A Royal Greeting
The officers' tent now consisted strictly of Amalickiah's closest confidants. Lehonti's leading officers were conspicuously and permanently absent from further discussions of strategy and intentions. Even more telling, the Lamanite king's officers were also indefinitely uninvited to all future such meetings. Amalickiah sat at the head of the table.
Ammoron raised a glass in toast of his mentor, "Well, brother, you've done it. You've gotten your army. I can't believe it. But, somehow you've done it."
Amalickiah smiled at the acknowledgment and added, "Yes, I'm almost ready to take on Moroni."
"Almost, what more do you lack?" Ammoron was a bit surprised and sought clarification.
"Position? You're the commander of the entire Lamanite army!" Ammoron opened his arms widely to emphasize the immensity of the forces Amalickiah now held within his grasp.
Ishmael, always one step ahead of his leader's brother, pointed out, "I don't believe your brother had his sights set on being a mere general."
Ishmael said this while reaching for his glass of wine. As he began to sip it, he turned his eyes to Amalickiah who returned his gaze approvingly. Ishmael gave a slight nod to Amalickiah, signifying he recognized there was more scheming afoot. Amalickiah returned a slight smile.
He paused then leaned forward to unfold the next step in his plan. He looked each of his men in the eye one by one to ensure he had their full attention. No one spoke. Only the crackle of the campfires and muffled speaking of soldiers in surrounding tents could be heard. The conspiring leader then stated in a hushed and serious tone, "Ishmael is correct. We have one more key step before we return our revenge on Moroni. First, we must return to the land of Nephi with this army and meet the king...."
~~~ - ~~~
On a clear, crisp morning when the winds bore the lush smells of the surrounding rainforest, a guard posted in the city of Nephi's main watchtower saw Amalickiah's army approach.
The guard had maintained strict allegiance to his king and was pleased to see the king's army return from putting an end to the sedition of the "oath-keepers" who had dared to defy the king's direct orders. He had hoped to join in on the march to catch and capture his rebellious brethren. Duty called him to sit in the tower, however.
He had taken pride in fulfilling that duty and now hollered down to a soldier below, passing on the news of what appeared to be a successful return. The foot soldier passed the news onto another soldier, who rushed to the city's main building, and told a guard. The guard rushed to tell a throne room guard, who respectfully approached the king.
"Your supreme majesty, Amalickiah returns. He appears victorious."
The king was visibly pleased, stood and quickly hurried out of the throne room.
Outside the city walls, Amalickiah's army continued marching toward the city. Amalickiah's main officers, were about 100 yards forward from the rest of the army, signifying a successful return. The guard in the watchtower saw Amalickiah's officers disappear from his view as they neared the city gate far below him.
He turned and saw the king and his personal guard approach the gate from the city square. They too disappeared from his view as they exited the gate to greet the officers. He had wanted to at least view the greeting, but was frustrated in this desire because his vantage point denied him a view of the platitudes that would be exchanged.
As the king and his guards had exited the gate, they left it ajar, and allowed it to follow its natural course, slowly closing behind them as they approached Amalickiah's men. This left none but those directly involved, the opportunity to watch the customary greeting of the victorious Lamanite army.
"Wonderful! Wonderful! Welcome back my mighty warriors! I'm so pleased to see you back with so few casualties!" The king was nearly bubbling with enthusiasm.
Amalickiah's officers reverently knelt before their king, with heads bowed. The king approached the first, Ishmael, to ceremoniously touch his head and raise him to his feet.
"Rise, my faithful servant," the king declared.
"Oh, great king, we are glad that our return brings pleasure to you," Ishmael spoke as he rose.
Suddenly, Ishmael plunged a dagger deeply into the king's heart. The king collapsed forward onto Ishmael with a look of surprise on his face. He slumped forward, and Ishmael allowed him to fall to the ground. Ishmael straightened and ran to be within view of the tower guard. He pointed and shouted as Amalickiah's other officers rose to their feet, feigning anguish over the king's demise.
"Hurry, the king's guards have killed the king! Open the gate! Open the gate! The king's guards have killed the king! Amalickiah, hurry! The king is in peril!" Ishmael shouted loudly enough for the guard in the watchtower to hear that something unfortunate had transpired.
Amalickiah rushed up just as more of the king's guards came out of the city gate and saw the king lying dead on the ground. His original guards had seen what had happened and were just realizing that the blame was being placed on them.
"What?! No, it was —" the king's guards were interrupted in their attempt to declare their innocence.
Ishmael verbally burst in and increased the volume of his accusation, "The king's guards have killed the king! They must be taken!"
Seeing that the likelihood of maintaining their innocence was doubtful, they saw no other recourse than to flee. With Amalickiah bringing his massive army up the main road from the east, the quickest escape route they could see was to make a frantic dash for the jungle to the north.
"Whoever loved the king, let him capture those who did this! After them!" Amalickiah boldly appealed to the remaining guards' loyalty.
The additional guards pursued the original guards into the jungle. The four framed guards were well into the jungle by the time their pursuers entered. The terrain was difficult as the rainforest grew quickly leaving only well-traveled paths any form of easy access. The path they chose was not a path at all. The thick vines draped from tree to tree and dense undergrowth beneath the towering trees gave this area the look and feel of a place never before disturbed by man. Monkeys and birds chided the intruders who nimbly made their way along the ground far below them.
The men hurdled the lowest hanging vines as well as small bushes. The thicker vines were pushed aside, or ducked under. They forced their bodies through the thickest brush. Their only advantage was leaping into the jungle a matter of seconds before their pursuers. They realized all too well that they could stay alive only so long as they could stay ahead of their pursuers. They also knew from experience that tracking anything, or anyone, through the dense jungle could be difficult. They carefully chose to use that to their advantage, being careful not to break many branches or vines.
