His mind wondered back to the day his father had told him they were going to cross the desert and search for a new water source.
Their nation’s population was one hundred and forty four thousand and the area they lived in did not have much water. They had a reservoir northwest of their nation but it was not giving them the surplus they had once enjoyed and they were worried for the future and what would happen as the population grew.
This is why Dragatu’s father had decided he was going to search in the hills and forests in the far north. Very few people had ventured so far north. The desert was treacherous and then there were the hills and valleys that contained wild beasts and lastly beyond that were the mountains with snow tops. People preferred to venture west into the forests where it was safer, but no big water sources had ever been found, or to the east were there were ore pits and rocks hills. Some people lived there and mined for a living but very little was known about what was beyond that.
Dragatu’s father had decided it was time to explore in detail the northern areas beyond the desert, as this was the most likely place for a big enough water source. He knew it was a risk but the consolation to him was that it would be a great adventure for him and his sons even if they didn’t find a new water source.
“A great adventure,” Dragatu thought as he tried to process all his feelings while he reflected. “How wrong and how right you were dad.” He then pushed aside the anger and he remembered how it all had begun and went through everything that had happened up until his father had ran into the forest leading the wolf away from them.
It had all began when he wrestling with Unilus. Dragatu loved to wrestle and beat everyone, but with Unilus it was always very close. Dragatu always won because he was fast and strong but Unilus was very fast and was good at exploiting weaknesses and learning how a person fights. Unilus was like this in all that he did. He loved to learn. He read lots of books and also spent a lot of time on the farms and with plants and animals. He invented things to help the farmers and invented many things to help all the people.
As usual it was another close fight but Dragatu shifted his weight and moved his arm over Unilus’ blonde hair and down to link his hand to his wrist and then applied pressure. Unilus tried to get out but knew he was beat and tapped out.
“Well done!” Dragatu’s father had been watching at the side and clapped loudly with pride. They both stood up quickly and bowed their heads acknowledging their fathers praise.
“I am a blessed father to have such great sons.”
“Thank you dad. We learned from the best.” Dragatu replied.
Their father laughed, “And who was that? I will not have another man teach my sons to fight.” He then smiled, “Oh. You mean me?”
Dragatu sighed at his father terrible jokes and Unilus wasn’t really sure what was so funny, as he took things literally, so he just smiled humouring his father as always.
Once their father stopped laughing he asked Unilus to get Phoenon. Unilus obeyed and Dragatu continued the conversation with this father.
“Do you think Unilus will ever beat me?”
“Probably not son, you are very skilled.”
“So you agree that I am the best?”
There was a pause as his father contemplated how to respond to the prideful statement,
“Yes you are the best at wrestling but everyone is good at something and your brothers have amazing strengths that make them special. It is not always the strongest that succeeds. It is often the wise or even the compassionate.”
“But if you are strong then you can beat them in a fight?” Before Dragatu’s father could respond Unilus returned with Phoenon so he quickly said,
“We will talk about this some other time.”
Unilus and Phoenon walked up to and stood beside Dragatu.
“Thank you Unilus.” Their father began and then directed his attention to Phoenon,
“Are you having a good day son?”
“Yes dad. I was just helping mum prepare some food and water for Dragatu and Unilus after their wrestling.”
“That is very kind of you Phoenon. What do you say Unilus and Dragatu?”
“Thanks” they said together. Phoenon smiled at them both.
“I have some exciting news for you,” Their father continued, “You all know about the hills across the desert that a few explores found a long time ago?” They nodded. “Well we are going to cross the desert and be explores ourselves. I have spoken to your mum and she took some convincing, but she has agreed that you can come with me. Would you all like that?”
“Yes!” Dragatu’s enthusiasm was expected by their father and he smiled at Dragatu. Then he looked at Phoenon and Unilus and Unilus spoke,
“Why are we going on such and adventure?”
“To search for a big water source. We all know that our reservoir just supports the nation and we will need more water soon.”
“I will go.” Unilus said. “It will be a good chance to see what exists beyond the desert and maybe there will be knew animals and plants to study.
Their father’s eyes then fell on Phoenon.
“Will it not be very dangerous?” Phoenon said softly feeling embarrassed and worried Dragatu would tease him for asking such a question. His worries were confirmed.
“This is so exciting Phoenon. Don’t be such a coward.”
“Dragatu don’t talk to your brother that way.” Their father said sternly. He then took a step towards Phoenon and crouched in front of him and looked him in the eyes.
“Yes it will be very dangerous but if we can find a way to help the people it is worth the risk. If we can find the new water source and find a way to get it across the desert we will help generations of people. I want my three sons beside me if I find such a thing, but if you do not want to come I will not force you. But if you do come I promise I will look after you and so will your brothers. No harm will befall us. I promise.”
There was a pause and then Phoenon spoke up.
“I will come for you Daddy and for the people. I trust you.”
