by Ginny, age 14

Rochabel stared down over the walls of Masada. Down at the ramp the Romans had finished building minutes before the sun set. Down through the darkness at blazing torches, bronze armor and red tunics. Down at the huge sieging machines positioned at the foot of the stone ramp, waiting for the first touch of sunrise. Down at her tightly clasped trembling hands that shook atop the wall.

The girl lifted her brown eyes to the dark heavens sprinkled with brightly glowing stars seemingly made sharp and clear by the cold of the night. “Dear God,” she prayed, “Dear God, please give us deliverance from the Romans.” She stared into the vast heavens for a few silent moments then continued, “And if be not Your will that we live. I will die and willingly. But please…oh God please…don’t let me die in vain or by a damned Roman hand.” “Rochabel! Rochabel? Where are you?” It was her mother, Arrium.

“I’m here,” her daughter called back, “I’m coming.” “The men are holding a meeting. Hurry now!” Rochabel glanced one more time at the flurry of preparation among the Roman soldiers then turned and scurried down the ladder.

Over nine hundred Christians, determined to keep their precious freedom.  Escaping from different parts of the empire and seeking refuge at the mountainous fortress of Masada, finally layed siege by Roman soldiers. Nine hundred of the few Jewish Christians still left free and in their own possession. When Christians were captured one of two things usually happened, slavery or crucifixion. And here they were, the Romans had finally breached the walls. The morning would bring death and captivity; if something was not done.
Rochabel ran toward the middle of the city where the people met for the Sabbath and important conferences. She found her family and sat down next Arrium and took, Tarana, her baby sister, into her lap. Her father was in the middle of the crowd with the other men. They had reached a verdict of what was to be done. Everyone already knew what it was but not a person had spoken of it.

Zekkial, the oldest, wisest man among them stood up on a stone block so everyone could see him.
“People of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And believers in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. We have decided that there are only two alternatives. Die free or die captured. They will not enslave us; we have been too much trouble already for that. We will be killed and we are not equipped in weapon or number to defend ourselves or our families. So in the name of our Savior we are going to die free.”

Everyone bowed their heads in acceptance, and a few choked sobs could be heard from the women. Most of the girls just cried outright, but none would deny the verdict or surrender to the Romans. Rochabel stared vacantly through blank eyes at her father then at the old man. It was all over just like that, their fight and resistance would end in death. She looked at Arrium. Her mother’s veil had fallen partially over her face but the part that was seen was wet with tears. The girl pulled Tarana close and hugged the tiny baby.  Looking into azure eyes that would never get the chance to turn a dark brown.

All babies had blue eyes. This one always would.  “Oh Tarana,” she whimpered, squeezing the little girl. The infant didn’t seem to understand, at three months she couldn’t. Tarana pulled her thumb out of her mouth and waved it with a happy gurgle, then she gave a little bounce and stuck it back in. Zekkial motioned for silence and gave the morbid directions, “The few powders and liquids we have will be for the babies and children under age of fourteen. Twenty men have been selected for the rest of us. No man will touch his own family. Go home and go to sleep, if you have children come to me for what is needed.” Some of the women almost fell down with grief as they filed into a line in front of Zekkial.

Arrium looked at Rochabel, “Take Tarana home, prepare her milk,” she whispered hoarsely, tears still streaming down her face. “Go quickly, I love you.” Rochabel nodded, clasped Tarana tightly and ran to their small stone house built next to the Southern wall. Inside she lay the baby in the crib and pulled a blanket over her legs which, with a giggle, Tarana promptly kicked off. Then Rochabel filled a small skin with warmed cow’s milk and set it on the hearth. Picking up Tarana she played with her until Arrium came home. Their father had been one of the chosen men. Rochabel ached inside for him. He came home kissed them all and told them he would see them in Heaven’s glory and then left. It was four hours after dark.

Arrium pulled the nipple off the skin and tipped some brown powder into the warm milk. It dissolved and she held it for Tarana, who accepted it with another joyful gurgle. At first it was as normal, the blue eyes getting heavy, the little hands and feet would slow down and stop kicking as she slipped into a satisfied sleep. Then five minutes after completing the milk, into a quiet death. Rochabel watched as her mother pulled the blanket over Tarana’s head, “I’ll see you in heaven, my little one.” Then Arrium tucked Rochabel into the large bed with her and held her fast. Rochabel felt safe and warm. “Go to sleep, my precious Rochabel, it will be easier not to know when they come. God will be with us and I love you.” “I love you too, Mother.” And with that Arrium fell asleep. Rochabel was asleep when they came but before her life was taken by the slash of a sword she thought, no dreamed really, why it was all happening.  Because of her belief, her faith and her love for the One who died only a few hundred years before for all the sins of the world. And for the freedom that all men and women deserved. Rochabel thought of her family, of God and of heaven, her final destination. Then finally she thought of sleep.

With the sun came the Roman soldiers. They found the Christians dead, down to the last infant child. And it was commanded that they speak of it to no one.

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