Sink or Swim

He sent from on high, he took me; He drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.

2 Samuel 22: 17-20

“Are you seriously telling me that the Advocate was the Forgotten King in disguise?” seethed Harper.

I paused in midstride and looked at my confused companion, “I would say He was using a different form rather than wearing a disguise.” I nearly jumped when Harper began to screech. “He was that close, and I could have captured him to get the treasure!”

All I could do was stare at the bounty hunter. She was solely focused on one thing, but Harper had no clue how far away she was from the truth. I continued walking until Harper grasped my elbow, “We should go back to the courtroom and find him.”

I released a breath as I pried her fingers off my arm, “You can go back and check if you want, but I don’t think He will be there.” A soft smile laced my lips. “Father never lingers in one place. He must continue His work.” From the few interactions and correspondences I have had with Father, I was genuinely surprised with how much I did know about Him already. I know I have only skimmed the surface, but I am excited to learn more about Him.

Leaving Harper to figure out her next move, I kept walking to the exit gate of the Law district. Even though the Judge let me go, I would feel much better if I was outside the boundaries of this depressing asylum of prisoners. Beyond the immediate plan, I had no clue what came next. A knot of fear settled in my throat, and tears pricked my eyes. I was completely and utterly alone. Yes, I still had the comforting words of my Father, but I had no one physically here with me.

As I escaped the confines of the city, I took a calming breath. Okay, one thing down. Since I didn’t know where to go, I just kept walking. To keep my mind away from gloomy thoughts, I began to hum. Before I knew it, I was singing out loud. “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” With each song I sang, my heart felt lighter. “This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

I just kept singing and walking, occasionally skipping and dancing. I was so engrossed in my little world that I nearly missed the familiar flying orb of bright light floating in the air. “Grace!” The creature didn’t hear me as it continued to fly. I began to make a mad dash hoping I didn’t lose her, but it was in vain. Grace was just too fast! As I gasped for air, the fairy-like being disappeared, and my hope went with her. I kicked the ground out of sheer frustration and sat down on the dirt road as exhaustion took over my body. I looked up into the sky and pleaded, “Father, I don’t understand! What do I do? Where do I go? I know you can save me. Please help me!”

“I leave you for a couple of hours, and you go insane talking to imaginary people?” clucked a disappointed Harper sitting atop her ride.

I suddenly had renewed vigor, and I rose to my feet. I was embarrassed that Harper caught me talking to Father. “What are you doing here?” I said. I was genuinely surprised to see the bounty hunter.

“Well, I couldn’t find the Advocate, but I realized that if I stick with you He will be easier to find.” With a wider smile, Harper added, “Then I can find the treasure.” Even though I didn’t approve of her motives, I realized that Harper came my way for a reason. Maybe she was a blessing in disguise? I can only hope.

I climbed onto the horse-led wagon and sat next to Harper. Just hours ago, I was sitting in the same spot as Harper’s prisoner. I turned my head, and the bounty hunter actually looked happy. When I noticed the jingling sack attached to her belt, I realized that money seemed to change Harper’s entire attitude. I pity anyone who is stupid enough to attempt to steal Harper’s money. I inadvertently gave a small snort wondering who would be victorious if Harper and Paris ever faced off.

I looked off into the distance and could only see flatlands, but peaks of mountains seemed to edge the horizon. I wondered where the Lost Circus was. I wondered if my siblings were getting into any trouble. I wondered what lies Ringmaster was feeding them. The thought gave me a cold shudder. Still, I must cling to hope. Chef is still there. He is the only other person I know who also has a relationship with Father. I can trust him to obey the King.

“So…where are we heading?” inquired Harper.

“Don’t you know?” I asked with alarm. Harper just shook her head before continuing, “The land beyond the mountains is rumored to be filled with people of ill-repute.” Harper’s voice switched to a more serious tone. “They have no qualms about breaking the laws.” She paused briefly before asking, “Do you want me to turn around?”

My immediate thought was to say yes, but I remember how I felt when I picked this way. It was as if Father guided me here. Another incentive to continue on the same path was to find my family. I could easily imagine Ringmaster taking the Lost Circus into such territory ripe for his plucking. With my mind made up, I gave Harper my answer, “No, let’s continue.”

Once again, I continued my journey trusting that Father had a plan that I was not privy to yet. At first the silence of the journey felt soothing, but I could tell Harper was getting antsy. I felt brave, so I asked Harper some personal questions like how old was she and what her childhood was like. She was surprisingly forthcoming with her answers. Harper told me that she grew up very poor with just her father.

She never got to enjoy nice things like playing with toys, having siblings, or making friends. Her widowed father was nothing but a drunk with mounting debts. The way Harper grew up explained so much about why she keeps pursuing earthly treasures especially money. Even as an adolescent, she felt like she had to find her security through money.

In turn, I told her more about my new life, and I even read my letters to her. Harper seemed to glow with each note I read. Maybe I can convince her that treasure isn’t the most important thing in the world. I even gave her a couple of letters to see if she could read.

“Oh no.” Harper abruptly reined in the horse to a stop. I was so caught up with conversation that I didn’t notice that we came to the edge. The river current ran swiftly between the two strips of land and there was only a precarious looking bridge allowing passage.

“We have to go on foot. There is no way the bridge can hold the horse or the wagon” Harper said gravely. Nodding my head, I climbed down. Harper tied her horse and wagon to a nearby tree before we approached the bridge. When I took the first step onto the decrepit looking wood, I was surprised that it didn’t break with my weight. I tried my best not to look down at the water below. I just kept looking forward and focused on my breathing with each step. Then I heard a snap.

The once horizontal floorboards were now hanging vertically from one rope. I barely escaped the fall as I dangled from the remaining cord. I didn’t see Harper dangling on the rope, but I did not want to think that she fell into the water. When I saw her still on the edge of the land, I felt relief that she was ok, but then my eyes settled on her dagger poised over the remaining rope for the bridge. With a smug smile, she waved my letters in the air, “Silly Melody, I just needed your letters. Since you have read them for me, I can decipher the riddles that will lead me to the treasure of the Forgotten King.”

“I can’t believe this.” My shock was replaced my anger. “Harper, there is NO treasure. Not the kind you’re thinking of!” My words did nothing. Harper just shook her head at me as if I was just a petulant child. “I can’t have you intervening or warning the Forgotten King. This is goodbye.” Harper cut the last cord, and all I could do was scream as I fell.

It took five seconds before I hit the cold surface, but it felt like eternity. I kicked my legs and thrashed my arms wildly. I couldn’t figure out which way was up. Just when I thought my lungs could no longer handle it, I broke the surface and gasped a breath of air. I tried desperately to swim toward land. I grabbed at branches, but they broke under my weight. The force of the current kept pushing me and pushing me. My limbs began to lose strength steadily. I was on the brink of panic, but I knew I would most assuredly drown if I lost my bearings. My arms felt like lead, and I kept bobbing in and out until I could no longer keep my head above the surface.

Unexpectedly, I felt a solid arm wrapped around my waist and propelled me back to the surface. I coughed and sputtered, but I was so grateful for the air. I felt like a limp noodle as my rescuer led me to the opposite side of the river. I collapsed on the ground as the shock was ebbing away from my body. When I sat up, I could see that my rescuer was none other than Advocate.

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