“Thanks son.” And he hugged Phoenon tightly. “So it is settled. The four of us will embark on a great adventure. We will leave in a couple of days so start preparing your packs with things you will need. Tell your friends you will see them in about a month and please spend as much time as you can with your mother as she is worried for us and will miss us greatly. Reassure her that you are confident about this trip and calm her fears with your love for her. I must go and start preparing a few things and barter for some goods. We will need some good hunting knives for you and a new bow for me. I will see you later.”
As Dragatu reflected about this the sun moved across its path in the sky and his brothers still slept. As the world continued around him he was stuck on a bitter thought, “you didn’t keep your promise dad, but I will keep mine.”
Eventually he had to move past it and his memory jumped to the departure from the nation and how his mother had cried so much as they left. He remembered her blonde her shinning in the sun and those blue eyes raining and how he had only shown her the true sadness he felt at saying goodbye. When they had their parting embrace he had whispered,
“There is nothing I will miss more.”
He viewed some emotions as a weakness and didn’t like to let people see his, but for this reason she had appreciated it more. After the brief embrace he turned and followed his father and only turned back once to see her and this was the memory of her in the sun light.
He was both desperate to return to her now and never wanted to face her. Having to tell her that her husband was dead was a thought he tried hard to push to the back of his mind and focused on just getting his brothers home, that was the most important thing. Anything else was only a burden to him.
His mind then returned to its memories. They walked through the nation passing the brick houses of their neighbours, who were all part of the richer area at the southern most part of the nation. This was about thirty miles from the sea.
He saw many of his friends while walking through the rich area and they waved their goodbyes from their houses.
As they walked the houses became less and less elaborate and finally there was no one that Dragatu knew to wave at him. However as the house quality changed people began to come out of their houses to say goodbyes to their father or to Phoenon. Phoenon was popular amongst the people and spent a lot of his time with those who were less fortunate then themselves. This was clear because as they said their goodbyes they told him he would be greatly missed.
Dragatu was jealous of this as more people came to see Phoenon than had waved goodbye to him. He didn’t understand why they would like Phoenon more than him. He was a far better leader and had helped a lot of them improve their houses, or helped carrying things for them and also had given them a lot of clay he had mined from the ore pits, so why did they not acknowledge him more?
What Dragatu didn’t understand was that it was the way something was done that gained respect and often people found him condescending, like the things he did came with a price and they owed him something for his help. However with Phoenon he showed true friendship and kindness to the people and they liked him more for this reason.
Finally they came to the open grass land of the farms and could see the reservoir to the north-west. They walked through the livestock fields and just after high sun they began to notice the ground harden and after walking for another hour the ground was hard mud and then finally turned to sand which was the start of the great desert.
It was late afternoon and their father told them they would continue walking long into the night and set up tents in the early hours of the morning. This would be done to begin adjusting their sleep, because they would walk in the coolness of night and sleep in the shelter of a dunes shade during the day. Before they finally set off into the desert they sat and refilled any water they had used at a well and ate dried meat with dried berries they had prepared for the journey.
Their father finally told them to set up camp in the early hours of the morning, just before the sun came up. They were so grateful because their energy was nearly spent and once they had set up camp found no trouble sleeping.
They journeyed like this for many days, stopping only to sleep, eat, dig deep for water and when they found the odd spring, refresh themselves. It was the most difficult thing any of them had experienced and spirits were kept as high as they could be by singing songs, telling stories, chasing lizards or shooting their father’s bow at wild birds that flew overhead. Killing one always lifted the mood as the fresh meat was better than the dried stuff they carried, even if it was very scraggly.
About half way through the journey Dragatu had been talking with his father in their tent while Phoenon and Unilus were asleep in theirs. The conversation was light hearted at first and concerned how incredible it would be to find a new water source and how Dragatu was looking forward to hunting new animals.
Dragatu was going through the different ways to hunt and track specific animals when all of a sudden his father decided to change the topic of conversation and with out realising it was probably the most important conversation Dragatu and his father had ever had,
“Dragatu.” At the mention of his name Dragatu stopped mid-sentence and he waited for his father to continue after the sudden interjection.
“You know about the Book of Law son?”
“Of course Dad. You know I have read it.” Dragatu was confused by the topic and the sudden change of subject. He had kept his answer simple and had partially lied because his reading of the Book of Law was more of a skim through that a read. He had liked some parts and seen a lot of things in it that made sense to him and for that reason believed in it but he didn’t think he would ever read it fully and was not as embedded in it as some people were.
“What does it teach Dragatu?”
“It contains the laws and teachings that we must obey to please the great Creator and if we obey what it says we will return to live with the Creator when the Creator comes to judge the living and the dead.” Dragatu was still confused by the question. Everybody in the nation knew this and his reply was almost a perfect quote from the Book of Law itself. It was a quote everyone was taught from a young age whether by parents or friends who believed in the Book of Law. However despite its familiarity not everyone believed.
