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Behold, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him.
Ben Ono was dead—pinned to the earth by an unknown war, arched over the lance that felled him. Without word or tear, Yaneev filled the pause by closing his father’s eyes as if shutting a door o’er the stink of the blood soaked ground that braced the men still standing. We pulled the cruel halberd through the corpse and returned it to the Ashumite ‘Mountain’, as was the custom. It belonged to his champion, a son, one of five more unknowns in Ben Ono’s final circle.
Although a red caped officer barked orders to approaching troops with rifles at the ready, the men halted their nameless war to prepare a bier, whereupon the ‘Mountain’ turned to face his ally of the day. But Lieutenant Cape forbade the parley by firing his freshly minted Webley revolver. The mindless 11.6 mm round tore through the central sulcus of a forebrain that had successfully guided its people for more than forty years, upon which, the previously unconquered summit dropped thunderously dead. It took less than five seconds for the errant murder to launch a generous rendering of red coats, capes, lancers, Mamluks, Senegalese tirailleurs, magnificent Sikh Shastars, Yemeni Habbans, Ashumite hunters and expert Shashu assassins. But it is best to finish this bloody episode towards the end of the telling, as there are things you should know before we return Ben Ono’s body to his women.
I am Yusuf bin Samah, a man of arms pledged to the House of Shasu; a venerable people who stood their last ground in the Abyssinian highlands. I witnessed most of what is written here and later learned of unknown matters by campfire, chance and careful inquiry. But I never understood the gravity of what befell us in the mountains of Tanak until the Seer of Khartoum opened my mulish heart to the realities of our indelicate estate. Through wind, wound, sorrow and sand I had patiently borne similar instruction from forgotten hinterland elders in my youth. Even so, I curiously remained with him as his words harangued that ghost and beleaguered my knowledge of the facts. Exhausted by eager resistance and waning arguments, I eventually accepted the secreted truth that unseen hands play an active part in the affairs of men.
So as beard pales and loins seek rest in the oasis of what an old man has learned and manages to remember, I trade sword for pen to write the Shasu legend. It is better you know.
Where the Trail Leads
Allah skimmed this broth for the umpteenth time near the city of Tanak in Abyssinia during the reign of Abdullah of Khartoum; the man who led Gordon to slaughter and was reimbursed by Kitchener in a most dreadful manner. A spirit named Allepe, the smallest angel ever seen by the curiously gifted Maldu bin Safa ibn Ubar — “not much larger than a great hare” he said — had made its way to the hinterlands near the ‘Pool of Lament’ by the Waterfall of Janeen; a stream that fed a lush valley cradled in primary forest beneath the highlands of Taroaz.
Moments before his advent, Allepe had been in the Fourth Realm sorting inter-dimensional passage and permits for pilgrims throughout the Samawat. He’d no idea what had happened and thought it best to pray. On prostration, in the ancient manner, a sweet lavender mist appeared on the astral plane and spiraled in ribbons towards the firmament where neither saint nor spirit he knew had any notion as to why Allepe had vanished. To the contrary, Lothar knew immediately, whereupon he settled his gaze on the highland flats above the waterfall.
“Soon,” he thought.
After redirection in accord with content, source and request, the prayer wound its cosmic path to the House of Incense in the Seventh Realm where the Chief Censor gathered its aether, placed it in a golden bowl, then passed it on to what might be called a porter who was tasked to carry it beyond the Lote Tree and into the Throne Room. I was informed by the Seer that the majority of prayers never pass through the roofs of human hovels let alone through gates of cosmic transcendence. When I first learned this, I recalled my uncle Razid of the Belly, a man with a thousand camels on his right and two thousand goats on his left, who had so many wives and children he could not remember their names.
One day at Mosque he boasted:
‘All of my prayers have been answered! Allah u’akbar! What thinkest thou?” he asked Imam.
“Thou hast spoken truth, Razid. It is as thou sayest,” spoke the sage.
There came a day when Razid’s eldest son poisoned the sop of his brothers. All sickened and died. That same day his mother arranged a similar pot for his wives at the feast of Razid’s latest addition to the harem. Both murderers were piously absent on umrah, but on their return all was lost. The quisling servants had sold Razid’s flocks to Damascene Jews and then fled to Baghdad. Razid was left with grief, a deathly debilitation that lasted for weeks, and the care of eleven surviving daughters he barely knew, and none of which would attend him. Even my father refused to intervene in what he called ‘the judgment of Allah’, declaring:
“His heaven has fallen, it is finished.”
As Razid lay dying he called for Imam who came with sop and bread.
“Fie upon thee’ said Razid, “why bringest thou sop – but to torment me?”
“Why callest me tormentor when ye have summoned me to death’s door?” replied Imam.
“Forgive me old friend. I am in misery and do not understand what has happened. I ask for thy wisdom. I am fearful of the fire.”
Imam sent for coffee. With the first sip he said:
“Razid, did we not pray together as young men that Allah would judge us before death so as to avoid the torments of pit?” he asked.
“Our prayer at the Rock of Dhamar in the Yemen, yes, I remember,” said the dying man.
Then Imam shared his heart:
“I have watched thee as we waxed old. There came a time of turning but thou missed the trial and became an attention-seeker, always giving advice but never asking counsel from that day forth. Hence, I held my peace these many years,” said Imam, and then continued:
“Dost thou remember the Ravens?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Razid, “I thought their defeat was my boon, but I see what thou infer: it was my trial and they became my bane.”
“Thou art but half right,’ said Imam, “it is thee who became thy bane, for how can the dead be a curse for the living?”
“If it is I, then why didst Allah answer my prayers these years past?” asked Razid.
“It was not Allah my friend. He refused your pleas and sent them to jinn who are eager to coddle an errant heart.”
“But I paid my Zakat, said the daily prayers, accomplished the prescribed fasting, and made much of charity. Surely it is not a sin to boast of Allah’s blessing in one’s life?” asked Razid.
Ignoring the question, Imam replied:
“For some, pride is measured by the girth of belly and boast. Now, and in mercy, Allah has answered thy prayer of Dhamar for by His mercy there is not much left of thy paunch and nothing of thy swagger. Dost thou not yet understand?” asked Imam, sipping the last of his coffee.
“Yes … I have been in great error. Thank you old friend. There is naught left of my life but this truth. Let it be told at the fire, and may Allah have the more mercy upon me,” said Razid, the diminished.
“So be it and Ameen. I shall prepare for thy passing. You are ready,” said Imam.
So went the tale of Razid’s belly and so goes the path of prayer. It is where the trail leads when one mistakes the time of turning.
Akmut Anakjerub was never companionable without reason because it required reciprocal courtesy. He generally administered his ‘social skills’ by exhausting a person’s usefulness; preferring to manipulate, rent or own ‘it’ for however long ‘it’ took to satisfy the exploitation. Hence, and especially since the Ravenna was packed to capacity, he kept to his state room, enjoying a daily bottle of Le Porto Burmester, books on antiquities, occasional strolls on deck, and the attentions of a twelve year old cabin boy named Samuel—compliments of the skipper whose table he infrequently graced for dinner and chess.
Officially, Akmut was a ‘private consultant’ to the king on his way to the admiralty of sin in New Court, London. But whatever that Board of Plunder wanted with a middle aged magistrate from a mulish realm in Africa’s Horn remained a mystery; one he was prepared to make the best of.
An accomplished opportunist who avoided murder whenever possible because it was tedious and ‘messy’, Akmut often set his sails and sights on the slightest breeze of advantage to obtain whatever he decreed profitable and enjoyable. For the most part, his was a sanguine, plan-less life that transformed whims into crusades for the finest wines, juiciest pubescent plums, and rarest of treasures.
He’d decided early in life that epicurean fancy suited him and accordingly constructed a nest for the eggs of naked gratification. Among these were collections of anything that pleased him, for which he had enlarged his ancestral home. By the time he was forty he’d become a quasi-private curator of collectable antiquities. Subsequent years found him gathering artifacts that required the study of more esoteric matters. Not that he understood mumbo-jumbo, but he did find it fascinating to decipher shapes and forms once held sacred by the kings and queens of mummy dust. It made him feel dignified. His expanding knowledge of these ‘Mysteries’ finally cornered his wife’s attention and ‘brought them closer’, so to speak; though she most admired the enormous wealth inherited from his father, the late worshipful miser.
They bedded from time to time and it was not unpleasant. Wenkele was an Amazon with strength enough to match an Olympian hammer-thrower. For her, sex was a war waged and won at all costs. Each encounter was a wrestling match that left Akmut pinned to the mat, exhausted, defeated, and not quite sure he had enjoyed himself. But, like his artifacts, she was a mesmeric heirloom—one that once belonged to his father—who compelled him to collect her dues.
Wenkele was a High Priestess of the ancient order of Amane in Thebes, but she was not favorite. That lady dwelt up the Nile overlooking Port Said. But Wenkele had plans to replace ‘Madame Cairo’ that included her new found interest in the most recent of Akmut’s acquisitions. Hence, she had ‘arranged’ his voyage.
Over the centuries humans had increasingly failed to impress Wenkele who, nonetheless, and perhaps out of a deeply rooted primal delusion, desperately clung to her fear of both Lord Amane and Yadiché, the Wermid. She feared Lord Amane because his mind was aeons beyond comprehensible genius, his anger magnificent, his powers unassailably attractive, and his fury absolutely devastating. She feared Yadiché because the Wermid was a monster of supreme and unambiguous savagery. Both were instrumental to her goal.
Four hundred years prior, Yadiché had been a prince of Asmara whose merchant family fled to Meroe when the Ottoman’s conquered the coastal regions of Medri Bahri in 1557. At the time he was a longhaired, long-robed fop of a fellow from a tribe of sorcerers descended from Danites that had long ago replaced the God of Moses with kundalini. From his youth, Yadiché hovered at the hems of the Priests of Meroe, a branch of Karnak’s Brotherhood that remained faithful to Isis, the primary consort of Iblis, also known as Lilith of the ancients. The aspiring Meroevingian league eventually invited Yadiché to an Equinox celebration of the Ark of EA where a daughter of Lilith appeared atop the unholy boat.
She was griffon-winged jinni, the likes of which Yadiché had never seen in flesh or trance. She called his name but as he approached the Ark repelled with an invisible blow, knocking him near senseless. On recovery, the alluring spirit posed in a manner men find irresistible but there was nothing he could do to entertain the invitation. She then vanished.
The chief priest recognized her as Yazirrii, from the clan of Ayida-Weddo of the Levant. Why she came he didn’t know for he had summoned Maat for the annual blessing. Consequently, his entire college was filled with foreboding for the coming year. But the goddess had, indeed, called Yadiché by name. They suggested he purify himself and return in one month while they consulted the Mage of Karnak.
He did and she was successfully summoned but there was still no entering her circle for the stricken Romeo. However, all was not lost. The Mage of Karnak had dispatched Madam Cairo who conferred with the spirit, upon which she immediately entered a convulsive trance and spoke an ancient tongue that was transcribed by the chief priest. It seemed the Kagan of Hormuz—Prince of Persia who ruled the Levant in the day of Prophet Daniel—had sent an “angel” named Sabri’el. The angel related that Hormuz was prepared to offer the fledgling Danite an exceedingly long life followed by eternal bliss in the arms of the willing siren if he entered the service of Amane and provided the blood of a useless virgin at the coming feast of Isis. His acceptance of the offer would assure even greater agricultural fertility in lieu of Maat’s benediction. Sabri’el further claimed that a ‘New Age’ would be heralded by the reunion of Danite and Hormuzian aether. Prince Yadiché was suitably impressed.
Having been auspiciously elected, Yadiché undertook the required four months of abstinence, had his hair shorn except for tassled forelocks and crown, and undertook intense physical disciplines accompanied by meditations on the Book of Set, which described the lineage, rites and select Mysteries of EA’s posterity. On completion, he purchased an ‘otherwise useless virgin’ of the hominid caste and presented her at the appointed time.
The times demanded discretion so the feast was held in a crypt beneath the obelisk of Hapshetsut in Karnak. Madame Cairo took her throne while Afro-Asian Hierophants gathered with their respective savants and servants. The virgin, who was not particularly attractive, was placed on a stone altar and drugged so as not to disrupt ceremony. Slaves played sistrums, tambourines, castanets, ugabs, shofar and kinnor creating a euphoric ambiance while others liberated incense, flames and mantras. Some danced eurythmically and others removed garments to better self-flagellate. Remarkably, in the ancient manner of Attys and Cybele, a few who desired powers of clairvoyance and healing took wine, opium and khat enough to emasculate themselves in a frenzy of unholy obsecration. Their wounds were cauterized with white-hot irons after which the intemperate fools sanctified the oblation with the attentions of eager sodomites.
At mid-night, Lord Amane—known as Dhambhala in some quarters—suddenly appeared and proceeded to copulate with the only innocent. At his moment of entry the girl managed a pitiful wail at which precise point Madame Cairo drove a dagger into the child’s solar plexus. The girl gasped and froze as the Priestess wrested the beating heart from its cradle. Lifting it high in the Vatican manner, Madam Cairo bathed in the blood, drank it, and then placed what remained in a silver chalice, offering the cup to Yadiché while Lord Amane finished his pleasure.
“Wait!” bellowed the Dark Prince, “he must sign before the drought opens the portal,” referring to the barrier that had kept Romeo from the ultra-mundane siren.
At that moment she appeared seated next to the dead girl, writhing strumpet style as bloodied disciples ogled from the perimeter. Lord Amane placed the contract in the hands of the eager prince. It read as follows:
I, Yadiché Nyakwaa Aimun, of my own will agree to serve Lord Amane from this day forward and forever in return for one thousand years of an otherwise unencumbered life on earth in the company of Yazirii, daughter of Ayida-Weddo, given to me as wife at the bequest of Lord Hormuz and by the hand of Lord Amane.
Lord Amane turned to the siren, asking her name.
“I am Yazirii, daughter of Ayida-Weddo and of the covenant you make this day with Prince Yadiché Nyakwaa Aimon.”
The sultry shade called to the prince:
After cutting his palm, Madame Cairo handed him a quill dipped in the virgin’s blood, mixed with his own. The prince gave the signed contract to Lord Amane, who, in turn, also signed with Madame Cairo and Lord Dakarrh as witnesses. Yadiché then drank from the bloody cup. The Dark Prince smiled and pointed to the lusting beauty. “I will command your destiny to the best of my ability. There is your wife,” he said. “Amuse us.”
