This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.
The snap of the reigns startled me awake. I looked down at my bound wrists with confusion. Then I remembered everything that had happened. I went to the party only to be caught by Harper the bounty hunter. My entire body felt stiff from sitting in the same position for hours. Harper was completely focused on the trail ahead. With her determination, she drove her wagon through the whole night. I glanced at her stoic features debating on what to say.
At the beginning of our journey, I had peppered the bounty hunter with my incessant questions until she reached a breaking point and pulled out her blade against my throat and threatened to cut out my tongue. The memory of her dagger was like a lock on my voice. I finally turned my head to face her, but she glared at me hostilely. Never mind.
The rolling hills of Minera had passed many miles ago. The road before us was very downtrodden, and the surrounding land just appeared empty. There were no trees or animals. I could just see flatness for miles on end. According to Harper, the road would eventually lead to the Law district where I would have to face a judge in a trial and Harper would get paid for her “retrieval” services.
The path we were on was completely new to me. Ringmaster never thought that taking the Lost Circus to the Law district would be profitable for the family. Plus, I would not be surprised if nearly every member of the Lost Circus had an outstanding warrant with each of their names and faces on them. Every few minutes I looked over my shoulder, and each time I did I just felt more disappointed. I kept expecting the Lost Circus or even some of my siblings to come chasing after me. No one came.
I could feel the crinkling of paper against the fabric of my dress pocket. Despite the bindings, my arms had enough leeway to grab the letters. For hours, I just ignored them. Part of me wanted to throw them, and let the wind carry the notes away. The shame of my disobedience left a bitter taste in my mouth, and the instructions in the letters just served as a reminder of what I did wrong.
Wrapped in my own musings, I was shocked when the wagon came to a stop. We were nowhere near civilization, but there was a small fountain gushing water from a rock. How peculiar. Harper climbed down, unhooked the horse, and led it to the fountain. The bounty hunter almost looked happy as she squatted and watched her horse lap up the water. I looked down with a grimace. I knew that if I attempted to get off the wagon I would just fall flat on my face. “Uh, bounty hunter, could you help me down so I can stretch my legs and get a drink of water?” Harper rolled her eyes before she stood up and walked toward me. I was genuinely surprised that she acquiesced.
Then Harper took out her dagger. I closed my eyes shut and braced myself as she arched the blade through the air, but there was no impact, not even a sharp knick. I opened my eyes, and my restraints were cut off. I looked at Harper’s retreating back with shock. Did the ruthless bounty hunter just release me? Harper stopped in midstride and looked straight at me over her shoulder. “Don’t you dare try to escape.” I just nodded my head not knowing what to say.
Since all my limbs felt like jelly, I climbed down from the wagon as gingerly as possible. My muscles sang with joy as I walked to the fountain. I cupped my hands under the fountain and brought the water to my mouth. The liquid felt wonderful against my chapped lips, and I felt refreshed. “And He said unto me, ‘It is done! I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the Water of Life freely.’” I gasped when I realized that those words came out my mouth!
Harper stopped moving and stared at me, “Where did you get that from?”
It was on the tip of my tongue to say that I had no clue, but I really had to think about it. The words certainly didn’t sound like something I would normally say. I was still thinking when I placed my hands in my pockets, and it finally hit me! My letters from the King! I snatched the letter and skimmed the words until the phrase “Water of Life” stopped me in my tracks. I guess drinking the water triggered my memory…
Harper was suddenly beside me and snatched my letter away. I nearly yelled at her to give back the letter, but I refrained when I noticed how franticly Harper read the words. It was as if she found something that she had lost. Harper groaned with frustration and jabbed the paper in front of my face. “Why can’t I read this? Did you purposely write this in code?”
