say, as the One of light steps towards me. "Help me my unbelief."
"My strength is made perfect in weakness," he answers.
"And I am so weak."
His arms wrap around me. Holding me. Raising my heart again in my chest.
"What is to be done with V?" I asked, my head hanging. "We have all failed her. After hedging her for so many years against the Lies that plague her, we let her walk straight into his jaws. Was it always him? Have you ever spoken to her?"
He gave a sad smile that I can see even without looking at Him. "I still speak to her. She's listening to both our voices. The battle isn't over."
"Giver of Peace and Wisdom, let me fight!"
"Of course." He draws back, and I see the Sword in His hands, the shining Sword of Light that is the Word of God.
I shrink back. "I - I can't. I'm unworthy!"
"You must. This is the only weapon that can drive back the enemy and bind him. And you are Worthy, for I have made you so."
"Your strength and goodness are as putrid rags before me, but I have given mine," He answers, before I can speak. "This shall be my victory, and you shall praise me. Remember what I have given you, the words that are yours. You are not to let the evil one drive you from your task, even in this."
"I am broken and spilled out before you."
"Gird yourself, Anka. Keep the helmet of salvation tight upon your head, for I have sanctified you unto myself and you shall not listen to the lies otherwise. Fasten the breastplate of righteousness about you that your heart will not be pierced by the barbs of evil flung at you. Strap the belt of truth about you that you be not exposed in the heat of battle. Hold up the shield of Faith, that you do not doubt my promises. Stand firm in the shoes of the Gospel of Peace - know what you believe, that you do not waver!"
I feel it wrap around me, and I cry as I realize how exposed I am without it.
"And take these."
He holds out a box. I know the box from my mother's realm, and I open it to reveal nine cut gems - the visage that we gave the fruit of the spirit.
Love, a ruby, cut of the flowing blood of the Lamb.
Joy, an opal, cut from the light and filled with colors of promise.
Peace, a sapphire, cut from the never-ending ocean of God's love.
Patience, a pearl, formed after many years by an oyster as it endured of grit of sand.
Kindness, a tourmaline, cut from the generosity of One who gives everything of himself to help another, asking nothing in return.
Goodness, an emerald, cut from the growing things of earth, the blessings God has given us upon this land.
Faithfulness, a diamond, cut from the vows of promise.
Gentleness, a moonstone, cut from the soft light of the moon as it comforts those in the grip of night.
Self-control, an amethyst, cut from the wine of truth, that we hold back from the things that would rob us of our lives.
I take these gems and fasten them about my neck.
"What is your name?"
I lift my chin. "I am the Knowledgeable Oath of God, the covenant that my mother made with you," I answer.
"A covenant that I WILL fulfill. What are the names that you have taken, Anka?"
"Arista, the one who transcribes your word. Petra, the one who fights to hold her sister and offers her forgiveness instead of death. Tiger Lilly, the one who rejects lies for promise. Ulrica, the queen who fights for freedom from deception. Robin, that I know my place, even when I do not fit in. And Laura - Laura, the promised victory of tomorrow."
My eyes flash.
"Giver, she has tried to steal my name!"
"She tries to claim the promises that I have given you, but they are your promises, not hers. What is her name?"
"She is the Hope of Purity," I answer. "And I have named her Ashley, that she may rise from the ashes and return to us after many days."
"Her time of fleeing is over, it is time for her to return."
And then He orders:
And then He orders:
"Open your eyes, Anka."
My eyes aren't closed, but I obey anyway. Suddenly, the sky is clear and I see that I am surrounded. Surrounded by friends and family - Ank' and Warriors, each knelt in prayer. My brother's arms around me, with his prayers that move mountains and shake the heaven. Our mother is before us, lifting up my sister's soul, even as blood flows down her arms from its jagged edges. It is no longer the golden purity that was once my sister, but dark and fading. My father hangs on the edge uncertain, for he knows how much of this is his doing. I cry out to him, tell him to kneel and pray.
"Look again, Anka."
I do, and I see my sister, and finally the one I name Lies. They walk, hand-in-hand, and he is wrapped in a robe of light. It shines so brightly, it's hard to see that within is a darkness so black that it can never be redeemed. She looks fully to him, with a smile so great, and not to the path before her.
Not to the cliff that is just a few feet away.
If she takes just a few more steps, we might never see her again.
"One last thing, Anka Kendra."
I turn again to the Giver, and see what He holds in His outstretched hands. A crown, set with shining stars. My sister's Ankulen. I frown as I look at the chains that drip from it, chains that have always been there and that I have never liked. There used to be only a few, but now ... now ...
I look into the Giver's eyes, and I understand. Taking the crown from him, I break these chains. Each one. Pulling them away and throwing them to the ground. Breaking them just as I broke my Ankulen when my vanity led me into folly.
When it is done, I look back up at the Giver, and He is smiling.
"Just like this, I shall break the chains that bind your sister."
And I am filled with peace.