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Genesis 23

And Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah.

And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.

And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spake unto the sons of Heth, saying,

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

And the children of Heth answered Abraham, saying unto him,

Hear us, my lord: thou art a mighty prince among us: in the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his sepulchre, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.

And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth.

And he communed with them, saying, If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and intreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar,

That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it me for a possession of a buryingplace amongst you.

And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate of his city, saying,

Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.

And Abraham bowed down himself before the people of the land.

And he spake unto Ephron in the audience of the people of the land, saying, But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee money for the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.

And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him,

My lord, hearken unto me: the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.

And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.

And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure

Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of the city.

And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.

And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth (Genesis 23: 1-20).

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Acts 7

Then said the high priest, Are these things so?

And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran,

And said unto him, “GET THEE OUT OF THY COUNTRY, AND FROM THY KINDRED, AND COME INTO THE LAND WHICH I SHALL SHEW THEE.”

Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, He removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell.

And He gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.

And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.

“AND THE NATION TO WHOM THEY SHALL BE IN BONDAGE WILL I JUDGE,” said God: “AND AFTER THAT SHALL THEY COME FORTH, AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.”

And He gave him the covenant of circumcision: and so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.

And the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt: but God was with him,

And delivered him out of all his afflictions, and gave him favour and wisdom in the sight of Pharoah king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.

Now there came a dearth over all the land of Egypt and Chanaan, and great affliction: and our fathers found no sustenance.

But when Jacob heard that there was corn in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first.

And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.

Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.

So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers,

And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.

But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt,

Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph.

The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live.

In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair [Or, fair to God], and nourished up in his father’s house three months:

And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son.

And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.

And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.

And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian:

For [Or, Now] he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.

And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?

But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, WHO MADE THEE A RULER AND A JUDGE OVER US?

WILT THOU KILL ME, AS THOU DIDDEST THE EGYPTIAN YESTERDAY?

Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Madian, where he begat two sons.

And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.

When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,

Saying, “I AM THE GOD OF THY FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB.” Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.

THEN SAID THE LORD TO HIM, “PUT OFF THY SHOES FROM THY FEET: FOR THE PLACE WHERE THOU STANDEST IS HOLY GROUND.

“I HAVE SEEN, I HAVE SEEN THE AFFLICTION OF MY PEOPLE WHICH IS IN EGYPT, AND I HAVE HEARD THEIR GROANING, AND AM COME DOWN TO DELIVER THEM. AND NOW COME, I WILL SEND THEE INTO EGYPT.”

This Moses whom they refused, saying, WHO MADE THEE A RULER AND A JUDGE? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.

He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years.

This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, “A PROPHET SHALL THE LORD YOUR GOD RAISE UP UNTO YOU OF YOUR BRETHREN, LIKE UNTO ME [Or, as myself]; HIM SHALL YE HEAR.”

This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the Mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,

Saying unto Aaron, MAKE US GODS TO GO BEFORE US: FOR AS FOR THIS MOSES, WHICH BROUGHT US OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, WE WOT NOT WHAT IS BECOME OF HIM.

And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.

Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, “O YE HOUSE OF ISRAEL, HAVE YE OFFERED TO ME SLAIN BEASTS AND SACRIFICES BY THE SPACE OF FORTY YEARS IN THE WILDERNESS?

“YEA, YE TOOK UP THE TABERNACLE OF MOLOCH, AND THE STAR OF YOUR GOD REMPHAN, FIGURES WHICH YE MADE TO WORSHIP THEM: AND I WILL CARRY YOU AWAY BEYOND BABYLON.”

Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.

Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;

Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.

But Solomon built Him an house.

Howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,

“HEAVEN IS MY THRONE, AND EARTH IS MY FOOTSTOOL: WHAT HOUSE WILL YE BUILD ME?” SAITH THE LORD: “OR WHAT IS THE PLACE OF MY REST?

“HATH NOT MY HAND MADE ALL THESE THINGS?”

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.

Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,

And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.

And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7: 1-60).

Isaiah 50

Thus saith the LORD, “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

“Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is My hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at My rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.

“I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.”

The Lord GOD hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned.

The Lord GOD hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting.

For the Lord GOD will help Me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set My face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.

He is near that justifieth Me; who will contend with Me? let us stand together: who is Mine adversary? let him come near to Me.

