My legs felt weak and I leaned heavily against Elthinor, who supported me without question. Jaiden turned to me.
“What’s going on, Fily?” he asked, sounding a little angry.
“It’s not the entire scroll, Jaiden,” Elthinor said. “You remember what Nolan said when he handed it over.”
“How is that not the end?” he spat, leaping down off the crate and storming over to us. He jammed the scroll into my chest and I grabbed it from him.
“What’s your problem?” I demanded.
“My problem is that I was stupid enough to believe a Strangeling girl that said there was a God who was my Father, and who had a plan for me. All that studying I did, useless, all the time I spent on the subject, gone! I hope you’re happy, Fily.” The way he said my name reminded me of Tynan.
“He’s alive, Jaiden,” I snarled. “I’ve seen him! I’ve talked to him!”
“Now now,” Elyosius said, coming between us. “Let’s calm down, yes?”
“No!” we both shouted and I spun away and raced off.
I was a while outside of town when I saw a young man sitting against a tree, running a stick down a piece of paper. I approached him cautiously and peeked at what he was doing. It was an image of a bird on that piece of paper! He must be an artist, I thought. He paused and looked up.
I thought for a second. “Could you draw Jesiah?”
“His death on the cross.”
I watched as he took a blank piece of paper and began sketching an outline then filling it in with darker lines. He didn’t need my instruction, it seemed. I should have wondered why, at the time, but I didn’t. He finished in the late afternoon, and handed it over.
“Anything else, milady?” he asked.
“No,” I said distractedly, turning around. The picture looked exactly as Jesiah had in his final moments, minus the color. It was the most gruesome scene I had ever laid eyes on. I was crying as I walked away, then stopped and turned.
There was no sign of him anywhere! He was just gone. I searched for a while then gave up and went to Leah’s house. My father and Aloron were talking animatedly at the table when I walked in. They greeted me.
“Are you alright, my dear? You left quite abruptly,” Aloron said.
“Yes,” I said shortly.
“What have you got there, daughter of mine?” my father asked.
I handed him the paper, and he jerked when he saw it. Aloron moved over to look and he started, too. They studied it, carefully.
“This can’t be him, can it?” my father asked.
“It’s Jesiah,” I said softly.
“This is what it means to be crucified?” Aloron asked weakly.
“Yes. They beat him with canes, whips, and something with broken glass tied on the ends. They mocked him, asking him to tell them who hit him while he was blindfolded, and kept calling him king, though they didn’t mean it at all.”
They both looked stunned and tears appeared on their cheeks. One sank into a chair while the other leaned heavily against the wall. My father’s hands were shaking, made more obvious by the paper he held. I took it from him and joined them with my own tears. We were like that five minutes later when there was a knock at the window in the bedroom. I walked in and opened the shutters and Gabrithon whinnied in surprise as Elyosius and Aloron came through the door.
“Fily! What’s wrong?” he asked then looked around at the other two just as Elthinor and my friends walked in.
“Why is everybody crying?” Pinnathir asked, hurrying over to me. I handed him the drawing. He jolted and held it close to his face. “This is Jesiah on the cross,” he said blankly, quickly handing it back.
Everybody looked at it, some of them cried, others just stared. To my surprise, Gabrithon was one of the criers. He buried his face in his hands and just shuddered.
“Where did you get this?” Elthinor asked.
“I asked this man to draw it. He disappeared once I turned around and walked a few steps.” I paused. “He didn’t need me to describe the scene either,” I held the picture up so I could see it better. “He drew it like he was there. That’s exactly how Jesiah looked a few moments before he died, when he was crying out.”
“You saw it,” Jaiden said, staring at my face suspiciously.
“Of course I did. I always see what’s in the scrolls,” I replied.
Jaiden frowned and took the picture from me. He studied it, his eyes dashing from one part of the drawing to the other. He finally turned it around and pointed at Jesiah’s hands.