They had also wisely chosen to not run in a straight path lest they be overtaken simply by chance. Shortly after entering the forest they zigged northeast. A few hundred yards later they zagged northwest. They continued their course alterations, marking a continuous path northeast, but avoiding a straight line. Within a few miles it became clear that they would either need to be heard, or leave a distinct trail, in order to be successfully overtaken. They carefully ensured that neither of these options occurred.
Their pursuers were equally clever and determined. They loved their king. The thought of his betrayal burned in their souls. They were determined to avenge him. The fire burning in their eyes sped their feet. To their dismay they lost the trail too quickly. Moments later, it was discovered again quite a way from the original trajectory. Again in hot pursuit they lunged forward, ignoring both snakes and vines as they angrily cut their way forward. The trail was lost and rediscovered three more times before it was lost again for good. It was near nightfall before they had to concede failure and return to the city of Nephi without their prey. It was a bitter return.
~~~ - ~~~
The next morning found Amalickiah and his army camped outside the city wall. Amalickiah stood, waiting just outside the city gate for his emissary to return from delivering his message within the city. The emissary came outside the gate and approached Amalickiah.
Amalickiah spoke loudly enough to be overheard. He was determined to both perpetuate the ruse that he was concerned about the king's betrayal, and to reinforce the lie that the king's servants were to blame.
He asked, "Did you inform her majesty of the king's servants' treachery and the tragic death of our beloved king?"
"Yes, sir. She at first feared that you would attack the city, but I assured her that you were not the ones who killed the king, that you sent guards to apprehend the murderers. She then asked that you come to her and bring witnesses of this terrible deed. Will you come with your witnesses?" the emissary requested.
"Witnesses? Certainly! Let her majesty know that we will be there straightaway!" Amalickiah responded.
The emissary left to inform the queen. Amalickiah turned to his men and beckoned his conspiring officers. Ishmael, Ammoron, and the others stepped forward. Amalickiah signaled with his hand that they should keep silent.
The gate was opened. Other Lamanite guards greeted them as they entered the city square. These guards acted as their escorts through the city streets and to the chief building. The king's own guards replaced them and ushered the group through the halls and to the throne room.
Once there, the throne room guards took charge of these witnesses of their beloved king's demise. All of them were somber and silent. The disturbed, but regal queen sat upon her throne. Amalickiah and his men entered a short distance into the elaborate throne room and knelt in a semicircle arching toward her. Amalickiah was closest to the queen.
"Your majesty," he spoke as he respectfully and gracefully waved and extended his right arm before him in token deference to his leader.
"Arise, Amalickiah. You had become my husband's confidant and one of his most trusted servants. What can you tell me of this terrible act?" the queen requested.
"Oh, queen, my sorrow is greater than words. I wish that I had returned sooner and rooted out this terrible plot. I was not there when the deed was done, but I have brought my advance party who were first upon the scene. Please allow this humble man to relate what he saw and heard," Amalickiah gestured, indicating Ishmael.
"He may speak." The queen shifted her glance to Ishmael, who rose only long enough to step forward. He knelt again before speaking.
"Thank you, oh great queen. I thank you that I may speak to you. I have seen terrible things. My men and I were nearly to the city gate when the king and his guards came out to greet us. My men and I were just kneeling to honor our great king when one of his servants rushed the king and stabbed him to the heart. I was horrified and jumped to the king's aid. I was the first one to him. Sadly, I was too late. The wound was too deep. I could not stop the bleeding, as you can see on my hands and clothes. He was dead before he could even speak." Ishmael's voice cracked with emotion. He looked downward feigning humility and sorrow. He had learned his actions well from his master.
She shook her head at the outright betrayal. "What became of the servants who did this?" the queen demanded.
"Alas, we were so concerned about the king that before we had a chance to react, they had fled. Amalickiah sent men after them." Ishmael gestured to Amalickiah again, returning the queen's focus and investigation back to him.
"I sent my swiftest men, but they have now returned with word that the fiends have run to the Nephites to join their armies." Amalickiah added, "Isn't this a witness of their guilt?"
"Such a tragic thing! How can such a thing happen? We trusted them with our lives."
The queen shuddered at the thought of her most trusted servants betraying her. Without consciously intending to send an accusing glare, she looked over to the guard who stood beside her throne. The guard caught her gaze, perceived her question and straightened up attempting to display unrelenting obeisance to his queen.
This silent exchange was interrupted by Amalickiah's persistent words, "Great and beautiful queen, it is clear that this is a plot by the Nephites to overthrow your peaceful kingdom."
The queen looked up with sudden concern, "The Nephites?!"
"This is a thing to mourn, but we must not be caught unawares." Amalickiah unfolded the final stage in his plan to avenge himself on Moroni, "We must prepare ourselves for their attack. Better still, we should prepare to strike them before they have the chance of attack."
"Yes, yes, I suppose you're right," the queen conceded.
"Great queen," Amalickiah added, "I know that this is burdensome for you. As leader of this great army, I pledge my all to lead these people in the absence of the king." He bowed again.
"Amalickiah, you are truly a man with a noble heart and a clear head. You are, of course, right. We must prepare ourselves."
The queen had kept her feelings silent on this matter, but the thought of the Nephites breaking their oath had always been a source of puzzlement for her. While she agreed that the oath-keepers were wrong to rebel, she understood their point.
With this turn of events, she sadly had to admit that there seemed to be a reason, even internal treason, to acknowledge that there appeared to be some conspiring taking place in favor of the Nephites. This fact pointed to justification of Nephite involvement, and hence the likelihood of their breaking their oaths. Preparation for war now seemed not just inevitable, but inescapably necessary.
©1999, 2003, 2012 by Douglas V. Nufer
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