Behold, the Lord GOD will help Me; who is he that shall condemn Me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.

Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow (Isaiah 50: 1-11).

Luke 13

There were present at that season some that told Him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

And Jesus answering said unto them, “Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?

“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

“Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners [Or, debtors;] above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?

“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

He spake also this parable; “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

“Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, ‘Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?’

“And he answering said unto him, ‘Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

“‘And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.’ ”

And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.

And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.

And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.”

And He laid His hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath Day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath Day.

The Lord then answered him, and said, “Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?

“And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath Day?”

And when He had said these things, all His adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

Then said He, “Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?

“It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.”

And again He said, “Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God?

“It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”

And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.

Then said one unto Him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And He said unto them,

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

“When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open unto us’; and He shall answer and say unto you, ‘I know you not whence ye are’:

“Then shall ye begin to say, ‘We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets.’

“But He shall say, ‘I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.’

“There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

“And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.

“And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.”

The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto Him, Get Thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill Thee.

And He said unto them, “Go ye, and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’

“Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see Me, until the time come when ye shall say, ‘BLESSED IS HE THAT COMETH IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.’ ” (Luke 13: 1-35)

Isaiah 49

Listen, O isles, unto Me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called Me from the womb; from the bowels of My mother hath He made mention of My name.

And He hath made My mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid Me, and made Me a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He hid Me;

And said unto Me, “Thou art My Servant, O Israel, in Whom I will be glorified.”

Then I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent My strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely My judgment is with the LORD, and My work with My God.”

And now, saith the LORD that formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My strength.

And He said, “It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth.”

Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One, to Him whom man despiseth, to Him whom the nation abhorreth, to a Servant of rulers, “Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose Thee.”

Thus saith the LORD, “In an acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped Thee: and I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;

“That thou mayest say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth’; to them that are in darkness, ‘Shew yourselves.’ They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.

“They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall He guide them.

“And I will make all My mountains a way, and My highways shall be exalted.

“Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.”

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted His people, and will have mercy upon His afflicted.

But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.

“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.

“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me.

“Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.

“Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. “As I live,” saith the LORD, “thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.

“For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away.

“The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, ‘The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.’

“Then shalt thou say in thine heart, ‘Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?’ ”

Thus saith the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will lift up Mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up My standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

“And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me.

“Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?”

But thus saith the LORD, “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.

“And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine [Or, new wine]: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49: 1-26)

Luke 12

In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, He began to say unto His disciples first of all, “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

“For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.

“Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

“And I say unto you My friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

“But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear Him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

“But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

“Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God:

“But he that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.

“And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:

“For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”

And one of the company said unto Him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.

And He said unto him, “Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you?”

And He said unto them, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”

And He spake a parable unto them, saying, “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

“And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?’

“And he said, ‘This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.

“‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” ’

“But God said unto him, ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?’

“So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

And He said unto His disciples, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.

“The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.

“Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?

“And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?

“If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?

“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

“If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will He clothe you, O ye of little faith?

“And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.

“For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.

“But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

“Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;

“And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.

“Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.

“And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.

“And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.

“Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”

Then Peter said unto Him, Lord, speakest Thou this parable unto us, or even to all?

And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?

“Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

“Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

“But and if that servant say in his heart, ‘My lord delayeth his coming’; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink and to be drunken;

“The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

“And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

“But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?

“But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened [Or, pained] till it be accomplished!

“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

“For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.

“The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”

And He said also to the people, “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, ‘There cometh a shower’; and so it is.

“And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, ‘There will be heat’; and it cometh to pass.

Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?

“Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?

“When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.

“I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.” (Luke 12: 1-59)

Nocturne’s Reaping® : Prelude

Chapter 28

Lark and her crew lay low on Colony 12 for about a week. It took that long for word to get back to Lark about the fallout from the installation’s destruction. That news would come from Waterburg’s brother, Kenneth Waterburg, who managed to escape from one of Monrage’s crews before Leader Monrage found out he was Waterburg’s sibling. Kenneth had communicated with his brother shortly after Lark and her crew left Colony 9.