Being naked under his robe and a veteran satyr, Yadiché gathered the passion pagan virility musters on such occasions and entered the lady whereupon the sultry sphinx commenced to change. Her palm-oiled skin turned to dried leather and her faced animized. Spine tipped cones replaced ample breasts; talons replaced delicate hands that tore his flesh with each press; eyes sank inwards and forehead sloped to a balding cranium; the aquiline nose flattened atop protruding jaws framed by tarred lips that braced honed incisors and canines. Finally, her privates became a bristled vice that kneaded his manhood like a cat’s tongue. She drew him in with the strength of twenty men and reversed their position to sit astride a whimper of a man who hopelessly invoked the God his tribe had abandoned. The assembly cheered but was silenced when Madam Cairo approached the superbly mocked prince.
“There is no escape Yadiché,” she said. “You made payment and took your prize. You will die yet live to do the bidding of Lord Amane. Obey his instructions and you will have advantage over all others. But the moment you consider escape—and you will—Yazirii will re-commence her caress.”
Then she addressed Yazirii: “Take him!”
The succubus arched her back and opened her mouth out of which came a diapsidian tongue with hollow core. She pierced him to the heart and extracted his life’s blood while infusing the black, smokeless fire of her astral essence. The congregation was mute. The prince convulsed for three to four minutes then lay still as a chorus chanted A_U_W_M_U_N to a dirge plucked on sistrums marshaled by kinnum and shofar. Then … Yazirii was seen no more; she had entered him. In a few minutes more his wounds began closing. Then, with agonizing effort, as if pushed and prodded from within, he inched his way upright and stood before the cabal, in-vivo mortem auwmun.
The dirge ceased and Lord Amane spoke to the congregation: “Observe the price of sedition!”
As if forced, a man flew into the chamber and staggered to stop himself from falling. He was one who thought to escape the cult but had not yet made his move.
Turning to Yadiché, Lord Amane pointed and said “kill him”.
The fellow was a splendid specimen of manhood and immediately assumed a defensive posture armed with a brace of Irish Twin flintlocks (each one fired two .69 balls) plus a Swiss flamarde and trident dagger for the parry. Still benumbed, Yadiché stepped point blank into the first salvo and faltered. The man fired again then drew his blades. This time Yadiché heard the voice of Yazirii:
“Kill him. I will help you.”
Fury took hold of the resurrected prince and though he retained human habitus Yadiché’s features became panther-like, black as coal with a complement of fangs and claws topped by a horrifying yowl. Both salvos seemed to do little more than enrage the newborn monster who attacked so quickly the terrified victim had no time to wield his blades. Yadiché ripped heart, lungs, liver and spleen with one blow to the torso, then quartered him as if pulling wings from a fly; tearing the man to bits, rending limbs, head and torso as if paper. Skull and bones crumpled like cardboard in his grip. Lord Amane looked on with the utmost satisfaction as the cabal retreated to the chamber’s recesses.
Then … the Wermid turned on them.
He sunk his teeth into the throat of a much admired but now quivering beauty; removing her head as easily as blowing out a candle.
It was done.
“Enough,” boomed Lord Amane above the screams of his terror-struck slaves. “Serve me well and the joys and pleasures of the earth are yours. Give me disservice, as did these two, and you will taste the love of Yazirii’s husband. Whom do you serve?”
“None but Lord Amane, the Bringer of Light and Ascendancy, A_U_W_M_U_N,” came the well rehearsed response braced by the same dirge.
So they prayed and so it was.
Suitably cowed, one-by-one they revisited the circle’s edge. Blood from each victim was placed in a stone cup that had served the Phyle of Njnetjer in these same cellars for centuries. After passing the communion mixed with remnants of rendered hearts—excepting the virgin’s, hers was earmarked for Magi and honored guests of the upper court—they filled the cup with decoctions of mandragora, blue lotus and opium fillips added to the best Madeira Port containing Masterwort, Angelica, Gentian, Roman Wormwood and white Horehound. All of this, when aided by Frankincense, zither and candlelight, easily replaced the horror with a euphoric stupor that invited Ammit and Shemzu djinn to possess the recently terrorized bacchantes. Soon, bodies, glutinous gore and angst driven exudates entwined in the frenzied grasps and gasps that exile horror and ease human denial. All partook except Wenkele and the Wermid.
By now Yadiché was a near-mindless zombie that needed to be led by the hand. The honor was given to Wenkele, handmaid to the High Priestess that evening. Lord Amane presented her to the Wermid.
“Wenkele is your companion and guide in the business of protecting my interests.”
Turning to Wenkele, he said:
“Take him to Akmut’s estate. Introduce him as a cousin recently returned from service to Her Majesty. Let it be known he is a peerless warrior, highly admired by the Queen’s husband but deeply disturbed after being ravished by a Thibetan Yakshini when convalescing on Mount Kaylaish. Keep him isolated, entertained and well fed. Use him to advantage as Madame Cairo instructs. Do not let him roam the city on his own.”
Lord Amane then vanished.
Wenkele desired the Wermid as she desired any male power. She craved power; it was her opiate, her comfort, her parental surrogate and god of gods. The highest chair she could reach as a woman belonged to Madame Cairo whom she intended to replace with the help of the Wermid. She even imagined holding court with him, attended by Mufties, Patriarchs, Dames, Damsels and Dukes seeking favor from the gods of mammon. Madame Cairo loathed theo-political discussions, chess, soirees, charm and wit, but not this witch.
Her plans required painstaking attention and much time. Nearly four hundred years later on a rainforest trail leading to the highland lair in Taroaz, Wenkele would soon sing in anticipation of her triumph. Her ever-so-useful husband had deciphered the Code of Tehuti and was en-route to London where he would access the Book of IEAU, written in the Enochian tongue of Eth Aaad Awdawm—a text even John Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s magus, had failed to plumb. Equipped with the translation, she would cross the thaumaturge’s void and retrace the steps of Isa in Yemen’s Rub al Kali. There, at the Rock of Irem, she would summon the ‘Fallen Ones’; a laborious evocation that opens the portal and breaks the chains Micha’el once forged in the mist of a disremembered age. She would reverse their excommunication from everything that is (see 1 Peter 3:19).
These “Fallen Ones” were loathsome creatures of enormous stature and malicious renown that had walked the earth among hominid cousins before djinn and humankind. Wenkele’s service to Lord Amane’s revered but forgotten elders would oblige him to summon the Telochvovim, the leviathan who administered interdicts of outer darkness and protracted mortality. He would withdraw his claim to her first term when Hormuz granted a second millennial extension. Her crowning sacrament would be to sprinkle the warm blood of a Son of Oil over Tunk Namun’s scepter as the ‘dying sacrifice’ sat on the throne of Seti I at the Temple in Abydos. The scepter was his lost djed, an artifact her husband had also acquired but failed to comprehend. The atonement would grant her the seat of Madame Cairo whose millennium would have come to term. Wenkele’s appeal would bypass Lord Amane’s authority and go directly to Hormuz (Iblis) because it would open the path for the latter’s restoration as Lord of the Samawat with the Fallen Ones as his servants. From that moment, the Sanhedrin in London would be forced to deal with her should they wish to safely expand their estate in the ancient territories. She would place the Knot of Isis on their blackened astral hearts and have her revenge—so counseled Bagru, the brilliant Pari savant.
So it was that Wenkele was genuinely misguided by what little she knew of the Book of Shadows, a chapter ripped from the Book of Dead Names and long ago purloined from the Rub al Khali in the Yemen—a matter to which we will return later.
Her stars were aligned: she had the legal expertise of Mambrono’s Pari; she had her husband’s enormous fortune and the Wermid’s relentless invincibility; she had the legions of Dakarrh, the Nephilite Prince of Dhambhala; and she had the political adulation of credulous Tanakian Christians for her gifts of healing and prophecy. All that remained was to decipher the Book of IEAU’s phamakeia and the virgin blood of a Shasu boy from the prophetic lineage, a son of oil. With these she would become insuperable—like the Wermid.
She liked the idea … a lot.
Oladuso was an exceptionally beautiful child who expressed the joyous virtue of unsullied curiosity. He lapped up knowledge like a sponge as quick as it was spilled and easily exhausted tutors. His primal fault was not realizing the world failed to orbit his brisk assimilation of its mysteries and that few others were similarly gifted. Indeed, it was a challenge to bridle him without damage from the bit.
Oluwakemi ben Ono was his father, a name that means: “God Cherishes Me”. His life confirmed this as fact, which is why I served him. Bapa Ono had three wives; of these, Isana, Oladuso’s mother, was eldest and most beautiful. My wives were four, each one ripe to harvest my content at a glance. But compared to ben Ono’s harem, they suffered the boorish nature common to most women, which forced me to take extraordinary care not to offend one with the slightest favor for another. To the contrary, Isana’s matriarchy matched the demeanor of her husband’s patriarchy. She ruled sister wives like an aunt whom they showered with waters of homage flowing from a secret spring. I thought this remarkable and envied him.
Once, by the campfire, I asked him the secret of this exceptional domesticity. He replied:
“By God’s grace they learned humility. They want for their sisters what they found for themselves; which, for good women, is only found in service to a man seeking the pleasure of God. Such women are one in ten thousand as said Solomon. They are irreplaceable.”
He then continued:
“Allah honors us with your service Yusuf. He knows what you desire and your obedience to that need led you to us. I pray the veil of transcendence remains lifted for this purpose.”
“It matters not that I am Muslim?”
“If you serve me you serve Allah, and if my destiny serves your purpose, then I serve your Islam. They are the same.”
“Why have you never enlarged your camp?” I asked.
“We are not called to rule over those who fear men more than God. That is left to foolish sectarians who cannot draw on the strength of quickened faith, which is the majority of men. We therefore do not compromise our purpose with their fellowship. As a tree falls when its measure is reached, with the help of God our sap will remain clear of theirs when that time arrives. The Shasu are among the last warrior clans to bear witness to matters of the unseen before the return of Prophet Isa.”
Caring little for the unseen I then asked: “What of the Christians?”
“Except for the few Arians among them, most have enmeshed Isa’s words with myths from ancient mysteries. When their majority realizes whom they truly serve, it will be too late. Isa will reject them.” (See: Matt 7:23)
“You are familiar with Al’Qur’an?” I asked.
“Al’Qur’an confirms what we knew, “that which came before,” just as it says. But had we followed hand-loppers when they invaded four-hundred years ago we would have subjected our people to the debasement of sectarian ignorance and subsequent disquiet.”
“Besides this, and far more important, the Arabs had long ago abandoned their prophets during the Midian rebellion. Mohammad (pbh) was sent for many reasons but mostly because these proud barbarians required the secure guidance of fiercely guarded perimeters. The Shasu however, never left the way of Allah nor has our guard ever dropped. As we stood in the days following Musa, we stand today, at one with Prophet Abraham (pbh). We have no need of religious renewal, reform or the pretense of pious ritual that has ruined many of our Muslim neighbors.”
I never heard thoughts parsed so cleanly again until I met the Seer of Khartoum. I must tell you how I came to owe my life to Ben Ono.
While working on the Suez, I was taken by Bedouins and sold into slavery. One of Ben Ono’s nephews, an engineer, was also taken with me to an obscure oasis north of the Yathrib where an Ottoman Colonel used young men as women. Two years later, Oluwakemi entered the camp with thirty “servants” disguised as a merchant caravan. They struck on the third day during the evening meal. Slaves were bribed and those who served wine brought a second cup laced with enough Katalba to slow reflexes. As the fifth course finished, Ben Ono announced that his men would perform a traditional sword dance as a gesture of gratitude for his host. Within the dinner circle, six dancers faced center. Daggers and swords were drawn in concert and at the clap of ben Ono’s hands they found their marks as gracefully as an egret finds dinner.
Inner guards were simultaneously bled and their carbines used to dispatch perimeter sentries. The bandit chief watched the attentively, attended by Ben Ono’s blade as dogs lapped mesenteric condiments, after which the Colonel led Ben Ono to his nephew. On discovering the nature of the harem, Ben Ono gave an order of ‘no quarter’ for all survivors. He then stood the Colonel before his victims and deftly slit his throat before the man knew he was cut.
He and two companions examined the young men and boys of the harem. The few who converted with pleasure to the perversion were put to death. Others like myself were counseled and prayed for. My shame left the moment Ben Ono laid his hand on my head in the ancient manner. It never returned. I later asked why he extended capital punishment to the dissolutes, to which he answered there were no ‘Cities of Refuge’ left in which to exile them; hence, murder was the only way to guarantee the safety of the community from their vile, uncontrollable predation.
He restored order to the Oasis by initially ordering the execution of all inveterate village collaborators. He then confiscated all weapons save those the community required for protection and hunting. He divided all spoils among widows, orphans, elderly and mosque; keeping only what reimbursed his purse for the expedition. Willing widows were taken as potential wives, while slaves like myself were provided the means to return to their families. This took almost a week and when finished, the village Imam blessed Ben Ono as all bowed in prayer towards the tomb of Abraham.
The thought of returning to my clan brought memories of useless piety, repression and familial menace. To the contrary, Ben Ono had an aura of majesty that thickened the very air, as if the hope of posterity was manifest in his breath. In him, authority, will, power and justice united and could not escape giving their due measure. Hence, when I was called for the distribution, my resolve was firm. I asked Ben Ono to take me into his service. The manner of his restoration of order, the stern and honorable deportment of his men, and the dispassionate indifference with which he administered life and death so impressed my young heart that I eagerly enslaved it again.
His stern gaze caused my genitals to withdraw, but I did not avert my eye.
“You will tend the animals of my brother’s men during our return. If he is satisfied with your service, we will consider you further.”
I felt as if the hand of Allah had touched me and so tended my duties with grave circumspection. His brother’s men were ten, the days were long, and I’ll not bore you with the details of that labor. It is of import, however, to say a word about these men.
Although they shared similar weapons, tools and language, each man was entirely distinct in personality, character, habitus, even attire and manner of equipage. Neither could they be faulted with vices common to soldiers; nor were they professional warriors or fortune hunters. To the contrary, they were husbandmen, craftsmen and teachers—as were Abraham’s three hundred —on leave from domestic pursuits to save a relative, establish justice, and maintain the clan’s reputation of renown.