“Why is he asking this?” He thought to himself.
“Good. And where did it come from?” Another simple question and Dragatu could not guess where his father was going these questions? And what point they served.
“The Creator gave it to our first parents nearly seven hundred years ago. We are created in the image of the Creator but many have debated what that means.”
“Good. Well I have some important secrets that very few people know, but I feel it is right to tell you them.” Dragatu’s confusion turned to excitement. “Secrets.” He was interested now. His father continued.
“You are strong and lead with confidence. We have discussed this recently but I want to tell you that you must use this strength to truly help your brothers and the people in our nation. You must think about their needs above your own. Do you think you can do that?”
Dragatu tried to understand the question and could only reply,
“I think so.”
“All I ask is that you think about it and try to do it.”
“I will try,” Dragatu said.
“Thank you. So here is the secret.” He took a deep breath. “There is another book that the Creator left our people. It is called the Book of Prophecy.”
Dragatu repeated the words in a whisper, “The Book of Prophecy.”
“It was given to our first parents and they were told to hand it down to the first child who married in the family and to follow this pattern. The Creator commanded them to read it and keep it secret. Only those who inherited it through marriage could read it and when their children turned eighteen they could be told about it and told to protect it and keep it secret. They would have to promise to do this and if they didn’t keep their promise a curse would come upon those who knew about its secrets who weren’t meant to and upon those who didn’t protect it.
The Creator also left a promise with the book that when the time was right the book would be made known to all the people, but not until the Creator showed it was the right time.”
Dragatu was shocked by all this new information. What did the book contain? Why was it kept secret? Why was he being told, he wasn’t eighteen? This last question came out first and his father answered it for him.
“Because I see greatness in you and I need you know I trust you. Because of your leadership and confidence I look to you to be an example to your brothers. I need you to be an example of goodness and strength, like you are, but you are young and still have so much to learn. I need you to protect them always and help them learn to be confident like you are. But you too must learn from them. They have strengths that can help teach you to be an even greater man than you would be by yourself. Can you promise that you will always look after them and try to learn from them?”
“Of course Dad.” He said, still a bit shocked by the revelation and he barely took in what his father had just said because his mind was so distracted.
“When can I read it?” He blurted out the shock turning to over enthusiasm and excitement.
His father frowned “You can’t yet son. Remember that it goes to the first to marry and one day maybe that will be you but if it is not you must not read it. You must protect it so it stays a secret. I have told you about it so you can be ready to either read it one day, or learn to accept that you may never read it and must protect it. Protecting it is the most important thing. This is what the Creator wants from us. Protecting it is the first commandment and reading it is only a luxury some are privileged to receive. Do you promise to protect it always?”
Dragatu found this hard to accept. The name itself intrigued him, “The Book of Prophecy.” It had such a mysterious ring to it.
“I promise,” he finally said, trying to hide his frustration and intrigue, but he pushed for more information because his curiosity got the better of him.
“So what exactly is in it?”
Dragatu’s father laughed. “Well if I told you that you might as well read it and then I would break my promise. What I will tell you is that it contains parts of the future and this is a huge responsibility to have and a great gift from the Creator.”
“Wow,” Dragatu said, “The future. That’s cool. I wish I could read it.”
“Always remember your promise son.” His father said in a very serious voice. I have told you before your time because I trust you and need you to prepare your self for the future. Put it out of your mind for now and we will talk about it some other time, but only when we are alone, your brothers will find out when they are eighteen. Do you understand?”
“Yes Dad.” Dragatu said wondering if there was more to the words, “prepare yourself for the future.” Did his father know about his future from the book?
“There is one more thing. I want you to have this.” Dragatu’s father reached behind him and pulled out a book and gave it to Dragatu. “It is a journal that I want you to keep. I think it would be good for you to write down your successes and achievements and you can also look back on all the things you have done when you are older.”
“Thanks,” Dragatu said weakly. He hated writing but accepted the gift from his father and over exaggerated his gratitude. “I probably won’t use it,” he thought to himself and put it in his bag.
“Now let’s get some sleep,” His father said, smiling at him, “tomorrow is another day.” And with that he lay down and Dragatu did the same but found it hard to sleep as his mind was pondering what he had just been told, but eventually sleep took him.
The rest of the journey was much of the same as the start, except Dragatu really wanted to talk more about what he had been told about this Book of Prophecy. However after a few inquiring questions he knew his father was not going to answer any of them as to do so would break the promise.
Dragatu told himself that this new information was pointless and he could do nothing with it. Plus it was only a book and he told himself books and words don’t make you strong, it’s what you do that matters. And by the time they reached the dry mud, grass and finally the hills, he had convinced himself of this and buried the thought of the Book of Prophecy deep down in his mind. The only thing that he was now concerned with was the hunting he was going to do in the hills, valleys and forests.