Waterburg then planned for a rendezvous with his brother. It was Waterburg’s idea to meet Kenneth elsewhere lest the meeting end up being a trap of some kind. It turned out all right, and Kenneth and his cooking talents joined Lark’s crew. Kenneth, as it turned out, was a bit peeved that his brother hadn’t given him a heads-up about the destruction of the installation. Waterburg then protested that he barely knew anything about the situation before it happened, and that his brother pretty much cut off their conversation that day anyway. Plus, did Kenneth really want Monrage to find out that he had gotten the information beforehand? That was that, and Kenneth didn’t bring it up again. Still, Lark could tell that Waterburg, despite his comically antagonistic relationship with his brother, was relieved he was safe.

Of course, having two Waterburgs on board caused a bit of confusion at first since the crew members were used to calling each other by their last names. Also, Waterburg had refused to give Lark his first name. Lark never did figure out why. Still, given her lack of desire to ask questions and to have them asked of her she decided to remain silent. So, it was determined that Waterburg’s brother would just be called Kenneth — with no last name — from then on. Lark, for her part, decided not to confound the crew too much and permitted them to call her either Officer Twelve or Lark — her last name really didn’t feel like an option for her somehow. Strangely enough, the crew took to just calling her Lark rather quickly. Maybe without Monrage’s costume, the name Lark fit her better. Or, maybe they were just afraid that they could all be linked to Leader Monrage if they used the other moniker. It turned out for the best, especially given that Owen had already taken to calling her Lark. It would have been awkward if Owen were the only one who did that.

As for the story of the incident, most of what Kenneth knew was also known by Lark. However, one piece of information was new, and it concerned Lark’s cousin, Celeste.

Lark found out that Celeste had been in the area of the explosion when it occurred. Lark, for some reason, couldn’t handle not knowing what had happened to Celeste. She, therefore, decided to return to Colony 9 to find out what became of her cousin. In order not to risk her crew, she contracted for a small ship to take her there. Days later, she arrived back on Colony 9 dressed as Lark to see what she could find out. Part of her was relieved when she saw a very much alive Celeste standing amid the ashes and rubble of the installation site.

Come to see what you left of me?” a shrill voice called out to Lark, after all the other bystanders had departed the vicinity.

Lark considered briefly.

You may not believe me, but I’m glad you’re not dead.” Lark answered.

Oh, I believe you, all right. That I believe. How can I suffer unless I’m alive, right?” Celeste returned.

You might not want to stay around here.” Lark advised. “The police are bound to be looking for you and Frederick.”

Oh, so that’s your game. You want me on that prison colony. And what about you? You can be returned there, too. In fact, under the circumstances it may be worth it to me.”

Celeste started looking around for someone. Perhaps in her frantic state she was actually looking for a police officer.

I don’t exist. You saw to that.” Lark reminded her.

Celeste stared back at Lark with confusion.

How do you mean?” she asked with an eerie softness.

I’ve done my time … or should I say your time. Then, there’s Officer Twelve. Leader Monrage took her with him. He’s probably killed her by now.” Lark finished.

Too bad I couldn’t watch that.” Celeste stated.

I’m done.” Lark concluded in disgust. “I’ve done enough for you. If you want to blame me for everything, go ahead.”

I do blame you. You destroyed everything, and what was it to you?!” Celeste screeched. “That was my future you were ruining back then — you and your neediness! You wouldn’t have been much better off if I had been taken to the prison colony instead. Only one of us could have lived, so what that it was I who survived?!”

Lark was dumbfounded; Celeste was serious.

I had to do it. Leader Monrage couldn’t be allowed to keep those weapons. There was no way to know what he would do with them. Not to mention what he would have done with me.” Lark informed her.

Then, why not just turn him in?” Celeste countered.

To whom? And with what proof?”

So, this is your solution?” Celeste gestured with her arms. “This rubble? You could have killed someone — murderer!”

Lark just stared at her. It was pointless to mention how many lives would have been lost because of Celeste, Frederick, and Monrage’s actions.

You know, I’ve lost Frederick. I have no money and no house. I have nothing. What am I supposed to do now?” Celeste stammered. “Of course, you don’t know. You don’t think anything through. Nothing is your responsibility.”

Good-bye, Celeste.”

Lark was about to leave when Celeste shouted her name. Lark turned partially back toward her.

Good-bye?! I’m the one who says that. This time I’m the one who’s going to leave you!” Celeste spat. “From this day forward I no longer have a cousin, and you have another enemy.”