Our return was by way of Damas in the Yemen where Ben Ono took opportunity to visit Sheikh Mukhtar Ibn Aadad of the Ubar, a direct descendent of Manzar, the Shah of Yemen and companion of Hamzah. The Ubar had guarded the Rub al Khali for two thousand years. The land was once the domain of the people of Aad whom Allah destroyed for sorcery and the hideous idolatry practiced by Jews in ancient times. Ubar tribesmen took great pains to guide men away from forbidden sites in the Empty Quarter where a great sandstorm had buried the legendary city Irem in 300 BC—once called the city of a ‘Thousand Pillars’ in the midst of lakes that are now no more.
Irem was not only ancient but also a place of wonder intended to rival Paradise. It had been established before the time of Iblis and Adam by a tribe of jinn (the ‘Old Ones’) called Shisha, whose leaders Wenkele sought to release from a prison whose portal was in the Empty Quarter. She did not know the way was barred to any who dare enter the forbidden realm without the leave of Allah. Bagru, conveniently left that detail out of his subversive version of the story I will now briefly repeat.
Centuries before the great flood (perhaps millennia), children of Cain (Kennites), a clan called the Aadytes who were direct descendants of Lemech (the man of the curse) discovered Irem. At the time, portals between men, Jinn and Samawat were more permeable. A majority of Aadytes joined with Shisha through sorcery, even to the point of marriage and in manners not unlike that of the Wermid’s nuptial. The Alliance obtained a marvelous kingdom that governed southern trade routes under a race of Nephilites who became giants. One of their later kings was a mage named Djeiroun of Ebla who wrote a book called ‘Al Azif’ (The Book of Dead Names), the tome mentioned earlier containing the misguidance given to all who seek the ‘Eye of Set’.
The ‘void’ or ’Empty Quarter’ is also a metaphysical metaphor that represents distance between Truth and Falsehood as written in the Book of Enoch:
“By this means the unrighteous become more and more cut off from the presence of El Elyon, until there is such a great gulf that no man of disobedience may cross it.”
Disobedience to the guidance of any one of the 124,000 Prophets is what is meant by the passage. Even so, certain men insist on crossing the void in search of what is wisely forbidden because of the curse.
And this is the curse of the cities, for murder lurketh therein, from the days of the City of Enoch, the son of Cain, even unto this day. And behold, the curse remaineth, for Lamech also slew a man unto his wounding; and the curse was unto seventy-seven generations, for he boasted exceedingly of his deed, not comprehending the Word of El Elyon unto his father Cain.
Now the punishment of Cain was great and grievous, but the greatest punishment of all was that he no longer walked in the Chavurat Bekorot (Holy Preisthood) of Prophet Adam, and was sent out from the presence of El Elyon [Allah].
There is another aspect of the void (abyss) that was later given currency during the days of Nimrud.
- It is a gateway believed to exist within the human psyche at the point where the conscious and the unconscious meet and it is from this point that the Satanic magician draws forth his magical power through the medium of Satanic ritual.
- Entrance into the abyss, if successful, will result in changes of consciousness that will culminate in the individual himself becoming a gate between the two worlds.
- This means that the individual—by virtue of changes in consciousness that include the crystallization of the astral body—will be able to manifest magical energies without recourse to the procedure of magical ritual.
What this translates into is temporal powers of ascendency that are projected into the consciousness of the magus by the smokeless-fire of djinn, many of which are worshiped the world over as gods. Humans on this path become possessed, go mad or even gain supernatural powers over their fellows, and at times experience all three phenomena. The Rub al Khali is therefore far more than a physical space. Jewish sorcerers call it ‘Daath’, a place where Muqarribun of the Left Hand Path consciously negate their pre-incarnate vows to Allah by calling on the imprisoned ones for help—but more on that later.
The Ubar of Yemen continued in the path of Melchizedek (Shem) and remained in the presence of Allah (Chavurat Bekorot) in the manner of Abraham, the man who inherited Shem’s office. Like the Shasu, this tribe kept an angelic escort, protection, visions, dreams of inspiration, and various other gifts of discernment such as those invested in Maldu bin Saffa, who we will meet shortly.
There was a deep-set bond between Sheikh Mukhtar and Ben Ono that I envied but could not fathom at the time. I saw them taking life and divine provenance far more seriously than any other men I had known. It so impressed me I determined to share in their purpose.
We remained for one week. Talk of rebellion against the Ottomans was rife and eager ears were pleased to hear of our raid’s success. The crossing to Assab was uneventful but the road to Tanak was paved with dubious hospitality. Headmen along that last leg of the journey through Christian dust presented litanies of perplexity that proved more tiresome than the dunes of Arabia. More than once a Coptic Curate dared to prove his mettle against Ben Ono. One even called him a murderer who should have ‘loved’ his enemy. I will never forget Ben Ono’s answer: “These were God’s enemies, not mine. But if you agree to instruct us priest, I will bring the next lot of cutthroat sodomites to your door so you may instruct us by loving them.”
When we arrived in Tanak, its elders greeted us with a grand feast. But despite protests, and to my delight and Ben Ono’s visible relief, we dallied but one day. The expedition had been of six month’s duration and all were anxious to reach the comforts of home.
The Shasu village comprised three score homes, each with multiple appendages and courtyards. There were sixty-seven men of arms left behind to defend a lush mountain valley of some two thousand acres and three thousand souls. At the council fire that evening the men gathered and the captain of this modest guard greeted Ben Ono with a report of harvests as well as increased flocks and children. He also conveyed an incident that merits retelling.
A British expeditionary force had entered the northwest corner of the valley and sent scouts, two of who were captured: an officer and a frightened Mamluke from the last of the Sudanese Sennars. The officer was mute but the Mamluke related the source of his fear. He apparently saw thousands of well-armed men encamped round about the village, a vision to which the officer was blind.
“I saw them at prayer. They are Muslim djinn,” he said. “Let me go in peace. The bulk of our force is Muslim. They will not attack such a place out of the fear of Allah.”
The Redcoats retreated within days.
On hearing this, Ben Ono led the men in a prayer of thanksgiving followed by a shout of victory that woke sleeping babes and startled waiting women. Thus was I initiated to the people of Shasu.
Their government was admirable. They had a chief council of five men (all over forty); plus a council of elders (men and women over sixty); and captains for each band of ten, fifty and one–hundred men, respectively. The women were similarly disposed. What Muslims called ‘Imam’ they called ‘Seer’. These were respected and distinguished elders above seventy years of age whose words weighed in equally with those of Ben Ono.
The first of the council of five was a farmer whose dreams seemed to carry divine sanction. He was master of the storehouse as well, and had knowledge of monotheist literature and world that was unexcelled. The second was an engineer, metallurgist, scientist, teacher and master of their academies. The third was historian and physician; the man I served during our return. The fourth was the village statesman, a lawyer who made sure of compliance with national authorities and treaties with the region’s tribes. He also supervised arts, music, drama, dance, and preparation for festivals. The fifth was a skilled huntsman and shepherd who oversaw the welfare of man and beast and held the Chair at their War College. Each had attendants and apprentices (male and female) in addition to their families, some of whom resided with their superiors for training.
The women were neither meek, nor veiled, nor immodest. They wore flowing colorful robes to mid-calf, enhanced by the usual feminine touch. Their infant mortality rate was astonishingly low compared to adjacent communities, and they were in demand as midwives and nurses among the hill tribes. Many were schooled in autochthonic herbal remedies and carefully cultivated gardens. At festivals they danced freely, individually or in concert, with graceful whirls, waves and intricate hand gestures, but never with men. Like Arabs, Shasu men performed reels of martial valor laced with an occasional nod to romance and generic mirth-making.
Shasu children were gay urchins from babes to awkward pubescence. In my years with the Shasu, I never heard a voice of complaint save for whelps in training or justifiable remonstrations. Overall, these people had incarnated the discipline of Sparta, the grace of Greece, the dignitas of Rome, the ethics of Moses and the righteous audacity of Jesus.
They summoned me to council a month later where I was surprised to see five elder women in attendance. All were seated in a semi-lunar formation upon cushions. I sat before them.
“What questions have taken root in your heart?” asked Ben Ono.
As I had been prepared beforehand, my response was prompt.
“What is the secret of your peace?” I asked.
The Teacher answered:
“We tolerate neither evil nor dissatisfaction by seeking remedy. Anyone—no matter how beloved—who demonstrates irrevocable malcontent beyond minority is exiled with one year’s provision to make a new life. Restless souls are counseled and supported until they either return or establish themselves elsewhere. Those who remain know and accept that their destiny is here and are otherwise guided towards equanimity within the camp.”
Then the Statesman spoke:
“From time to time we produce bad fruit or are injudicious with strangers. Those deserving criminal exile, if undeserving of death, are given three days provision and escorted to Tanak. Should they return uninvited and unregenerate, they are treated as enemies and introduced to Grandfather’s Gorge. In this manner evil is removed and peace is maintained.”
The Husbandman then addressed me:
“We take care to meet the needs of our people and discern a person’s aptitude and gifts. A child is assessed through careful observation and guided towards work that fulfills their purpose accordingly; whether here or elsewhere.”
Ben Ono then asked the women for comment. The wife of the captain of fifty was their head. It was she who addressed me.
“We do not find you displeasing,” she said, “and there are those among us who wonder when you will choose a bride. We do not oppose your marriage to our daughters, but only on condition the woman is willing. We therefore ask you to find your place amongst the men and prepare to take a wife, for there are some who will not rest easy till you are well bed.”
I immediately wondered which of the many smiles I had seen would not rest easy but lowered my eyes in a vain attempt to hide the blush that amused everyone.
The Patriarch then asked me a question.
“Where will your hands be bound for work?”
I was surprised to find my thoughts so clear:
“I seek the knowledge and skill of your Shepherd. If he will have me I will be content.”
Oluwakemi then spoke:
“Will the Shepherd take this man?”
Without hesitation, “Yes,” was his reply.
“Good. You will live with him until you make room and provision for your wife. It is done.”
Then an extraordinary event occurred. All the men rose, laid their hands on my shoulders, and began speaking in an unknown language as the Patriarch stood to my front and placed his hands on my head in the ancient manner while the women ululated. Within moments I collapsed, limp as a rag and began laughing uncontrollably. Any attempt I made to rise increased the hysteria and caused greater incapacity. I became drunk with hilarity, captive to an incomprehensible elation that lasted nearly ten minutes. By then, everyone had left but the Shepherd. When sufficiently recovered, I asked what had happened.
“Do not be alarmed Yusuf, this was the Kun fiah Kun of Allah releasing you to your unseen destiny. When you reach its full measure you will understand. Come. There is someone you should meet.”
The Shepherd’s son had taken a widow from the oasis, a lady who did not suit his household. Hence, their marriage had not been consummated. Her name was Colibri, which means ‘hummingbird’. She had been kidnapped from the Sudan and was two years my senior. Hers was a smile I had seen but did not recognize. When she served me at table, the Shepherd spoke:
“She is yours should she please you. Her admiration for you is known throughout the village and as you share the same creed there is no rival. She will make a good wife and you may find a younger after she has proven your seed.”
In one brief hour the course of my life had been set. The world changed, as if laundered by a mighty rain—even the dirt was radiant.
The Shepherd taught me war, the hunt, animal husbandry, and the art of his community’s life-ways wherein needs were met and order was kept according to revealed wisdom. My arms were suited for war. In battle I was at the zenith of my ability. I had no idea this talent lie dormant until a sword was placed in my hands. Soon, it mattered not which weapon I held nor in which hand; I mastered all. Colibri proved a true and honest woman, an excellent wife, mother and mistress of my heart and household, demanding little and giving much. She is gone these thirty years past and there is much to say about her and life among the Shasu until the day of Oladuso’s turning. Should death delay his call you might knock on my door and I would be happy to fill your ears with reverie. But let us move on with the telling.
