Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chapter 4

Chapter 4.
A vast open countryside spread before us. The land was plaintively scattered with palm trees and a view of all of the open countryside. There were many campfires with clouds of black smoke rising upwards towards a clear night sky. My eyes followed one particular stream of black smoke which was trailing in the wind towards the west and a western shore. As we neared what must have been a deserted settlement of adobe houses, we smelled the fires of the burning roofs and courtyards. One burning building was enclosed by a wire fence and part of the road leading to it was piled with boards so that we could not pass beyond it. A cautious stepping Jewish man dressed in a soldier's uniform came out from behind the burning building. A large bow was heaved against his right shoulder and drawn with an arrow to fire. Seeing my medieval costume and Laboi, he supposed that I was delivering a lion to pharaoh’s circus, but took no chance. "You cannot cross the border," he said authoritatively. "The Egyptians will kill you." "Where does that road go?" I pointed my finger in an easterly direction. Warning: US and International Copyright Restrictions Apply.
"To Jerusalem, but the Babylonians may have already burned the villages between this outpost." "Who are you?" "I am Heroditus, captain of this outpost." "Where is the command post?" He shrieked a little gasp and pointed to the burning roof. "I am Regulus." "You will have to forget about delivering the lion to pharaoh." "Thank you for your good advice, captain," I said not arguing his assumption. "I could use a companion to journey with me to Jerusalem to search for my family. But you should wear a cloak to protect yourself from the chill." "Yes," I said as I made a familiar plunder among the bodies smoldering under fallen boards and found several suitable cloaks, a soldier's uniform and boots which almost fit my feet. I supposed that it would be another walking journey but Heroditus fetched a camel. "This is Gitzy," he told me, "She is a reliable. How will you transport the lion? " "The lion will keep us in his sights. His teeth are worn to the nubbs. He is harmless." Gitzy knelt to the ground for us to climb aboard. Thus we began an uncertain journey along the road to Jerusalem, avoiding campfires and pilfering armies. The west gate was a blaze of fire so we sought entry from the south gate. We left Gitzy outside the gate to join a frenzy crowd of persons screaming for their children. Heroditus went first to his home and not finding them there
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began a ferocious weeping session. "They are probably hiding somewhere," I told him. "Think of where they would feel safe and let us go there." "Yes, yes," he said and began running frantically towards the temple as fast as his legs would carry him. The temple sat on its ominous perch overlooking the city guarded by a detail of Babylonian soldiers. Heroditus sneaked past them and disappeared inside the court yard. Eventually a dark haired man with a short curly beard paused inside the court yard opening. He was dragging a hand cart loaded with a golden ark, a harp and a lia-fail (flat stone). Although he was a man in his prime the ancient sagaciously corrupt history of the Israelite Nation wore on his face. He was not frightened by the Babylonian troops approaching him, but his two young quivering nieces hovered in the shadow of his body. They were the daughters of King Zedikiah kept hidden by Jeremiah to spare them the ignominious death suffered by their siblings. "Does Jeremiah want anything else?" One of the guards asked. "Nebuchadnezzar’s instructions are to let Jeremiah take what he wants." "Please send my respect to the lord Nebuchadnezzar. All that I ask of you is that you do to torch the temple," he said knowing full well that the temple would be burned and the city destroyed, "at least until after I have gone." Captain Heroditus and his family came outside carrying traveling bundles and pausing to stand beside Jeremiah, whispered to me "Jeremiah is guaranteed safe passage out of the city. Let us follow him." Jeremiah's entourage included members of his family, his scribe Baruch, and two Jewish princesses who were heavily veiled and disguised. They were all that was left of King Zedekiah's family. Also in this company was Prince Eochaidh of Ireland who was visiting Jerusalem at the time of its downfall. Jeremiah's plans to refugee into Egypt were strewn with dangerous perils.
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