A world became broken when a group of Prophets prophesied the coming of a map that would lead to the most valuable and powerful treasure ever known. It was said that the holder of this treasure would be given the power to rule over everyone and everything.
The oldest and wisest of the Prophets said that the world was not capable of staying pure of heart while possessing such great power, so once the treasure was found, it should be destroyed. But not everyone agreed.
Others suggested that Prophets should have the treasure and therefore, the power to rule. "We are the strongest ones on this planet! For hundreds of years we have served weaker men. It is their turn to obey us. We deserve it!" one argued angrily.
"We do not serve anyone. We all serve each other," another stated.
"I will find the map, and the treasure will be mine, and I will rule all civilization. They will serve me!" With that, the determined Prophet stormed away, followed by several others.
Later that evening, the angry man snuck quietly into the wise Prophet's home and killed him in his bed. This was the beginning of the Separation. Prophets that believed they should possess the power to rule the world became known as Radicals.
It wasn't long before Radicals outnumbered Prophets. Many civilians joined them out of fear, or with the hope that by conceding, they would be spared from slavery and torture. These civilians called themselves Rebels.
It was impossible to live in harmony. Prophets became hermits and cast enchantments to keep themselves hidden. Civilians traveled in nomad camps or lived in small villages to remain unseen. Radicals and Rebels overtook large cities and treated the world as if they already owned it.
Years passed, yet no Prophet or Radical felt the presence of the map, and there were no more prophecies regarding it or the treasure.
One hundred years later, in a civilian nomad camp, four village women surrounded Reah as she did her best to suppress the pain-filled cries of childbirth. It was the middle of the night, and the other villagers were sleeping. "Reah! Scream if you want to. Who cares if they wake up?" the eldest woman scolded her. But Reah still kept quiet. She took a deep breath, releasing it slowly. Then her eyes grew wide, and she sat up slightly. Her mouth opened as though she might cry out, but no sound escaped her lips.
"It's time!" the old woman shouted to the others. She ordered two of them to clutch Reah's feet in their hands while she sat behind the new mother, supporting Reah's back.
Reah spilled tears of joy when she heard the baby's cries of life. "It's a boy," smiled the midwife. Reah watched as the woman wiped her son off with a blanket, but the midwife's smile faded as she tenderly wiped his body over and over again. She brought the baby closer to her face and examined him scrupulously.
"What is it?" Reah's voice quivered nervously. "Let me have my son."
The woman lifted her head and met Reah's gaze. "This child is unique. He needs a Prophet's enchantments."
"Damn the Prophets!" another woman shouted. "We don't need their help. We've been fine without them for the past one hundred years."
"Let me have my son," Reah repeated firmly. The midwife obeyed and brought Reah her son. Reah and the three other women gasped when they saw him.
"What does this mean?" the eldest woman asked.
Reah sobbed and cradled her son against her chest. The baby cried with his mother. She pulled him away to look at him again. Colorful art covered his olive-toned skin like tattoos.
Just then, a man and a young boy burst into the tent, startling Reah and the others. "I am here for the map," the man reported.
"You're Prophets," whispered the old woman.
Reah pressed her son against her, protectively wrapping her arms around him. "We don't have the map. Why would we have it? We're not Prophets or Radicals," she told him. "The prophecies were wrong. There will never be a map. It's a myth."
The Prophet stepped toward Reah, catching a glimpse of the baby in her arms. "The map is a child?" he asked, disturbed.
"What are you talking about?" Reah shouted, clutching her baby closely. She gazed at her son, considering his markings, and realization swept over her. "No! Not my son!"
The tent grew quiet as dogs howled nearby. "They know," the Prophet whispered. Turning to Reah in desperation, he reasoned, "I will protect him. He will help me find the treasure, and we will destroy it. Radicals will be here soon, and they will not be so kind to him."
"He's just a baby," Reah pleaded through sobbing breaths.
"It doesn't matter," the Prophet replied tensely. "They'll use him, and then they'll kill him! Is that what you want?"
The boy accompanying the Prophet shifted uncomfortably behind him. "Porter," he whispered, turning anxiously toward the tent's door. But the man fixed his attention on Reah.
Reah looked at her baby once more, who stared back at her with little black eyes. "Will I ever see him again?" she asked, lifting her son into the air, offering him to the Prophet.
As he took the baby gently into his own arms, he said honestly, "I don't know." He then whispered something to the infant and placed his fingertip on its forehead. "To protect him," he assured the young mother. Then he motioned for his young companion to leave with him, and the three of them exited the tent.
Moments later, four men with two dogs entered Reah's tent as she lay crying on the blood-soaked bedding, still surrounded by the village women. One of the men asked another, "Well, Radical, where is it? Where's the map?" It was easy to tell this man was a Rebel due to his dark attire. The man he was speaking to - the Radical - wore the typical red uniform all Radicals donned.
The Radical stepped forward and knelt in front of Reah. She gazed at him defiantly. "It's gone," he said calmly. "A Prophet reached her first. He's taken the map, and he didn't tell her where he was going with it."
The Rebel shouted angrily to the group of women, "Which one of you drew the map? Make it again!"
"None of them drew it. I see now." The Radical's eyes glazed over. "The map is this woman's child."
"What?" the Rebel screamed through gritted teeth. Muttering obscenities, he left the tent followed by the two other Rebels.
But the Radical stayed and spoke to Reah. "We will find the map," he told her, "and things will be as they should."
"You will fail," she said tightly, her eyes still red from crying.
The Radical smiled at her, unamused. "You're lucky I'm not going to kill you. You may come in handy in the future."
Meanwhile, the Prophet and the boy continued running with the child through the forest. They pressed on until their bodies forced them to stop, seizing their ribs in pain. "Are they coming after us, Porter?" the boy asked.
"If they are, they aren't on the right track. I don't feel any threat right now."
"How are we supposed to take care of a baby?"
"I took care of you, Mav, didn't I?" Porter asked with a smile.
"Yeah," Mav smiled too. "So what should we call him?"
Porter looked at the newborn asleep in his arms. "Silas."
"We're almost home," Mav said.
Home for Porter and Mav was a small cabin deep in the mountain forest. Mav excitedly hurried inside and took off his shoes. "Can I see Silas? I want to see the map," he told Porter.
Porter handed the baby to him, and Mav carefully unwrapped Silas from his blanket. Porter saw Mav staring at the child with a confused expression, so he asked, "What's wrong?"
The boy replied, "He isn't finished. Only part of the map is on his body. Look."
Porter examined the baby's body, and Mav was correct. Only his face, neck and part of his chest were covered with markings. "Curious," he said. "When Silas is older and it's easier for him to travel safely, we'll go here." He pointed to the dead end on the baby's chest.
"We'll be a family, Silas," Mav whispered sweetly in the baby's ear. "We'll protect you."