THE TIME TO STRIKE
The chosen Cup Bearer for Allepo’s prayer was an angel named Yamad. Following Creation’s Dark Age and the formations of the Samawat, his first position was as courier for the Assignment Bureau bearing fiats for Higher Powers in our own galaxy. His next post lasted a few hundred millennia in Warrior’s training. Cup bearing precedes an angelic warrior’s assignment to realms projecting matter for the sake of creatures subjected to incarnation. He was handed a grail that differed from the others. “It is not a human prayer,” said the Chamberlain. Conveying the cup at eye level, he passed through the gates, prostrated with the vessel raised above his head, and then approached the incense bowl. Without raising head, eye or wing, he poured its content over the rim and gracefully backed towards the entrance. Halfway through his withdrawal his name was called whereupon he prostrated. His name was called again. “Here am I,” he responded. “Rise Yamad; fear not. Descend to the orb given to Awdawm, to the land of Cush, by Havilah and Sheba. Report to Lothar, who watches the Shasu. There, you are to stand over Allepo. He has been sent as a trial and sign. Lothar will guide thy proving and Tolkan will instruct you before leaving. Know also that My Word of Command is with thee.” “May Thy grace and mercy become my strength,” said Yahmad. “So it is,” came the response. Prostrating once more, Yamad completed his retreat and made his way to Tolkan, an angel whose right arm was as large as Yamad’s entire aura. Tolkan, once a Terrible Quatern, was now regent of weapons and training for hosts held in reserve above the expanse. When Yamad arrived, he was honing an immense sword. Despite his renown, the old warrior never tired of the ancient rite. “Whose sword is that?” the ex-cup bearer asked. “It is Micha’el’s. He is returning to the same earth where you are bound.” “It is time for this one’s harvest then?” asked Yamad. “It appears so,” said Tolkan. “Its sanctuaries are established. Micha’el’s company will reinforce them while Gibra’el gathers what is left of the light of prophet-hood before the Horsemen ride.” Tolkan put the weapon aside. “What can I do for you?” he asked. “My proving is upon me. I am sent to a land called Kush. I have been charged to stand over a creature named Allepo but know nothing of the circumstances.” Tolkan, looking inward, sighed and began a reverie. “I was there on two occasions. Once when we forced the Grigory and Shisha to withdraw from the Fourth Realm, and again when the Shasu returned the seeds of the Shunamites to the cradle of Awdawm. It is there I earned my greater glory. I was still nursing my wounds when Iblis fell with his legions. Uri’el, Sari’el, Raqu’el and others handled that sad affair.” The warrior lifted his wings to show the scars. “I am told that men have become far worse. The Grigory deceive them with Solomon’s crown; the Shisha forge vain imaginations for their sorcerers in the abyss; and Iblis encourages coarse amusements, endless revelry, idolatry and violence. All these and more blight mankind’s knowledge and burden their accounts. It is a domain of miserable, ill bred, quarrelsome creatures who praise heaven but rarely justify assistance. The North is dry; the South weeps; the East is bemused and the West is puffed up like an adder. They slaughter the wise and innocent as did Cain, whose curse will soon complete its course from the days of Lamech.” Tolkan shifted. This time his eyes were soberly fixed on Yamad. “Few are like the Shasu, who have walked among the damned while faithfully keeping Allah’s guidance.” He paused to let his words settle: “By Allah’s leave and according to prayers from the wicked, Iblis moved the boundaries of Cush and Nubia long ago. It is now called Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan amongst others. I cannot tell you where Allepo is. Go and seek his trail while I inspect your weapon.” Yamad returned to the House of Incense. “I was expecting thee but not with such eager light as I see upon thy wings,” said the Chief Censor. “You will find the codes in this galaxy’s solar repository under ‘Allepo’ in the current telluric file. When you reach the portal, speak them once for viewing or twice for transport.” A wry smile whisked across the Censor’s face. “By thy leave my lord,” said Yamad. They bowed and he was off, first to the repository then straight to the portal. Gazing through the expanse he saw an enormous cord of light slowly turning its ladder like spirals of innumerable colors. Adjusting the interface he spoke the code once. His right eye melded with the interstellar spiral and the trail of Allepo was singled out. With a glance from his left eye, the earth of Awdawm was unveiled. He then struck a balance with both eyes and saw a crystal sphere dressed in sapphire blue with veils of white caressing the terra firma upon which men trod their few hours before the claims of eternity. Peering yet again with the left eye and adjusting for an astral survey, he became alarmed by the extent of menacing shadow. Immense braids of varying shades of swarthy interlocking aether gripped the planet. Numerous dense isles of this shadowy web extended tendrils in all directions until the entire globe was braced by its gargantuan labyrinth. In a few regions he saw breeches into the Second Realm where whirlwinds of light attacked the violations. He also observed nineteen colossal Cimmerian funnels that pierced the earth to its forbidding bowels. Each one had refracted tenebrosities extending into the third and fifth realms. Yamad had never seen an earth so fallen to shadow. Allepo’s path led to a malevolent mist covering mountains east of the Nile River’s great fork, almost directly across the sea from Sheba. When he realized the extent and implications of its peril, he thought it wise to review the region’s history. On returning to Tolkan he asked for the references. “Make haste.” said Tolkan. “You will find Nubia in the House of the Seven Seals under the care of the Great Khan. They are kept in the Hall of Four Judgments with the annals of forsaken nations. You will find the Shasu in the Book of Life under The Tree of Musa. Consult the Book of Da’ud and follow the line of Joktan through Sheba; his seed and that of Havilah have faithfully served the Shasu. Review the names and deeds of their patriarchs and prophets. The Book of Ishmael is in the care of Sala’udin. Review his current files and become aware of those who obey the instructions of Prophets Moses, Iesa and Mohammad. The forgotten seed of Prophet Noah, the Falasha, is also in the land. Make extracts and discuss them with Lothar as circumstances permit. Go quickly to the annals and from thence to this earth, for the trail of Allepo will soon be destroyed.” Then, bending low, he seized him by arm and wing and placed his great eyes directly before Yamad’s. “Listen hard little brother, follow Lothar; he was one of my best students. Obey his every command and do not show your glory until it is time to strike.” ……….
The snake was about to swallow a mouse when its right eye spotted Allepo. It disgorged the rodent to better approach the angel with its tropotactic tongue which soon sensed lavender though none were in bloom.
“A valid prayer?” it thought.
On rounding a tree stump it saw the trail and knew what could happen. There was no time to waste. As fast as its belly allowed, the snake slithered to Wenkele’s lair, deep in the wood where sunlight barely kissed the moss.
The snake was in difficult straits from its moment of arrival because the villagers had been careful lately and Wenkele was particularly testy. She had thus far failed to acquire a man-child for tomorrow’ feast of Abydos. Before it said a word, Wenkele thumped it with a ladle then kicked it against the wall with such force it could no longer hiss. She then continued to stir the Katalba broth while chanting her traditional plea for an unsuspecting dinner guest.
Bagru, a distinguished Pari imp in the service of Lord Mambrono, another of Lord Amane’s thralls, sat snickering on a pile of filth behind the woodstove.
“Spssst!” he called, “Come over here.”
The snake rolled over and coiled in the filth.
“Come with me,” said the imp, “I’ll show you how to please that old bag of worms.” Bagru whispered his plan and the duo left for some sport.
Being a pygmy Pari, what Bagru lacked in size he compensated for with genius. For millennia his kind had persuaded humans they were friendly spirits, gods, ascended masters, angels, forbidding monsters, interstellar travelers or deceased relatives sent to help avoid disaster and obtain divine favors, sexual nirvana, immortal rank, enormous wealth, fame and/or endless pleasure — not to mention plain old ordinary ‘good luck’. They had many names on every side of every sea and are known amongst some as ‘elemental spirits’ and to others as ‘fallen angels’ destined for re-instatement to former glory.
Wenkele and her crew were in the latter camp.
To make greater certainty of the delusion(s), their clans divided into three groups: good, bad and indifferent. There were also solitary specialists who dwelt in vessels, temples, mausoleums, drums, knives, caves or hosts (animal and human) possessed of the greatest acumen and/or extraordinary power(s). Humans built monuments, wrote poems and epistles, memorized epics, sang hymns and generally tolled bells, praises, reverence and fear for the talented mobs that embellished campfire, hearth, altar and throne throughout every place you can imagine. Fortunes wrought by supernatural means had become of primary concern for prince and pauper alike. Everyone sought amity with an abundance of gods at resplendent shrines, back alley warrens, shaman dens, monk hovels, and sundry lairs of unholy hags and sundry Madonnas.
“What fools,” thought Bagru, “like vermin run o’er a cliff.”
The game was so successfully played that every human imagination was somewhere filled with dragons, ogres, fawns, trolls, satyrs, elves, goblins, sirens, sylphs, demi-gods, goddesses, virgin mothers and wee folk in wood, cave, river and sea. All were at the beck and call of magi and shaman who commanded these unseen hosts by secret ring, word, wand, staff, sword or gavel kissed, spoken, waved or thumped over heads, candles, gongs, bells, drums, beads and alms baptized with water, wine or the blood of beasts, penitent sinners and/or scapegoated proxies.
Bagru specialized in seducing ambitious fools who worshiped trascendence with professional zeal. The scam was crowned when his prized pupils were removed to one of seven realms of eternal woe. It was pure delight to see their terminal indignations when chained, beaten and dragged to an authentic abyss — forever. Bagru treasured these triumphs.
His posting as Wenkele’s muse was one of the oldest on earth holding traditions that preceded the Noahide flood. Afterwards, he and his clan were specifically tasked with pursuing the Nubian seed of Shem, the son of Noah (called Melchizedek), who passed his prophetic cloak to Abraham, a grandson eight generations removed. If Bagru sullied this Nazarite sanction, the Master promised to advance him to a peerage at the Temple of Karnak. For this reason he had studied divine jurisprudence and knew every advantage availed through the disobedience of human leadership.
He was not about to let Wenkele disappoint the Dark Prince. After all, and having come so far, it would reflect poorly on his professional merit. Indeed, Bagru had heard Wenkele’s chants and in the spirit of true jinninity would answer her prayer. Besides, he finally had a reasonable plan.
Before their expulsion from the second and third realms by Tolkan et alia, Bagru had been a jinni of excellence in botany and agronomy and had walked with those who trailed in the glory of the Master. At times his memory drifted towards his early hominid students but the pain of loss was discouraging and, generally speaking, he held such thoughts in check. He blamed his lost beauty on Adamite humans because God had maligned the Master and demoted them in deference to this peculiarly mundane species. He thus held an implacable disdain for mankind; a consummate hatred that was presently focused on Oladuso’s family as an enemy of distinction. Thoughts of success therefore hastened his steps toward the village.
After the demise of the Adamite ascendancy that preceded the great flood, the majority of men became far too preoccupied with mud to appreciate the increasing gulf of Cain’s Curse. This dim-witted propensity allowed the Sumerian elite, for example, to excel in mythic dissimulation, opportunism, sycophancy and idolatry accompanied by infant immolation, court sacrifice on the interment of regents, and other embellishments of the Great Gulf’s religion. All of this and more primarily destroyed man’s attendance to being his ‘brother’s keeper’ and the welfare of the earth, especially when added to the uncivilized finesse of usury, commonly known as the ‘Sumerian Swindle’. To his credit and to this day, many of Bagru’s remote disciples remain immortalized on museum walls, clay tablets, mounds, myths and worshipful idols in the numerous halls of human folly.
His seduction of the Midianite kings with the Magus of Issi had particularly impressed Mambrono, the chief retainer of Dakar, the Nephilite vampire. After those royals were dispatched by Gideon, divine leave was given to Mambrono’s Legions to harass the entire Midianite remnant, which ultimately returned dominion in the valley of Mecca to the Master. Mambrono’s formidable horde had little trouble reducing nascent Arabs to neolithic cunning, savagery, idolatry, human sacrifice and tolerable shamanism.
Bagru was particularly proud of his influence on Napoleon during the Egyptian campaign, though the final seduction was thwarted by the Emperor’s conversion to Islam. Even so, he managed to baptize Napoleon with Alexander’s ambition at the latter’s tomb. Bagru had always considered necromancy and ancestor worship the purest of devilry and greatest imaginary implement since the Adamite incursion on the more pliable hominid stock.
One can appreciate, therefore, that Bagru was no ordinary Pari. In fact, he chose to abandon most of the pursuits that had attended the Dravidian savagery of Cain. Hence, he generally left rapine and common depravity to ogres, nymphs, dwarves, elves, gnomes, fairies, and other jinn in league with Druidic wizards and their enchanting Sibyls. As he had few equals in the sports of temptation, seduction and the imperious fraud of philosophy, his success with Napoleon’s ambition had vicariously ‘lit his lamp’ as it were. Bagru had risen above the mundane realm of superstition to determine that homosapien-sapiens required far more sophisticated and enlightened fantasies. He had become the perfect imp for the job, especially after the success of European cousins who followed his advice with Mesmer and Freud.
Indeed, Bagru was anxious to leave Tanakian backwaters for the esteem of Karnak’s brethren; a confraternity with direct access to one of the Master’s thirteen earthbound courts. But he was chained to the borish domain of Abyssinia till the fall of the House of Shasu. It was the Master’s command. He had no choice.
Even though Bagru had bettered his hand with higher methodology he had never abandoned ritual human sacrifice because it was far too good a fiddle, as empirically stamped by the success of Christian pandering. Such offerings and believers were always to be had among the flocks of dense men. Besides, tempting Oladuso should not be so difficult now that he was old enough to leave the house on his own. After all, even Israel’s fallen sons had managed to damn nearly a million descendants in the wilderness despite the troublesome Moses.
During Solomon’s reign, Bagru had even handled Jeroboam’s reversion to the Mysteries of Egypt, thus steering the entire house of Northern Israel towards the hardened hearts of perdition. The Master was so impressed with these en masse tribal reprobations that he specifically restricted Bagru to the House of Shasu; one of the few clans that had persistently prevailed against the great Shaitan’s cunning.
In part, the Shasu were descended from the Nubian wife of Moses, a lady who was too discouraged to enter Canaan after his death; especially since Miriam, the sister of Moses [i], never got over the leprosy affair [ii]. This was due to Prince Azazel’s direct imputation of the traditionally Semite arrogance of unforgiveness; a feat Bagru admired well enough to incorporate in his own methodology. Consequently, the sable beauty, Marthis, returned home, preferring the company of relatives in Horeb [iii]. But even after the death of Jethro her angelic escort remained impenetrable. Bagru was therefore forced to bide his time with Semite royalty following the laments of Prophet Samuel. In addition, he frequently visited Marabout mystics and brigand Sheikhs of sand, most of whom proved eager to shed blood at his beck and call. But at least these diversions were pleasant.
Yet after thirty four centuries of prosperous entertainments that had enlarged the seven hells not insignificantly, an event was unfolding that could release him to the tombs of Karnak and possibly gain him a seat in the Lower Council of the Second Heaven.
His sunken eyes glowed at the drool-increasing aspiration, and quickened the resolve to implement his plan at the village outskirts.
The snake was also excited.
After the death of Moses, children from his Nubian wife frequently married Bedouins descended from Abraham’s several wives and the odd Kennite. One of these numerous clans became known as the ‘Shasu’ [i], the name of a great-great-great-grandson of the Lawgiver. This patriarch could not abide with Midianite hostility towards the Hebray who later became known as Israelites, so he removed his clan to Aksum, the birthplace of Marthis, the lady who had comforted Moses during the years of his burden.
From their beginning, the Shasu were warrior shepherds who kept unadulterated copies of the books written by Moses. Each generation faithfully bequeathed these to the next and without amendment or speculation. So faithful were they that by the time of Augustus Caesar, the fault-ridden Alexandrian Septuagint (Old Testament) made little impression on the Shasu who held the original and knew better. This particular Shasu clan (there were others long fallen to shadow) therefore passed unchanged from Patriarch to Patriarch enjoying quiet prosperity under the protection of the divine covenant despite the best efforts of jinn and men to suborn their service.
The Shasu were highly regarded in Aksum for generations but eventually the peace of this legacy was disturbed by King Menelek I, a son of Sheba by Prophet Solomon who had made a Shasu bride his queen. At first all was well but the cunning Bagru, after taking leave of Jeroboam, began teasing the king with the greatness of Judah; convincing him of a manifest destiny that would exceed the glory of his father. The cunning imp went so far as to suggest that Isaac’s promise of a Messiah dwelt within the king’s loins, which provided excellent cause to multiply wives against the covenant (See: Deut. 17:17).
Despite protest from the Shasu Patriarch, the King collected spousal attentions and relatives with so many countries and tribes that he had little time for prudent government. Making matters worse, Bagru’s companions set about convincing his mounting posterity to contend with each other by mixing Nubian pageantry with the sacerdotal rituals of neo-relatives, which included descendents of Shisha worshipers. Their placations and competitions produced remarkable wars and imposing enough signs and wonders to impress Ptolemaic Pharaohs a thousand years later.