Celeste turned abruptly and stormed off. Lark found she was glad to see her go. Yet, she still felt that most of the conversation had been disturbing. Could Celeste really do worse to her than she had already done?

Lark.” a familiar voice called from behind her.

Lark turned to see Owen standing there.

Are you ready to go back to the ship, Commander?” Owen asked.

Lark smiled.

Owen.”

You didn’t think I’d let you come here alone, did you?” he offered. “Are you all right?”

Lark looked at him a moment.

It’s possible to go so far deep into yourself that you become lost there.” she whispered.

A moment passed, and then Owen asked, “Is that what happened to you?”

Almost …” she admitted. “Almost.”

Suddenly, Lark smiled.

Let’s go. I have one more stop to make, and then I’m through here.”

Lark went to visit her parents’ graves and to say good-bye to the people from the church. She and Owen then headed toward the cargo ship for their departure. She noticed that Owen breathed a sigh of relief when they successfully took off.

It will be nice to get home.” Lark mentioned to him.

Home?”

Our ship.” Lark said smiling. “The crew is there. And Cinnamon is there, of course. Oh, and you.” Lark beamed.

I’m glad I made the list.” he joked.

We will all have a lot of planning to do, and I want every member of the crew to be involved. I think we’ll be quite the success. Still, it’s too bad I couldn’t have paid Leader Monrage for the ship. I have this thing about stealing — particularly now.”

I think the years of forced, barely paid servitude should be compensated for somehow.”

But does it even out?”

Well, maybe someday you’ll be able to ‘pay him back’.”

Lark laughed at the way he said that.

Maybe.” she replied. “Maybe.”

Plus, you talked him out of destroying that ship … and wasting his weapon. Oh, that’s right, the weapons were destroyed.”

Weapon …” Lark repeated.

What is it?”

Just thinking that Leader Monrage never did anything until he was paid.” Lark started. “Maybe he was just grandstanding, but I remember he also mentioned something about a weapon. I wonder whether it really is one of the ones from the installation.”

***

Celeste scrounged the streets for days hiding in the alleys and trash receptacles. Life for her was misery. And what was more, she lived in fear. It had occurred to Celeste that Frederick could easily lie and blame her for the whole incident. After all, it would be easy to link her to Leader Monrage through Lark. Maybe that’s why Lark had been involved all along, so that Celeste could take the blame if the scheme fell through. Then, one day she saw a familiar figure and followed him. She couldn’t seem to help herself. She even overheard a conversation he was having. He was looking for someone they both knew.

Out of desperation, she made herself known. What could be worse than how she was living?

Leader Monrage.”

He turned, and a repulsed look crossed her face.

Well, well … you’re still alive. Sort of. I’m surprised you would lower yourself to live like this.”

Celeste flinched. She didn’t like the feeling of being pitied — when it wasn’t part of her plan at least.

Tell me.” she started, her voice barely recognizable. “Did Frederick set me up? Were you in on it with him? Was that why Lark was here?”

An odd look crossed Leader Monrage’s face when she mentioned Lark — it contorted in a grotesque way as though Officer Twelve’s former name had stabbed him.

What of her?” he stammered. Then, he remembered Celeste’s question. “No, why would I care?”

Did he know about Lark before?” she pursued softly.

Leader Monrage began to get antsy. He didn’t care about this woman.

No, not from me. Is that all?”

Celeste considered. She had been so sure. Still, did it really change anything? Frederick had felt no qualms about sending Lark to prison to save them both. Surely he would send Celeste there or have her executed to save himself. Leader Monrage turned to leave before she could respond.

Wait!” she pleaded.

What now?!” He spun around. “Don’t you dare follow me!”

I won’t … unless you want me to.”

Want you to?” he questioned her in disbelief.

You know. I was reminded the other day of where I come from.” Celeste paused. “I’m thinking now that you and I have more in common than I ever had with Frederick.”

Is that so?” Leader Monrage’s eyes flashed. “So, what exactly is it you want from me?”

I’ll do anything. Just get me out of here.” Celeste begged.

Leader Monrage took a moment to think that through.

Fortunately, I remember when you were beautiful.” he finally said while touching her face with his hand. “Maybe you can be of use to me. Well, come on. You’ll have to keep up if you want to be with me.”