I looked between Harper and the letter from Father. “No, there is no special code. I assure you. I’m not trying to trick you. I really don’t know why you can’t read it…I have always been able to read Father’s words.” Dissatisfied with my answer, Harper placed new restraints on my wrist. This time she made them even tighter. Within a couple of minutes, the horse was hitched to the wagon, and once again we were back on the road. The tension in the air was suffocating until Harper broke the silence. “You almost had me fooled.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You’re the first prisoner to not fight me. You didn’t even try to run away,” she said with humor. Then her tone changed. “When I was younger, I was once told a legend of a Forgotten King who had authority over the Waters of Life.” Her voice became excited as she continued. “If I can find this Forgotten King’s treasure, I can retire early and never work again.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what else to say. I knew exactly who Harper was referring to, but her idea of a “lost treasure” was completely wrong. Yes, Father has many riches, but none of them were of the earthly kind. The true treasure is having a relationship with Him. One day with the King is truly better than a thousand anywhere else. I released a long sigh. It is too bad that I had to ruin that. Now I’m on my way to face the firm arm of justice.
I think I must have dozed off because I blinked and we were suddenly surrounded by gray buildings of hewn stone. I noticed a group of people all chained together. They were all filthy and wearing worn rags. Guards corralled them away from the public. We must be in the Law district. “Those are the prosecuted thieves who are kept in holding.” For once, I hated that Harper divulged such information because I knew that I would share their fate. My past can’t be erased. I have lied and stolen, and today I will have to pay for it.
I went along peacefully when the bounty hunter took me to the bail bond office. Harper got her payment, and I was quickly ushered into a waiting room with my own guard to keep me company. Seconds turned into minutes, and minutes felt like hours. Finally a door opened, and I was guided to a large courtroom. The guard led me to a seat next to a high podium in the very front of the courtroom. The prosecutor was already sitting in the center of the room looking at different papers with his head down. As I sat down, spectators entered the courtroom and sat in the gallery situated on the sides of the room. Belatedly, I noticed Harper sitting among the spectators.
Everyone stood as the judge entered the room, but I didn’t give him any attention since I was too busy wondering why Harper was still hanging around for my trial. Then I noticed something. Harper lifted up a tiny white scroll that looked suspiciously like one of my letters from Father. I didn’t have time to think about it any further when the judge hit the gavel and said, “Court is in session. Adversary, you have the floor.”
I blinked multiple times as the prosecutor made his way to me. This has to be impossible…Adversary sauntered toward me with his file of papers. As he went through my charges, my eyes were glued to his face. He looked exactly like Ringmaster.
“Mel, what do you have to say about the charges against you?” asked Judge. I couldn’t see His face because his podium was very high, but hearing the anger in his voice made my knees knock together. “It’s true. I have stolen in the past. I did everything that Adversary mentioned. I am guilty.” The entire crowd gasped at my bold words, and Adversary looked like the cat that caught the mouse without any effort.
“Because you have confessed, I find you guilty on all counts of stealing. According to the Law of Slaven, you will be sentenced to solitude confinement for life. Case dis…”
All heads turned to the man who dared to interrupt Judge’s ruling. The man made his way to the center of the room. “Your Honor, I am the defendant’s Advocate.”
I had no idea who the stranger was and why he felt like he needed to defend my case. Then Advocate looked right at me, and I suddenly felt as my heart was pierced. Only one Person has that kind of power over me…Advocate winked at me as I finally pieced it together. My Father came to rescue me!
“Your Honor, Adversary failed to mention that Mel’s punishment was already been paid for. Once and for all,” spoke Advocate. “In fact, Mel is dead. This girl is Melody who has a clean slate.” He looked at me to make sure I understood, but I could hardly believe His words. Once and for all? Did He really take on all my punishment for all my crimes?
“Is this true, Adversary?” asked Judge. Adversary seethed at Advocate, but nodded his head at Judge. “After reviewing Advocate’s testimony, I hereby dismiss all charges. Dismissed!” Judge hit the gavel, and one of the guards released me from my restraints. I couldn’t believe that I was a free woman!
The crowd flooded the middle of the courtroom trying to make an exit, but I couldn’t find Advocate among the crowd. Then I felt someone yank my wrist and led me outside. It was none other than Harper. Before I could ask her why she was still hanging around, Harper took out the small scroll. “This is for you. Advocate told me to hold on to it for you.”
I took the letter and unraveled the scroll. “Well, what does it say?” asked Harper impatiently. I read the words out loud. “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”
Harper just looked confused as she said, “Who wrote it?”
I smiled at her, “My Father. The Forgotten King.”