As assorted nobles entertained folk-tale religions and wives, pageantry replaced common sense with enough tranquilizing panacea to sedulously and generically remove reality orientation. Indeed, as progressive Egyptians served Amon Ra, Kushite haremites encouraged the adoption of his ‘brother’, Amane (also known as Amun), as the chief Nubian deity. I am told however — by those who speculate — that both entities are, in fact, Iblis and that Dhamballah is the great Serpent daemon of the Garden called Leviathan by not a few occult scholars. In any case, Allah’s guidance and worship were eclipsed by opulent effigies and heroes arrayed with ceremonial adoration for the ennobled dust of fanciful fibs. Hence, Nubians, despite the Christian façade that was added some centuries later, became exceptionally potent polytheists who, generally speaking, walked, talked and balked at our Creator like civilized Egyptian pagans.
While Bagru enlarged hell with fashionable malarkey, appreciable deposits of gold were found that naturally established alliances with greater Principalities. And as the hospitality, beauty and charm of Nubian women were rarely surpassed, the combination assured survival for Menelek’s quarrelsome posterity despite the cycles of civilization’s trifling whims. But even these traditions and circumstances did not account for the dynasty’s longevity.
Amid Lord Amane’s priests was a secreted hierarchy; one that preceded Wenkele’s circle. This group of sub-humans practiced human sacrifice to appease the usurping delegates of higher Principalities in return for protection, wealth, fame, prodigious intellectualism and other supra-mundane abilities. Such rites and cults, in one form or other, had passed from ancient Dravidia westward to Jerusalem, Arcadia, ancient Anatolia and the Etruscan Vatican, and eastward to Lhasa, Oceana and even the Yucatan. Indeed, Leviathan had ravenously toured the globe long ago. But pedestrian bench warmers know/knew little of matters behind palatial gates, incensed sacristies and the doors of worshipful masters, mistresses, and other vested archons of myth and magick. This is one of life’s most remarkable facts, especially since homophagous-godmen-eating cultures are recorded universally and the Christian Creed engraves its image daily. Hence, the Nubian realm eventually came to be ruled by occult alliances with heinous sovereigns forged by gruesome exsanguinations enforced by beasts like the Wermid.
From the beginning, this inner ring included Jerub’anak, a descendent of Jeroboam, the fallen son of Solomon who had learned the black arts in Egypt from the posterity of Aegyptus, the grand-daughter of Ham. Jerub’anak’s line had been Grand Masters of the Asiatic Brethren for as long as magi worshiped the fabled Principalities and Powers of the Abyss. They fled Egypt during the time of Prophet Jeremiah who condemned the iniquity in no uncertain terms. The Jerub’anak clan eventually became known exoterically in the regions of Aksum as highly respected generous scions of means whose ties with foreign powers favored the nation’s prosperity and security, and, so they were.
As the Seed of Abraham’s promise was surely not within any Menelekian groin, and as their majority had abandoned the Way of Allah in favor of sorcery and vain pageantry, the High Council of the Second Heaven gave leave for Lothar to forbear all but total judgment for the sake of the Shasu and a few other righteous holdouts. The Lower Council—to which Bagru aspired—was therefore given license to afflict boorish and ignorant pedestrians without restraint. The land, populace and coin were thus debased with madness, bloodlust, war, lasciviousness, concupiscence, lechery, greed, dearth and disease etc. and so forth — all but the house of Shasu and those who retained the common sense they were born with.
Being incorruptibly noble, the Shasu had served as ministers of state for several generations which gave sufficient cause for Bagru to foster jealousy among their many enemies. Nevertheless, so many attempts at assassination had mysteriously failed due to Lothar’s diligence that Bagru was unable to urge further effort. Nubians naturally thought the Shasu were divinely protected and dared not raise a hand for fear of reprisals from Lord Amane. The irony infuriated Prince Mambrono and, in turn, cost Bagru years of torture at the hands of the Master’s Titans, despite his previously substantial triumphs.
Bagru vowed vengeance and hatched a plan that ended Shasu favor.
It came to pass that when the sixteenth Patriarch went up to Jerusalem to make the annual offering to all-but-forgotten Yah’ on behalf of the king, Bagru convinced one of the Queen’s handmaidens to steal a Shasu dagger. A week after the Patriarch’s return, this same blade was found in the Queen’s heart and left no recourse but for the tribe to flee. Tales of their exodus are recited at campfires from Aksum to Cairo even today. They eventually took refuge across Lake Tana from the city of Tanak and, after seasons of toil, built a walled village and established themselves among proud and vigorous tribes of fractious stalwarts in the hills.
Every seven weeks the Shasu held a feast. Anyone joined by blood, marriage or filial respect raised the cup and ate their fill in gratitude to El’Yah’. On the first such festival after the exodus, the same sixteenth patriarch spoke of Yehoshuah Mashiah, the Son of Oil prophesied by Isaiah and others who had come with a final warning for their Hebrew cousins. He learned of the prophet’s advent from a man called Philip on his return from Jerusalem. He reported that whatever Mashaih spoke may have been news for the Jews but not for the Shasu. So the Shasu continued successfully minding Mosaic civil codes so whatever they turned their hands to in the mountains of Tanak prospered and no one could deny that God’s own good fortune was with them.
So it was that Bagru’s Aksum victory came to pass as a major defeat in the wilderness of Tanak. But the scheming Pari was undeterred and set his sights on the ruination of the entire Nubian domain. Lord Amane was content with this as long as an adequate supply of flesh remained for salacious appetites. As Nubians were extraordinarily fertile, Prince Mambrono’s legions amused themselves with leisurely rapine, creative slaughter, and torment enough for several empires with full sanction from the Higher Council — an authorization that continues to present day. This policy exempted the regencies of a few pious Sovereigns such as the Negus of Mohammed’s day and the domains of blameless Headmen throughout the hinterlands. But the Nubian aristocracy, like all others, slowly and repeatedly ruined itself through wealth, indolence, and the gilded nests that nurture the pretentious offal of human splendor.
Stepping over two to three thousand years, one can appreciate that by the time Oladuso was born, Kush cum Nubia had been irrevocably sub-divided and customarily savaged by the manicured privateers of Jeub’anak’s ancient Brotherhood, the most powerful of which became pseudo-Christian ‘Black Nobles’ of post-Enlightenment regencies. The peoples of Kush were, therefore, forever enslaved and sold to lands never heard of and subjected to endless wars, famines and draughts that brought extremes of misery, poverty and disease. Furthermore, over the centuries, there were numerous Solomonic and Mahdi pretenders who fanned the flames of heroic elitism and elegant counter-carnage, all to no avail.
When adding to this the mind-boggling perplexities of exogenous governance by Colonial adventurers, in a manner of speaking, one can say that the Four Horsemen had continually galloped through the realm with Chaos as king and Bagru as Prime Minister.
Although slower than predecessors to reach apogees of greed, and despite the many creeds that tried, modern Nubians failed to checkmate Bagru’s hidden war against the true human spirit. Those responsible for maintaining the regional ‘cult of the curse’ — from Cain and Lemech to Nimrod, and from thence to the Levant and beyond — remained intact for the purpose of making a desolation of hope.
The dynasty of the second Menelek (Bapa Ono’s contemporary) simply added social reforms minus Godly guidance — with good intentions of course — to the myth of impending Solomonic glory whereupon the Horsemen sniffed, neighed a bit, and renewed their ride; gradually bringing the entire Horn of Africa to unimaginable misery.
Nevertheless, the house of Shasu prevailed as an irreproachable tower of honor in the eyes of man, beast and spirit. Menelek’s curse (the Mubahalah) [i] never touched them.
But Bagru had a new plan and was on his way to the village for its implementation when I digressed; my sincere apologies.
Oladuso was thirteen when he inadvertently started a quarrel that ended in war. It began some twenty odd years after I came to Shasum. He and his friend Songo did what boys always do: they disobeyed the rules.
Songo, the son of a Tanakian merchant, was always getting into trouble. He was a bold lad with a penchant for pugnacious recklessness whom Oladuso loved for the strength of his misguided courage. On the day of this trouble’s advent, Songo was cheerless due to endless parental strife. His family had a shop in Tanak and frequently came to Shasum to make wholesale purchases, so the boys readily found themselves far from the crowd at the edge of the village.
By then Bagru had arrived. On occasion the Pari encountered humans who could see him as he was, so he shape-shifted to a pleasant looking pixie to safely attend the rock where the boys sat contemplating Songo’s gloom. Though they couldn’t see him, Songo’s dejection had altered his aura in such a way that Bagru could be heard. He jumped onto Songo’s shoulder and whispered:
“Go into the forest . . . Go for a walk in the forest.” Very quietly, he repeated the suggestion ‘til it echoed in the cranial vault of the sad child. Finally, Songo said:
“Olo, let’s go walk in the forest.”
Oladuso couldn’t believe his ears.
“You know we’re not permitted without an adult,” said Oladuso. “What about the Goggoroi? Besides, my father will put me in the roundhouse if he finds out!”
“Bananna nuts!” said Songo, “just a little walk. We won’t leave site of the village. Come on Olo … Come on.”
Songo jumped down from the rock, stood in front of Oladuso and pulled on his legs. Bagru flew over and whispered into Oladuso’s left ear:
“Go on. You won’t be caught out. The forest is fun. It has many secrets. It’s time to explore . . . secrets . . . secrets . . . secrets . . . it’s time . . . time . . . time.”
“Alright Songo, but only if we stay near the village,” said Oladuso.
He stood on the rock for a moment, jumped down, and off they went to begin a war. In a few steps they were in the bush.
Bagru did a back flip down from the rock to rejoin the snake.
“Wenkele will now have a proper feast,” he thought. “Perhaps the Master himself will come?” He laughed his devil’s laugh, the snake hissed a hiss, the boys walked their talk and the forest ate them all.
The trouble responsible for the broken taboo was this: for upwards of four hundred years the mountain tribes had lived in significant unease despite being spared ravages that plagued other regions. Seven times yearly a child went missing from their clans and was never found. Even some of the huntsmen who went searching for them disappeared. A widow whose husband and daughter had both vanished eventually let it be known that her man spoke of a beast that was half-man half-panther which he had tracked from Taroaz to Tanak the week before he went missing. The people thereafter called it the Goggeroi and the highlands became a place of taboo. That was three hundred years ago.
Though it seemed without remedy, people made the best of their lives and learned to be careful. Every once in a while a man dressed in fine clothes came from the capital in Shewa to sit with the elders. They would talk of this and other matters but nothing of consequence was ever done. Stories of the Goggeroi were told at every house and campfire. On an occasion within living memory, a Shasum trained hunter was found in the hinterland, naked, severely injured and charily eating grass like a rabbit. He later returned to a modicum of sanity except for one thing: he never spoke again.
The reason for the evil was not the beast but sorcery of the worst kind. Many tribes worshiped ancient jinn from before and after Prophet Awdawm’s advent (theologues, see 2 Peter 3:6). Most folks went to shaman or witch for fortune telling and healing or to cast spells on rivals out of envy, jealousy, love, hate or vengeance. All of this was, of course, forbidden foolishness that removed divine protection so that Bagru’s clans and beasts like the Wermid made great sport of signs and wonders with the variegated cults that walked this razor’s edge over eternal consequence. Amongst these wondrous distractions were answered prayers, prophesies, dreams, nocturnal visitations, apparitions, glossolalia and the eviction of ‘demon’ colleagues for improved leaseholds on beguiled human flesh. Indeed, Bagru’s tribes were only too pleased to facilitate another chapter of the damnation saga. It was their professional responsibility and reason for existence.
City dwellers were just as superstitious. Wenkele, for example, held a position of deferential honor at the largest church in Tanak, being celebrated for her ‘gifts’ of healing and prophecy. It was during her spiritual ‘retreats’ that children went missing in the mountains and sometimes from the town itself. But no one had thus far associated these events.
Her husband usually accompanied her. But on this occasion — as a special favor to Madame — the British Legate in Shewa (Addis Ababa) managed Akmut’s appointment as attaché to Emporer Yohannes, which now carried him to London for talks regarding the country’s development and ‘other matters’. You’ll recall his ancestor, Jerub’Anak, the Grand Master of ‘otherwise useless’ sacrifices. The wealth and jinn giftings of this bloodline began with Jeroboam, the soul-hunting sorcerer son of Solomon who became the first thaumaturge regent of Northern Israel (See Ezekiel). All had now fallen to Akmut, a lapdog of a man; exactly the sort of fellow Lord Amane required for his ongoing assault on regional autonomy as per Charter granted by the High Council of the Second Realm. Indeed, Akmut Anakjerub was ‘connected’ to several circles and worlds.
But enough occult politics and the trans-dimensional charms of evil. Let us return to the boys and their lark.
Marga, nephew of the Ashumite Chief, was in the forest hunting snakes for Aunt Creola, known as the ‘snake wife’ (ebobmeest) because they frequently made their way into her pot. It wasn’t long before the boys saw Marga and trailed him to practice stealth. By then clouds had gathered so they sheltered under a great Warka tree as the storm broke. Only then did they realize how far they had strayed.
To his harm, Marga took shelter in the hollow of another tree some thirty yards away. In a corner of the recess was a cobra. Marga all but fell on it and the serpent struck. The lad managed to bash its skull in with his war club but the snake was large and the wound was deep to the neck. As he watched the cobra’s death dance he fell backwards and slid down the hollow’s wall to a sitting position. The pain increased as the venom did its duty.
With the storm’s final gusts there came a rose like fragrance that clung to the base of the fig tree marking the presence of an angel named Tasso. The boys emerged from beneath the arched root and discussed whether or not to go home but their conference ended when they heard Marga’s cry. Turning in his direction they were surprised to see Wenkele. They watched her slip into Marga’s tree then exit a few moments later with snake and lad thrown over her shoulders. Instead of turning towards the village she took the path for the foothills; one that led to the forbidden highlands.
Tasso touched both boys on the tops of their heads. When they looked again, Wenkele had begun to sing a chant of victory but dancing behind her was an ugly little man with blue fish lips drooling black slime on the forest floor. Facing each each other in disbelief they took another again but the troop had vanished. The boys drew straws to see who would follow the strange parade. With a little help from Tasso the lot fell to Songo. Oladuso was to get help from the village of Ashum.
From that moment they were boys no more. They began correcting their disobedience by uncovering the greatest evil extant in their earthly corner. Oladuso may have had to face parents and elders with an unbelievable testimony, but Songo was in greater danger.