“What’s in his hands?”
“Nails. Really big nails,” I said, cringing and looking away.
Everybody shuddered, each doing something different to or with his hands as if to soothe nonexistent wounds. My father stepped forward after a short silence, clearing his throat.
“Daughter of mine, this man you saw, you say he just disappeared?”
“And he drew this image as if he’d been there to see it?”
“Well this is just a guess, but I think you might have seen an angel. A good one. When God wills it, they come down and pose as Humans or Elves or the other races for one reason or another. At least, it is said they do. It would definitely explain his disappearance.”
“He seemed so ordinary though,” I argued half-heartedly.
“I don’t know, Filynora. But ordinary folks don’t just disappear. And they most certainly wouldn’t be old enough to have seen him crucified,” my father said, looking a little exasperated.
“Why would he go quietly?” Jaiden asked suddenly. “The scroll said he didn’t cry out at all when he was being mocked and beaten. And besides that, he didn’t say much when he was being accused!”
“Quiet like a lamb being led to the slaughter,” my father marveled.
“A lamb?” I asked suddenly. “Like the Passover lamb?”
“Or like any lamb they used, I suppose,” I muttered. “And it ties in perfectly with father’s teaching. It would definitely explain how our sins are removed from us.”
“Filynora?” Jaiden asked slowly. “You’re not saying….are you?”
“What?” Gabrithon asked.
“He was the Lamb of God,” I said with a nod. “A lamb was used in the times before Jesiah’s death as an atonement for sins in the sight of God. It was a way to figuratively ‘wash away’ your sins. Jesiah became a lamb, in a sense. He took the punishment that we deserved by sacrificing himself on the cross, dying a gruesome death in place of us, who deserve death. Now, we still die. But instead of going to Hell, if we repent and trust in Jesiah, we’ll go to Heaven and live an eternal life instead of dying an eternal death. Not that we’d go out of existence, but that’s what the experience would be like.”
“But why would Jesiah’s sacrifice be accepted?” Gabrithon countered. Everybody else was staring at me as they thought about what I’d said.
Jaiden replied this time. “Because he’d perfectly fulfilled the law. The scrolls say he was completely sinless. And, since I’ve discussed this with Elyosius, I’ll tell you what he told me about the previous sacrifices. They had to be spotless. Without blemish. And sin would have been a blemish. But if Jesiah was truly sinless, he would have been the perfect spotless lamb. He also gave up his life willingly, which is something that I think would be necessary. I mean, look at what they called it. ‘Sacrifice.’ I don’t think if Jesiah was forced into it, that it would be called a sacrifice anymore.”
He stopped talking and we grinned at each other. Then we turned around to look at the others. They all looked shocked. Especially my father and Elthinor’s grandfather. Elyosius walked slowly up to me and placed his hands on my cheeks, tilting my face left and right as he looked at me.
“Where did that come from?” he asked after giving up. I shrugged and he sighed. “I hadn’t even thought of that. I should have. It seems so obvious now.”
“What do we do now?” Elthinor asked.
“I say we pray.”
I turned to look at Gabrithon. His eyes were bright and determined.
“Dost my ears deceive me?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.
“No, milady, they don’t. If somebody is crazy enough to sacrifice himself for me, who am I to reject the gift?”
“Gift,” I said with a smile. “That’s what eternal life is. We can’t earn it. We have nothing to offer but filthy rags because we’ve disobeyed God. You could say we’ve slapped him in the face with our disobedience.” I looked at my father and he smiled. “I agree with Gabrithon. Let’s pray.”
So we did.
Later that night, after going over the scrolls again with Elyosius, Aloron, and my friends, I threw the parchment the angel had drawn on into the fire. We watched it burn. “You shall not make any idols,” the third scroll said, and people could have started worshipping it somewhere down the line, instead of worshipping Jesiah. It had served its purpose. Now we had to serve part of ours.