It is 702 years before the common era.
Micaiah, called Micah, is a prophet in the land of Judah. He has a desert complexion. His hair is brown but turning to gray. He is sitting, stirring the ashes of his fire, when there’s a knock at the door. A hint of a fetid stench wafts in.
“Come in,” he calls, and the door opens. There’s a woman outside, gaunt and tired. Behind her, he sees the bulk of a great white shape. Its paws are larger than most cats. Its mouth could swallow him whole. The woman enters. White Lion stays outside.
“My name is Micah,” he says. “And I have water, to wash your feet.”
“Ella,” she says. “I need to sit.”
So he gestures towards his bed, and she sits down.
He studies her for a while. “They say that some of the Nephilim survived. But they are described as Anakites. Taller than a man. You are shorter than a sunflower.”
“Is it that obvious?” she says.
“You fit through my door. It’s not a very tall door.”
She flushes. “Not my height. My race.”
He nods. “I have seen the messengers of the Lord,” he says. He goes to the fireplace, fills it with logs, and starts a fire to make the house warm. “You have something of their semblance, but not enough to be one of them; and I am not such a fool as to discard one truth or another.”
“It is hard for me,” she says, “to come here, and beg of the God of Abraham.”
“But a thousand years ago, in Sodom, he smote my people. He killed them, all but two. And he should not have stopped.”
Micah smiles. “I have wine,” he says. “Would you like some?”
So he fetches a skin, and tosses it to her, and then he sits down near the fire and lets the tension drain from him and into the earth below.
“Tell me about it,” he says.
“In Assyria,” she says, “there is a monster named Sennacherib. He is making a terrible host to trample Judah, Samaria, and eventually all others. I have sworn to kill him, but . . .”
She turns her hands upright, then down again. “I am not sufficient to the task. Not alone. Not with Tanit. Not with White Lion. So I come here, to you. To your God. To ask him to finish the job.”
She looks up at him, startled.
“Listen,” he says. “My people . . . we make gods too.”
Micah gestures out at Judah.
“We do not carve them out of souls. We carve them from wood and stone and meaningless prayers. We have lost our devotion to the Lord, so our devotions to Him are empty. We have lapsed idle in our dedication to virtue, so even the virtuous lapse to dedicating idols. We are a people fallen, like shorn wheat, and the Lord shall reap us.”
“The Lord has readied Sennacherib like His scythe.”
“That?” she says. The color drains from her face.
“That is why we survived?” It is instant; her calm reserve is shattered, and hot tears fall down her face. “He left Lia and Amiel alive to be his weapon?”
Micah sighs, then smiles at her. “No,” he says.
“Listen,” he says. “Do you have a god?”
She hesitates. “I have White Lion,” she says. “And a fairy. And myself.”
“See, I know how the Lord’s like you, and I know how He’s different from you, but I don’t know . . .”
Micah waves his hands through the air.
“I don’t know why He’s one way and you’re another.”
“But I can say why He left you alive.”
She looks at him.
“It is always the Lord’s wish that hearts will turn towards Him,” Micah says. “He asks of us that we do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with Him. And to let us do so . . . it is His will that always a remnant shall survive. No matter how He culls or cuts us, He shall leave some of us . . . the meek, the most virtuous, the most loyal . . . that He can gather them again in time, and make of that remnant of His people a great nation once again.”
“But we are not of your people,” Ella says. Then she grins, despite herself. “I would not care to try circumcising White Lion.”
“No,” Micah agrees. “You have no covenant with Him, and you are not of His people. Yet . . . His way is His way. He did not empty Egypt of its people, but took their firstborn; He did not empty the world in flood; He did not smite all Sodom and Gomorrah and leave none alive. He is a culling God, a pruning God, a God of vineyards and olive trees; and when a man shakes an olive tree, he leaves some behind.”
“It were better,” she says, “that He had not.”
“As you say,” Micah says. He looks out at Judah. “Yet for all their wickedness, I love my people. I want them to return. I want to imagine a day when they pass beyond the punishment of the Lord and learn His mercy.” He smiles at her. “Surely you are the same?”
Ella looks down.
“Yes,” she says, quietly. “I want Aishah to be free. And Zenobia. And all my line. And those born from it.”
Ella holds up her hand, and cinders from the fire whirl together, and the fairy Tanit stands within.
“There are wonders,” Ella says. “Strange and beautiful wonders. And I do not want them to end. But Sennacherib has violated us and turned it to dust and I cannot see how there is anything that can survive.”
Tanit hops down onto the bed, curls up, and sleeps.
“It is a harder task,” Micah says, “to be the remnant than the culled.”
Micah sighs. “Listen,” he says. “The King of Judah . . . his ears are not stone. In the reign of Ahaz, there was no hope for this people. But Hezekiah . . . I think that he may listen. He may set aside his statesmanship, and lead our people to righteousness, and turn against the Assyrian. Then the Lord would check His scythe, and open a great wound in the army of Sennacharib, and . . . perhaps allow you your victory.”
“And if not?”
“Then the monster shall grow more powerful,” Micah says. “And in Babylon he will make his home. And the world will writhe in agony under the gods of Babylon, and my people and yours will be carried there in chains. Then a hero of your line will come and stand against him, and strive to break the bond of Lia and Amiel. And in that battle shall come an end to the time of gods and monsters, and the Lord shall gather the assembled nations of the world like sheaves to the threshing floor, and they shall be driven with lust to ravish the remnant of Israel, and in their hunger they will not see what lies ahead. For the Lord shall shod us in hooves of bronze and horns of iron, and we shall break the assembled nations to pieces, and devote the wealth earned through their greed to our worship of the Lord.”
“And . . .”
Micah shrugs. “I do not know,” he says, “what becomes of your people then. I am a prophet of Judah.”
She looks down.
“Try to survive,” he says. “Your heart’s a good one. There’s not enough of that in the world.”
“You were right,” she adds, after a moment. “It’s harder to be the remnant than the culled.”
Then she picks up Tanit, and holds her close, and walks to the door, and climbs atop the great white beast. And King Hezekiah turns his people’s mind to the Lord, and a wound opens in the host of Sennacherib, and a great lion ravages amidst its ranks; but Sennacherib does not die that day, and Micah does not see Ella again.