Oladuso said a prayer for them both which Tasso immediately intercepted. The guardian dispatched a warrior to watch over the courageous rascal while he and the remaining Terribles plus the Recording Angel followed Oladuso.
Indeed, the chase Lothar had anticipated was on.
Meanwhile, Allepo had made friends with a shaggy, longed haied yellow caterpillar who had much to say.
“What’s that?” it asked.
“That’s my prayer.” said Allepo.
“Oh,” said the caterpillar … “Does it eat caterpillars?”
“Does what eat caterpillars?” said Allepo.
“The prayer of course, you idiot — what kind of bird is it anyway? I never heard of it before. It looks strange, smells nice though.”
Allepo hardly knew what to say:
“So many questions from such a small mouth — what’s your name?” he asked.
“Well Samson, a prayer is not a bird but it does fly – all the way to God’s house in heaven; it is how I talk to Him,” said Allepo.
“Oh.” said Samson. “Does God eat caterpillars?” he asked.
“No,” he replied, “God does not eat caterpillars.”
“Good,” said Samson, “I don’t like things that eat caterpillars, and if I ever get eaten I’m going to do my best to make its tummy hurt. Is God coming here?” asked the fuzzy worm.
“Not just yet. But one of His angels will come and then maybe I’ll go home,” said Allepo.
“Can I stay with you till the angel comes?” asked Samson.
“Yes, of course you may,” was the reply.
“Do angels eat caterpillars?”
The little one just smiled and said,
“No Samson, angels do not eat caterpillars, they just serve God. That’s the best thing anyone can do.”
“Good!” said the much relieved worm, “I think that’s the best for me too.”
The Whited Sepulcher
“When wind and child stray, behold, a stranger will slay the beast then raise the morning star.”
– Prophecy of the Ethiopian
Since Oladuso was a ‘son of oil’ chosen for the Seership and was now approaching one of Lord Amane’s lairs, Lothar had sanction from the Higher Council to intervene. “Sanda!” he thundered, shaking the sky without a cloud in site.
- (The boys looked up and trembled as they took their first steps into the forest)
In a flash, Sanda stood before Lothar, hand on hilt. “Yes my lord”. “Send Tasso to protect Oladuso. He’s to take a ‘Terrible Quatern’ with him.” “And the others?” inquired Sanda. “Tasso is to stay hidden. He may however, intervene as per protocol to facilitate the prophecy and divert danger from Oladuso until the trial. As for the others, one is doomed and the second lay in the balance of his deeds. Today is the first sign of his ascent. Tasso is not to intervene for either unless acceptable intercession is made,” said Lothar. “They are both courageous my lord,” said Sanda. “So was El Cid, the brigand we dispatched to the dark side of eternity in the Third Realm; remember?” “Forgive me my lord.” “Is there any sign of Yamad?” asked Lothar. “He’s passing the Fifth Realm and will be at our border within the hour. Shall I send an escort?” “No, I’ll attend him myself,” said Lothar, musing. “Have Ainad warn Oladuso’s mother. It is time to stir the Ashumites. He will need six warriors but the phalanx around Shasum, especially Bapa Ono’s house, must be maintained, so choose them well. Another matter: Dakar’s legions are enroute to the plateau by now. When they are spotted, lead them a merry chase to Cairo and dispatch whom you can, but do not endanger your Quaterns. This will give Shasum time for prayer and preparation. You’re to make no unnecessary sport. Is that understood?” “Yes my lord.” “One more thing: when Tasso is finished with Oladuso, he’s to look in on Salasi and remind him of his youth. That is all. Allah be with thee.”
When Yamad returned to the Spiral’s interface he spoke the code twice. Instantly he was translated to a beam of light that melded him with the inter-dimesional transponder. Enroute he pondered the history and all that Tolkan said and was content that he had naught to do but follow orders, for who but God could judge the complicated affairs of men? By the time he reached the highest strata beneath the Second Heaven he saw demons hacking away at the trail. What remained was shredded to bits and dispersed among the swarthy astral aether. If he didn’t get round them, there would be nothing left. The transponder left him at the border and though guardians at the gate of the Second Realm had cleared him for arrival and departure, he was now on his own. Crossing the border, he cloaked his glory and hid in the nearest cloud of astral debris to look around. There were hundreds of demons and no other prayer trail in sight. If spotted, they would send him back in pieces. At the very instant of that thought, three of the creatures saw him. There was to be no respite. Each was twice his size and had been standing watch apart from the others. His hand gripped the hilt of his sword and he froze like a faint star as they approached. The largest was about to speak when Yamad blinded them with a flash of glory. Swirling round he sliced through the legs of one behind him and tumbled forward to drive his blade through the belly of the second. By then, the third had recovered from the flash with sword raised to strike when its hideous shriek split the air. A fifth blade appeared and proceeded to rip the shrieking breast from collar to grizzled groin. The rendered shades faded to black vapor and were drained from the sky by the earth itself. The legless fellow tried to escape but even he changed to black misted droplets sucked into a deep ravine on the mountain’s southern slope north of the highland plateau near Grandfather’s Gorge. Upon their dispatch, three shafts of crystal blue aether broke through to the forest below. The fifth blade remained in the air it had struck, held by the mighty hand of Lothar. Yamad knelt immediately, with head bowed and sword sheathed. “I thank you. I am Yamad, sent by the Most High to watch over one named Allepo; your servant to command,” spoke the recently tried warrior. “You are swiftly guided to your enemies but it is I who have need of your freshly baptized blade. I see the marks of Tolkan upon its hilt. Good. Rise, draw your weapon and do as I do,” was Lothar’s pointed reply. Two dozen demons approached from below. Lothar began twirling. In his left hand was a double edged serpentine dagger, akin to the Malay Kriss. In his right hand, a double edged sword flashed the lemniscate that marked its victims for eternal death. White-gold sheets of light exploded in all directions. The air became ice cold, thunder shook the ears of man, beast and spirit for miles. Great balls of hail fell and the wind gave no peace. Demons and clouds were sucked up and hacked by the fury of the deadly reel. The might of its vortex muffled unclean screams as the earth took its draught of foul black flames, quaffing them to horrid custody, reserved till the Day of Doom. Stunned, Yamad stood all but paralyzed with awe. His reprieve was short lived however. Eight devils had escaped Lothar’s death storm and were closing on him in a shrinking ring of fetid air. Yamad began turning. He’d not done the maneuver for some three hundred years, but its rhythm and rhyme returned like rain to the soil. Extending his blade, he flashed the lemniscate twirl until sky, clouds, air, lightning, hail and enemy congealed at the point of his sword. His dance did not create a mighty tempest, but it was deadly enough to slaughter five of the enemy, and scatter the remaining three. Lothar brought his whirlwind to center on the far end of what was left of Allepo’s prayer trail. Any approaching demon was duly sucked and shredded into useless black fire. Those who escaped the rendering lingered like dying clouds as the victors descended beneath the canopy to a misted meadow. The sky cleared, animals peeped and demons continued their search for the damned. The warriors sat with folded wings and cleaned their weapons in the silence known only to humble champions. After some moments, Lothar spoke: “The little one awaits your watch yonder but do not reveal yourself. His trial is at hand. Permit him no harm but do not hinder the tempting. Should he succumb, withdraw your protection and let him fall to shadow. If you need me, speak the code three times. That is all. Go with Allah.” That angels can be put to trial was news to me but I’m told their ascendancy depends upon it much the same as our own. It seems that Allepo was a middling clerk, good at his post but little satisfied and somewhat envious of the pilgrims he passed on to higher realms. But I will defer further speculation.
When Lothar returned to the Shasum refuge, Sanda awaited him. “Some news sir.” “What is it?” “On his way to the village, Oladuso stopped to pray but did not mention Marga by name. Tasso assigned one of the Quaterns to attend Songo, while the rest follow Oladuso my lord.” “And what of the diversion?” asked Lothar. “In good order sir; more than half the legion followed our raiders to Cairo, where they assault museums, government offices and temples with street riots and fire. That should keep them sorting the damned for some time.” “Excellent. What of Isana?” “Ainad tapped her with worry. She left to seek her husband who is with the Ashumite Chief, my lord.” “And Salasi?” “Tasso is at his side my lord.” “Good. All is in order. Reinforce the Quaterns and place your group on full alert. Give specific instruction to fend off all assaults against marital trust for both couples. Not even a spirit of doubt is permitted. Understood?”
“Marga?” she uttered at the legs that now knelt in her blood. “I saw him in the forest,” said the boy. By then, chief, elders and villagers had gathered. The chief lifted the head of his dying sister who managed one more rattled call for Marga. The people were hushed. Nobody tried to help. Nobody could. The silence amplified the gasps for air she could no longer use. Her face knotted with pain and horror at the moment’s irrevocable decree. Then she stared the stare of the dead. Lodge demons danced in the welcomed blood, all the while shouting and pointing at Isana: “It is all her fault … all her fault … her fault … her fault …” Ruba mimicked his familiars. Pointing to Isana, he said to the people: “It is she who broke the taboo and brought this evil.” Village hearts became bloated with indignation and murderous intent. Ben Ono positioned himself between the crowd and his wife. Raising his sword, he called upon Allah in the language known only to him, his wives and fellow seers: “Um’shallah malechem shandre es’shueleba lechem mohandra el’hahkem.” On hearing this, Ezzidii and the Guardians put a swift end to the demonic frenzy. Dogs and bitches came out of hiding to join the fray. Ruba raised his bow only to find the knife of ben Ono at his throat before arrow touched string. At that moment, the Chief cried out: “Enough! … There is more here than we see. I will tend my sister in peace and we will talk of this matter at the last supper, in forty days.” The chief’s authority broke the spell. Oladuso ran to embrace his mother but did not feel her hug half as much as the ispleasure on Ben Ono’s face. Ruba barely breathed on the edge of Ben Ono’s blade, but his eyes flamed with hatred as the bow fell to the ground. The chief glared until the blade was sheathed. Only then did anyone dare to move or speak. Men murmured, women and children stared, and the mighty chief lifted his dead sister. Blood oozed from her wounds as the ground filled with flies in the pools made by Oladuso’s feet. The pot was stirred. The ancient enmity rose from within the whited sepulcher of tolerence. Soon would come the skimming.