Of course. You say jump …” Celeste started. “I say how high.”

Months passed … and Leader Monrage journeyed with Celeste to a place he hadn’t been for years but couldn’t get out of his head.

There you are.” Leader Monrage stated as he stared at the monitor.

I don’t know why you need me here.” Celeste answered.

Leader Monrage turned. It almost seemed as though he was startled by her. But how could that be, given that he had just spoken to her? There was no way to tell his mood. Since most of the lights in the room were turned down, his eyes remained in shadow. And he had summoned Celeste to this dark room without letting her know his purpose.

I don’t need you here, but I do want you here. I thought you’d be interested.”

Interested in what? A barely visible planet?”

I made a mistake. I see that now.” Leader Monrage stated. “She was under my control until I brought her to that planet of yours — to you.”

You’re still moping over Lark.”

Yeah, well. She was mine.” Leader Monrage turned back toward the monitor. “I trained her well. See how well she did that last day. I didn’t have the heart to destroy her — not when she did it so well — just as I would have done.”

Yeah, whatever.”

Celeste was about to turn to leave.

You did well, too. Incredibly well, in fact. I wanted to show you just how well. You see, Twelve tried to stop me. But I’m going to show her it was pointless. True, the scale is going to be smaller, but she doesn’t need to know that. She also doesn’t need to know that this was the plan — or at least part of it — from before I even knew of her existence. Then again, knowing her she’ll probably blame herself for talking me out of destroying her with the one weapon I managed to obtain. Regardless, what she does know of is this place. I don’t think she will ever forget it. And now, you won’t forget it either.”

Why don’t we go back to our room? I’m tired, but I can stay up for a while.”

That won’t be necessary. I have all I need right here.”

Well, I’m going back to the room.” She turned away from him.

Stop!” Leader Monrage yelled.

Celeste stopped.

I want you to see what you’ve contributed to.”

Me? I haven’t done anything. It was Frederick.”

Celeste’s eyes had adjusted enough to the light that when she turned back she saw an intense Monrage staring back at her.

We’ll see whether you still believe that after …” He paused. “We’re almost in range. You set all this in motion for me. True, I lost Twelve and a ship, but I did get this weapon because of you …”

So, you’re going to destroy that dinky planet?”

No … not directly anyway. Though, they’ll probably wish I had.”

Celeste looked at him skeptically as he started a countdown. He then grabbed Celeste by the arms, so she couldn’t turn away.

Remember this is all because of you.” Leader Monrage insisted. “And just in case you try to blame Twelve for this, you can’t. It’s all you and me. That’s what this little demonstration is meant to show you, and I won’t let you change that.”

You should be blaming that guy she was kissing instead of me.”

What guy?” Monrage demanded in a dark tone.

Celeste was taken aback for a moment.

I don’t know. How should I know? The point is she betrayed you!” Celeste screamed.

Leader Monrage sighed.

But only because you betrayed her first.” He glared at her with ferocity. “But don’t worry. I won’t destroy you for it, but you may destroy yourself before this is all over.”

What is that?” Celeste demanded in a disturbed tone of voice.

Leader Monrage released Celeste then turned from her. Now that he had gotten her interest, there was no need to detain her further.

They took most of my weapons and think they’ve won. I’m about to unleash the ultimate weapon.” Leader Monrage explained. “There are more of these scattered throughout the galaxy, but I can’t free them all now. My down payment is only enough to destroy one of the force fields. I chose this one because it’s weak and because it means something to me.”

Celeste blinked. The reality of what she was viewing had just started to sink in. Leader Monrage turned back briefly to grin at her as he reached his hand out to press a button on the console.

Wait, no!” Celeste cried out in horror.

Leader Monrage pushed the button without hesitation. He then zoomed in the camera toward where the weapon had gone. There was an explosion. Celeste squinted at the image. Then, as it became clear in her sight, she screamed again.

Relax. It’s much too far from us. We’ll be able to escape long before they even realize we’re here. Too bad the same can’t be said of that planet.”

He then walked behind where Celeste was standing and began massaging her shoulders.

I just wanted to see the nebula reapers freed.” He hissed in her ear. “I can relate more to them than people, you know. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Beautiful.”

And hence it began.

End of Book One.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2015