BACK TO THE FOREST
The odd duo, Allepo and Samson, had observed Wenkele from a distance. Allepo had never seen humans in their denser form and enquired of the worm as to the nature of these substantially solid entities. Here’s a bit of their conversation: “Did you say children?” “Yes I did,” replied Samson. “Children?!” “Yes! Yes! Yes! … Children … C – H – I – L – D – R – E – N … Children!” said the perturbed worm. “So God has children here,” exclaimed the shocked angel. “I don’t know about God,” said the worm, but humans do. I don’t like humans. They don’t eat caterpillars but they squish us―stamp us to mush they do. I try to stay away from those fools,” said the worm. “This must be earth. What in God’s many names am I doing here?” said the angel in a quandary. “Who is that large child?” he asked. “That’s not a child, that’s a wizard woman. I don’t mind her too much because she eats children who squish worms. But I stay away from her just because she’s human,” said the wise worm. “I’m going to follow her,” said Allepo, completely forgetting his prayer. “WHY?” screamed Samson. “I want to see some of these children you talk about.” The storm was brewing so the odd couple took shelter in a tree above the forest floor. That is when they saw the three boys. “Are those children?” asked Allepo. “Well … yes. They’re kind of big, but still children.” “But they don’t have swords or wings! These creatures are thick and heavy, and except for the fair haired one they hardly have any light, and even he’s dull by comparison,” said the much taken aback Allepo. “Well, I don’t know about God or heaven, but humans call them children and that’s that,” said the emphatic worm. “Let’s go talk to them,” said Allepo. “Oh no, we couldn’t do that,” replied Samson. “And why not?” “You don’t know much about humans do you? They’re natural born enemies to the ways of us critters ― you can’t trust them. The only thing they’re good for is the leafy vegetables they sometimes plant in their gardens … at least that what my mother said before she flew off. Nope. I ain’t talking to no human and that’s that,” was the worm’s reply. “Well then, good-bye Samson, and may Allah keep you from their squish.” So off went Allepo after the boys. Allepo approached just as Marga cried out for help. He witnessed their quandary as Wenkele marched off. He could see Bagru but did not see Tasso or Yamad who had since arrived to compare notes, directives, and strategy. When the boys drew straws with a little help from Tasso, Allepo was a bit hard pressed as to whom to follow. He decided on Songo because he was inordinately interested in pursuing Bagru as well. He had never seen such hideousness and wanted a closer look. All thoughts of heavenly duty and present circumstance vanished. He was at one with the moment, pursuing an odyssey. He completely forgot his position as an angel without an assigned mission, and that he was in a strange environment awaiting clarification, instruction, and, perhaps, rescue. He had failed the first part of his trial without realizing it. But it was all very exciting. Songo proceeded despite his fear. He was accompanied by the recording angel, common to all men, in addition to one of Tasso’s warriors. Meanwhile, the snake finally had a chance to inform Bagru and the witch of Allepo’s arrival. Wenkele immediately sent Bagru to notify Dakar. Dakar had captained the Legions of Amane from the time of the second flood. It was he who befriended and beguiled Ham, the son of Noah, and enabled his escape. Ham gave rise to the dreadful peoples of Shinar, including Nimrud of Babil, as well as Aegyptus and Tehuti, among others — and all with sanction from the Higher Council in order to prosecute the curses placed on the posterity of those who followed the ways of Cain and Lamech. Dakar taught secrets that Allah had forbade humans from the advent of Awdawm. This knowledge was passed on to certain ‘Chosen Ones’; those foolhardy enough to enter realms such as the void on their own authority. Creatures like Dakar give them just enough ingratiating knowledge for temporal ascendance and eternal woe — saving the worst for last. Dakar’s contempt for mankind was truly greater than the worm’s and far more dangerous. He had penchants for slavery, sadomasochism and the cruelest of sexual perversions and so commanded a college of magi and luscious sibyls who served him every opportunity to satiate these and other appetites in return for a first class ticket through life as well remunerated ‘recruiters’. He generally delayed homicide and preferred to keep his food alive. Being a half-breed Nephilite, Dakar was infused with the diaphanous essence of Noah’s bloodline, thanks to Ham’s treachery so long ago, but nevertheless required fresh human blood to extend his earthly tenure and skilled virility. Thus he was fastidious regarding the care of his blood banks. Vampires differ from Wermids and some, like Dakar, are far more formidable because only God has the Power to slay them; not that this makes Wermid slaughter unproblematic. Dakar did, however, lack the subtle expertise of Bagru’s intellectual finesse’, so that he and the cunning Pari sang a fine duet. *** As a warrior his skills were formidable due to superhuman strength and heightened senses. Having once been a human warlord in Hittite service, he was also an expert strategist. In addition, he possessed an awesome weapon that neutralized luminescent polarities. This was a mace-like tethered globe that disgorged potentized ‘black fire’ made from the aether of dispatched jinn and dark matter mixed with the formative-forces of the best human blood lines—another reason for his blood banks. When combined, these attenuated etheric threads wove parallel worlds together so tightly even transcendent light and energy could not pass. Hence, when lodged in an angel’s body of light it caused a ‘non-systemic’ dysfunction or wound that was never life-threatening but nevertheless, debilitating for angels and mortal for most other creatures. This was the cause of Tolkan’s scars. As a result, only the Terrible Quaterns, Lothar or Seraphs such as Uriel would dare approach him without sanction from the Council. So as Songo advanced toward the lair of this formidable companion of the fire, the Guardian spoke the code three times. In moments, Lothar was arrived and here is what I imagine they had to say. “Commander,” said the Guardian,” I dare not protect the child without thy permission.” “That is so. Should he succeed, stay with him long enough to escort him to the Third Realm. They may take his body but not his soul. It has been decreed. Dakar will not challenge unless you intervene before the moment of death. His astral aether is forfeit however; that is the compromise.” Such was the commander’s response. “As you wish my lord; What of Marga?” asked the Warrior. “He is an idolater and will not require your assistance. He will be sorted at the judgment.” said Lothar, and then vanished. So went the decree that left Songo and Marga to their fates. When Bagru informed Dakar, the captain sneered: “My warriors have fallen to shadow by the scores this past hour, and you presume to inform me? What does that fool of a witch want?” “She wishes defenses secured for cover and Watchers on duty,” said Bagru. “I will present myself to the one on Trial. For that I require a retinue of two hundred at my disposal forthwith. They must be shape-shifters. You may prepare for the humans; the Guardians have no legal right over you.” “Do we require the Wermid?” asked Dakar. “Not for this feast ― let him brood and see that he is well fed,” was the Pari’s response, and then, poof, he was gone. There was a wood of fifteen hundred year old Banyan trees at the foot of the plateau, the center of which held Wenkele’s stronghold, which, if truth be told, had actually been one of Dakar’s citadels for millennia. Fellers had long abandoned efforts at this stand, not because of the Goggeroi, but rather because there was an inexplicable growth of hardwood thorns on the forest floor. No matter the attempt to clear them, whether by axe or fire, the thorns re-grew within days. Hence, the site was forsaken out of futility and not a little fear. Furthermore, since it guarded the most accessible trail to the highland plateau, that part of the country remained unassailable. It was also outside the boundaries of Shasu territory, so they too let it be except for the occasional hunter. Songo had lost sight of both snake and Bagru but the witch and her burdens remained in view. By now his hunger exceeded caution. He watched the witch enter the forbidding thicket then climbed a Wanza tree full of luscious yellow fruit. Dakar spotted him and dispatched his bouda-men. Demons could only indwell or abuse someone for whom they had license, and because Wenkele could not afford to trust many living souls with the security of her retreat, she had a squad of undead slaves police its defense and do the dirty work. These bouda-men were remarkable creatures that ate anything within reach, including each other. Their astral soul-bodies were captured in an urn she kept on the porch with the Vampire’s compliments; hence, they were mindless and existed on the thinnest silver cord imaginable and were easily destroyed by vigorous assault. Bouda-people were once spirited humans who dabbled in the occult beyond the perimeters of permissible knowledge. Generally speaking, one of Dakar’s charismatic ‘recruiters’ would prepare them for ritual cleansing at which time a soul-catching charm was placed around their necks and a catatonic trance induced. Cooperative or unsuspecting doctors pronounced death and the victims were buried with special handling by well paid ghouls disguised as respectable neighbors. In return for a few unmentionable body parts, the team exhumed and guided the helpless flesh to their new mistress who then placed their charmed-souls in the urn in ancient Sumerian fashion. Dakar, with pretended subservience and gratitude for the libation, relieved the finer specimens of a few liters of blood in Wenkele’s presence, whereupon the prophetess pronounced mumbo-jumbo and resurrected them as animated automatons minus willpower and most of their aetheric ‘Sense Organism’, thus making them perfect and permanently expendable slaves. And though it was the bite of the Nephilite that accomplished the transformation, she herself, never knew. When Songo descended from the tree, three Bouda-men awaited him. The once swarthy stalwarts overpowered the boy, and, as usual, each zombie took a bite of the boy from separate limbs. Fortunately, or perhaps not ― it depends on perspective ― Wenkele put a stop to the premature feast. Not that it helped poor Songo. The wounds were not lethal, but the child was screaming so much she knocked him senseless and had her assistants carry him inside, whereupon Dakar closed the breech with the customary impregnable thicket. I suppose you think this unjust, but the lad had a history of theft, assault, lying and the murderous rage polite people call tantrums. He had reached the age of reason and knew he was the ‘odd-one-out’ so to speak, but persisted in his behaviors for want of paternal correction out of personal choice. He knew little of God but was always on his best behavior in Oladuso’s presence. Had it not been for this latter fact, Oladuso’s intercession and Songo’s bodacious courage, his fate could have been eternally worse had he lived. __________ Wenkele was inordinately fearful that day. She sensed an ancient threat to her dominion and person but its source remained obscure. The closest she had ever come to death was more than nine hundred years ago when her beauty faded in mid-life and her husband had taken a third wife. He was a Shasu Seer who treated her well and was the closest to true love she had ever come. Nevertheless, the selfless matriarchal love of a truly blessed woman was foolishness in her eyes. She didn’t mind her husband’s second wife, who was essentially a pleasingly plain servant, but this third woman was far too beautiful and loved her husband in a manner that made certain he did not neglect his other wives. As Bapa Ono and Solomon said: such women are irreplaceably ‘one in ten-thousand’… This had infuriated Wenkele further because she found no fault in the woman except that her injera was a bit too doughy. Her husband assiduously attended to Wenkele and her bed, perhaps with a touch less ardor and frequency, though his heart was ever caring. The younger wife had nonetheless supplanted Wenkele’s influence in ways she never understood and Wenkele could not stand to share dominion of both his heart and body. It never occurred to her that she never had such control and that control of both phallus and heart belonged to the man, and that the man belonged to God. Wenkele wanted to be adored as the only ‘loved’ wife and became determined to regain her status, which is why she consulted a shaman. He instructed her to acquire some hair from the woman which he burnt and mixed with finely ground corn. Wenkele was to sprinkle it around the woman’s room and on her bed. The shaman would do the rest by astral projection. However, with a little help from one of the Guardians she was caught in the act of spreading the ground corn. Witchcraft is a Capital crime according to the Mosaic Code and though repentance may save the soul, death is required to discourage its practice and set an example. Hence, both she and shaman were taken to Grandfather’s Canyon and thrown into the gorge. This ravine is carpeted with a river infested with typical Nile crocodiles, one of whom was/is Krootolo, about ten meters long and older than ancestral memory could tally. The shaman saved Wenkele’s life by being the first item on the menu, giving her enough time to swim clear. After the cataract, the river joined the Blue Nile and ran north to Khartoum. Being a seasoned survivor and native, she made it to the city and was taken in by an elderly gentleman with enough prurience left to surprise her. This man, being a retired associate of Jerub’anak’s Brotherhood, was not without bias against the people of Wenkele’s husband especially since Krootolo’s last meal happened to be one of his grandchildren. Hence, he took exceptional interest in her fate. One thing led to another and Wenkele found herself in the company of the High Priests of Karnack, one of whom bought her from the elderly gentlemen for a handsome price. In time they decided she was an excellent candidate for Initiation and introduction to Lord Amane who courted her to the chagrin of her new owner and offered her a contract she couldn’t refuse: restored beauty and youthful vigor for one thousand years along with wealth, supernatural power with authority and an opportunity for revenge. She was asked was to marry him for eternity; fulfill the rites of passage; and obey his every command. She recalled the merciless look on her husband’s face as he threw her from the cliff and decided that being a bride of Amane had advantages over her prior career as an aging matron. Thus she entered the inner ring of the Brotherhood. But she had totally forgotten her pre-incarnate and incarnate vows to Allah. Recording angels do not take such things lightly and the Council of the Second Realm duly noted her turning. The first sentence of death remained on their ledger despite Loard Amane’s deferral, and the second death sentence became a foregone conclusion after she signed the contract. Little did she know.
Salasi stood at the door of his hut with bow drawn, ready to drop Ruba in an instant. He withdrew himself when the melee settled and Bapa Ono sheathed his weapons. His wife was astute enough to call their children and make ready for a run to the bush. But her heart was torn. Ruba was her younger brother. They were orphaned at a tender age when she had become his mother and protector until Wenkele’s Church in Tanak took them in. Her maternal nature was thoroughly consumed by Ruba’s incessant ruminations until they were parted by independent adoptions only to be re-united years later in the Ashumite village. She knew better than question her husband’s judgment. She also knew that the heart of her brother had been permanently blackened during their separation. So when Salasi returned the arrow to its quiver she was both disappointed and relieved. The release of the arrow would have liberated her from an instinct that owned her even as she choked on the sigh of relief, not realizing her fear was no more than the senseless guilt that oppresses those of shallow faith and little knowledge. I would have slain the man myself had my arm not been restrained by Ben Ono. Not because Ruba had done me any personal harm, but because I had developed a nose that sniffed even attenuated evil and knew he deserved death. Ruba was the cause of a sound lesson in divine governance that I learned at yet another campfire with Ben Ono. We knew he trafficked in slaves with Jews and Arabs in the north—the profits were too great for such men to ignore. But because none of our people had been taken or were even remotely involved ben Ono refused to intervene, even when asked by befuddled civic leaders who were desperate in light of the government’s helplessness in the matter. I asked him why? “It is not our affair Yusuf. If we mediate on behalf of those who have made partners with lies and liars, even to help save their innocent, we intervene in the judgment of Allah without divine sanction. Unauthorized intercession of this kind creates a breech in the metaphysical protectorate of God’s people and consequently also, their physical security. The ‘Reflectors of Prayer’ then raise shields so that petitions are received by the minions of Shaitan whose responses bring schism and tribulation.” “If we ventured such an intrusion; we would also invite the attention of authorities who are pledged to evil. The tides of their meddling would elevate us to a status Allah has not ordained for our people because the entire nation has been given over to the Prinicpate of Lord Amane since the Egyptian’s exodus from Aksum.” “We do not extract tares from gardens tended by those who have gone astray Yusuf. Such heroes belong to worlds of illusion and myth, not to Allah. Iesa taught us all that the Kingdom of Heaven is not of this World system, and since disciples of The Messenger of God have also gone after the same system, it is wiser to mind one’s business—which is precisely why you are here.” I shifted uneasily. I was young and eager. He saw my disquiet and continued with a tale that anchored me to truth: “We have brethren throughout the world who, in times of need, send to us for help. As you know from the Shepherd’s training, our hunters are extremely skilled in manslaughter and we deploy them when circumstances offer clear and unambiguous justification.” “At your age, the Shepherd and I were commissioned to assist a brother in Khartoum. This man had established a private school but students of the Inner Ring menaced it so that enrollment dropped and his family was in physical danger and financial need. They had already kidnapped and slaughtered the son of a prominent businessman who supported him and there was no help forthcoming from authorities. We slipped into the city and took a room overlooking the school. Then we bided our time until we learned the urban terrain. He never knew we were there.” “We struck the first blow when two of their jackals came by night to torch the school while our friend and his family slept in apartments above. We surprised them, interrogated them, and left their bodies on the steps of the Khartoum courthouse. To forestall repercussions on our good brother, the next night we woke the chief magistrate and slit his throat after he signed a letter confessing to complicity in the murder of the businessman’s son. We left the letter implicating others in the conspiracy nailed to his forehead. For the final act, we captured the boy’s murderer and threw his body over the garden wall of the Chief Constable with a note suggesting he leave our good brother alone. After that we left town. The only acknowledgement received was a cautious but knowing grin given by the Schoolmaster to one of our Merchants on his pass through Khartoum the following season.” “That is how we practice what you call ‘jihad’ when justifiably called upon by the righteous. But the time is coming when such interventions will be impossible.” said Bapa. “Why?” I asked. “There are too few men of righteous discernment, knowledge, ability and courage because most follow the lesser light of a false security offered by a world system that severely impairs their judgment. Men like us will simply become too few and they become too many; increasing to a point where our wiles and strength will become insufficient for tenure.” “The scriptures clearly state that ‘no man will be able to make successful war against them’ in the coming hour and we have no Divine Mandate to eclipse the work of any Prophet. Our days are numbered Yusuf, which means the harvest that enlarges hell is coming to an end. We live in a most invigorating hour and are privileged to serve Allah within the limits of His design. The Shasu have made ready our strength.” So I did not kill Ruba but the desire never left until the day of his death. I envied the killer. ——— My Sheik went on to tell me the story of Salasi which I will now repeat. Salasi was a prince from the House of Menelek who fell into disfavor after converting to Islam. Exiled from Aksum’s society he became a fortune hunter and fell in with a bandit leader who had the misfortune of raiding one of Ben Ono’s Caravans enroute from the coast. He was the last bandit standing and knelt in surrender after wounding three of Bapa Ono’s men, afterwhich the Patriarch entered his circle unarmed. He proved an agreeable hostage but his relations had no ransomable interest. In time, he was adopted as a non-resident son of the Shepherd. Salasi had a nose for the chase and became known as ‘The Hunter’. They said he could track birds through the air but I am sure that is an exaggeration of his redoubtable skill. The Shasu had another occasion to aid a brother in Tanak whose daughter had been taken by slavers. Salasi was given the task and found the girl dead along the coastal route to Alexandria. A Bedouin had purchased her and when she fiercely resisted his advances he strangled her and left her for the vultures. Salasi found him. After killing his retainers, Salasi made camp and slow roasted the murderer’s feet, promising mercy if details of the trade were revealed during the process. After obtaining sufficient information, he staked what was left of the fellow to the ground in the shadow of a palm and covered his genitals with the camps refuse. He hung a small water bag overhead that drip just enough to keep him alive as local vermin and contagion enjoyed the feast. Salasi was a loner who refused to take anyone on his hunts and was not a man to abandon any trail. Being an urbanite and plain looking man of medium build, he blended easily in the city of Tanak and soon found the men who had kidnapped the girl. He persuaded one of them to talk by applying freshly ground chili to the eyes of his partner until globes and villain were senseless. Then he removed the right hand and left foot of the second as a reminder of God’s mercy—after all, they did not kill the girl—afterwhich he paid a visit to the dead girl’s father. It seems the father owed a gambling debt to the chastised gentlemen and the brave girl’s fate was the price paid for the father’s sin. He left him the blood stained scarf of his daughter along with the eyes, hand and foot of the slavers. Nothing more needed to be said. After relating details to the Council, he spoke of a group of Tanakian merchants and bankers who apparently received tribute from the slavers in return for certain favors. Salasi requested permission to seek them out for identification and perhaps chastisement. Understandably, the Council refused but Salasi never liked the decision. A while later another child went missing from Ashum and the village Chief asked for Bapa’s help. Since they had a treaty with Ashum that called for mutual assistance, three men were chosen in addition to Salasi. The trail led to the Banyan stand but there was no possibility of penetrating the thorn barrier. Finding no other signs, they considered that if someone somehow entered the thicket, their quarry was possibly still there and would eventually come out. So they camped discretely and waited the patient wait known to hunters. When nothing had happened after ten days all but Salasi opted to abandon the effort. That was the last time he spoke to anyone. Nobody knew what happened and I myself never discovered the full truth of the matter until long after the Battle of Corn. I had removed to Khartoum and quite by chance encountered Salasi at a coffee house. By then he had regained his tongue and with some encouragement related the full story. Salasi had the instincts of a wolf and the tenacity of a wolverine, but his princely blood held him aloof from wisdom. Allah’s remedy was to confront him with the terror of hell’s provision. Another three days passed before his misguided patience paid a dreadful premium. A group emerged from the foreboding thicket at dusk but he could not make out any details except to count their number at thirteen. One was a woman. They split into three groups and he followed the troupe that took the north trail towards the ferry across Lake Tana. He supposed the party comprised the Tanakian heads that needed striking and he was just the man for it. He was both right and wrong. They reached the descent to the dock just before dawn. The ferryman was bathin in a rainwater basin while his wife milked goats and children enjoyed their wakng dreams. But as Salasi peered from his rocky perch he saw but three villains approaching the ferry. His famous nose had failed him and the alarm came too late. Without warning, he was torn from his rock and thrown down the descending trail. The path was steep, well worn and walled in by thickets, thorn-grass and cretaceous boulders. Within three seconds and twelve meters his left arm, leg, and right elbow were fractured, the knife he had instinctively drawn was embedded in his left abdomen, his sword’s hilt had fractured four ribs, his face was torn and bleeding, and his skull had earned a parietal crack as well. He was barely lucid enough to appreciate his fortunes when he tumbled to a halt within site of the ferryman’s wife but was unable to move without feeling his soul ripped at the slightest exertion. He managed to remove the knife, but the elbow fracture dislocated with the effort so he was unable to wield it. The travelers encircled him. In the dim light of dawn they remain dark heaps of shadowy menace until the fourth appeared and dwarfed them; not in size but in presence. The ferryman and his wife continued their chores as if nothing had happened. He was certain death was imminent and mumbled a prayer for forgiveness, provision for his family, and a small corner in Paradise. As his thoughts appropriately turned from holy vengeance, his pains gained amplitude when the heaps grabbed his broken limbs and carried him towards the dock. It happened that two fishing boats had just arrived with the night’s catch from the river’s inlet. As their vessels were not worthy of the lake, it was their custom to take the haul by ferry to Tanak’s fish mongers. They were tying to the dock the very moment Salasi became a screaming burden. They were from Ashum and knew Salasi. They also knew his mission. The moment of truth was broken by a gunshot from the ferryman. The bullet missed but the dye was cast. Two of the fishermen had lost children to the Goggeroi and such men did not exist in the hinterland without the merit of martial valor. Without knowing the strength of their opponents, they charged while the ferryman reloaded, armed only with the blades of their trade and two bows. The three shadows immediately withdrew behind the fourth who stood with outstretched arms after removing his cloak. A bowman loosed an arrow that struck the uncloaked mountain dead center in the chest but had no effect other than to enrage what the crystallizing twilight revealed as not a man at all, but a creature so gruesome even the ferryman dropped his gun when he heard its fearsome yowl. It was then too late for life. The Wermid set about the business of turning men into garbage with ferocious efficiency; even catching the two bowmen who had jumped ship into the water. These were the last. He brought them to heel on the dock, dropping them like pitifully squealing rag dolls then proceeded with savage eviscerations afterwhich he threw the steaming organs into Salasi’s face. Salasi began babbling like a practiced imbecile. The Wermid’s coal black eyes were the last thing he remembered. The ferryman’s children were found alive in a hole beneath the house. Their parents’ remains however were scattered over the porch with an arrow embedded in the ferryman’s thigh. Salasi was discovered near naked and chewing grass in a gully behind the house. The Ashumite Chief ordered his men to burn the place to the ground and the site was abandoned. Salasi was taken to Shasum and tended by their healers. In a few days he was released to his wife’s care. He never spoke again. When questioned by elders he stared vacantly, as if he and they were not there. __________ “He has seen the depths of Shaitan,” said the Shepherd about a week later. “Allah is not finished with him,’ said Bapa, “otherwise the Guardians would not have spared him along with the infants. It will take years to complete this circle.” “What do you mean Bapa?” I asked. “The man found the prey, did he not? Is that not admirable?” Bapa Ono turned to face me squarely as if challenged. Then he spoke: “His disobedience to the law of majority rule among peers took the lives of six decent men and one woman, orphaned two children, and left more than twenty without fathers. His actions destroyed a ferry upon which we all depended for conveniences, and left his wife and children with a mute invalid as husband and father for whom we must provide. We are no closer to ending the evil than before. What he did was track Leviathan and draw him to our doorstep, for which I must now intercede and beg the mercy of God Almighty.” “I ask you to reflect Yusuf: Are these the results of an admirable deed? Which was the better price to pay as a warning for the sins of Ashum, the missing girl, or the lives of eight adults and subsequent suffering of several widows and twenty children?” The sheikh’s grim countenance belied his foreboding. He then addressed the young men. “Obedience to honored elders and concurrence with respected peers is absolutely required for your safety and the wellbeing of the community. When rightly ordered, such collective decisions are intuitively made under the guidance and protection of Allah’s messengers, including his prophets and angels. Salasi’s companions were duly warned by this intuitive process but he ignored the warning because of trust his own skills. If you do not understand this, your faith in Divine mercy is in question and gives Shaitan license to destroy the peace of Allah’s dominion in your life. This is the ‘peace’ of which Jesus spoke when he said ‘Belessed are the Peacemakers for they shall see God’. The experience of this this peace is the seeing of God.” “It is true that Salasi did what none of the elders would do and none of you could do. His courage, cunning, strength, and ability are indeed admirable, but they are set aside because of his disobedience and he has become of no use for the same cause, except as an object lesson and warning. On this you must reflect, for disobedience to righteous command always bears a grievous recompense. It is God’s law and cannot be escaped.” The Patriarch was then silent. A young man spoke in question. “If we are not permitted to pursue this hunt, are the murderers left without justice?’ “Recompense belongs to God and it must be given in due order from a defensive position, otherwise the aggression becomes a sin. I confess that the matter is my own fault for I interfered in an area of divine judgment against our neighbors in Ashum. They are not our brothers in faith and, as idolaters, they stand in grave opposition to heaven and harm continually overwhelms them. I enlarged the bounds of our thinking it might aid the Cause of Allah in the matter of their repentance. I was wrong and must repent. It is true that Salasi disobeyed the consensus of righteous men, but I sent him on a mission thaqt was not ordained of Yah’. It is my responsibility.” The wizened man continued: “We are hedged on all sides. Allah has returned one of our champions to near infancy and grinds our dignity to the dust of powerlessness against the forces of evil as a reminder of our collective vulnerability. Indeed, there are creatures only God can kill.” He paused. “Some of you will fight and die here; others will go abroad to another refuge, but as a people we are soon finished. The time of the Shasu has come to an end. This event marks the hour.” “Our task is to preserve the seed of Allah given into our dominion for we cannot win the war or wars that will soon follow. As for the recompense of which you inquire, the judgment of whatever horror visited the ferry that day belongs to Allah. If you do not believe me, talk to the hunter whose tongue has been tied by its reality. If any think they are greater than he, you have my permission to take up the trail,” whereupon Bapa rose and left. The fire consumed our thoughts. No one save the elders and their wives ever went to visit the Hunter.
THE MAGI TOWER
Discarding caution and filled with a self-appointed mission, Allepo found the Banyan Tree enclave but there was no passing through. He tried an aerial approach only to be rebuffed by thorns forming a dome-like roof between the forest canopy and floor that only the majestic trees penetrated. Like a cat sniffing a rat’s nest, he searched for a means of entry. At the dome’s nape he was returned to the sobriety of his creature-hood. There he met Bagru and his two hundred chameleons who presented as an angelic legion. Excepting cryptic breast plates that screened their begrimed hearts, they were an impressive troupe of enlightenment and could hardly be distinguished from the genuine. Arrayed in robes of dazzling pastels trimmed with gleaming pearl, the brilliance of the illusion swallowed Allepo’s token of heavenly glory. Overawed with insignificance, he knelt before the eminent enemies of God and men — a rather grave mistake in the divine scheme of things. Yamad was intrigued. According to rules of engagement he and Dakar kept a respectable distance to observe the temptation. Dakar and his forces deployed on one side of the dome, with Yamad and the Guardians of Songo and Marga on the other. The several recording spirits assigned to human and Zombie facsimiles were neutral and recognized as such by all, but warriors were an entirely different matter. Any martial demon worth a spark of damnation was eager to wound an angel under any circumstance, so the heavenly force never dropped its guard. The dome was inviolable unless a son of oil had entered against their will, which was most unlikely considering a multiplicity of safeguards. However, the Council of the Second Realm could order its destruction if national leadership made righteous supplication, which was even more unlikely. Bagru stepped forth, regally resplendent in the usual attire required for deception. After a moment of posturing, he spoke to the intimidated Allepo: “What seekest thou spirit?” “Deliverance and return to my former estate,” came the importuning reply. “You lie!” said Bagru. “You envy humans and desire your own advancement at their expense. Is this not so?” After a pause the guilt ridden, suitably cowed and failing heavenly being responded: “Yes my lord. Perhaps I have overstepped the bounds,’ “Your confession is of some value,” said Bagru, “but it is incomplete. What seekest thou in this place?” “Knowledge my lord; I was eager to meet these humans in their denser form, so I followed,” said Allepo. “Now thou seeest that some knowledge is forbidden until ye have passed the trial; are ye then prepared to proceed?” “Yes my lord, I am thy servant.” At this response Dakar’s grin seemed to exceed a third of a cubit. ‘This Bagru is excellent.” he thought. “I never could have pulled it off. The fool is about to give away free access to divine counsel and protection for the sake of curiosity…What genius—What idiocy.” Yamad was both stunned and impressed with the interrogator but not deceived by the breastplates. Nevertheless he was obligated to stand watch as the angel had not yet fallen. What came next was totally unexpected: the vanguard of two-hundred simply vanished leaving Bagru and Allepo alone. The unlikely pair began an ascent to the highland plateau and moved in the direction of Grandfather’s Gorge. Yamad had no option but to follow and left the two Guardians to their watch over the boys. At the northern end of the canyon, just before the second cataract, was a cave that served as mouth for one of the astral funnels he had seen during the sortie with Lothar. A tributary entered the cave’s dark entrance like the river Alpheus he recalled from his readings on ancient Danites in Arcadia. The funnel sluggishly churned its commerce of devouring and disgorging the shades of jinn and men. Bagru and Allepo entered the cave. Allepo had entered of his own will and thus gave no cause for Yamad’s interference. But the obligation to follow remained, so he elevated his shielding and entered the gateway. At that same moment, a woman, dragged in chains by two angels, preceded the trio. She was screaming indignantly, hurling curses and threatening the angels with the wrath of Amane. Bagru was deep in conversation with Allepo, gesticulating in her direction. Yamad, having never been to a lesser world or universe, was stunned by the sight of animoid faces imprisoned in the swirling walls of the funnel’s porous perimeter—each one desperately contorted and pressing inward; rising or descending with every churn of the forbidding conduit. As they descended, the odor and light became foul and dim, then putrid and dark; the only shimmer emanating from the nearly fallen Allepo and the lady’s escorts. They sank twice the distance between earth’s surface and stratosphere before another light was seen, all the while attended by the woman’s vulgar epitaphs. The air filled with unseen creatures and the surface gradually lost its astral haze giving way to a powdery brownish grit over which serpents slithered menacingly. Other protests like that of the woman’s came out of the dissipating mist, joined by the resonance of piteous echoes emanating from afar. A distant glimmer appeared; more like a lack of gloom with a dullish glow and shadowy leaps of flames. Suddenly, the woman stopped her remonstrations—her speech throttled by terror. An elevated path leading to the glimmer appeared. No ceiling availed itself save for an arc of the deepest darkness that swallowed all light. As far as eye could see, on either side of the path were evenly spaced pits, five feet wide by three feet deep, each one filled with burning coals—each one hosting a human captive. As the lady absorbed the unsparing terminus, her escorts registered their ward with the Guardian of the threshold. She stood like an effigy: mouth ajar, eyes wide, arms limp. Only her head moved ever so slowly, left to right and back again. One of the escorts passed a black crystal to the Guardian who passed it to a serpent that swallowed it then slithered down the pathway towards the horizon’s threat. The air reeked with putrefaction and acridity—of flesh and bone that no longer suffered annihilation. Dreadful dissolution preceded restoration of tissues that seemed anxious to deliver woe. Words cannot describe the pitious cries of the captives in each hollow. Dirt gray shadows were discernible within the bones of each caged soul along with unperturbed worms going about their business. Occasionally a soul attempted escape only to be brutally repelled by creatures that emerged from cocoon-like pillars. These were the size and likeness of brown bears with bat-like faces and wings. As if in a ginormous hall of carnival mirrors, the scene repeated itself endlessly in every direction. The woman slowly raised her left hand. Where once was smooth brown skin covering finely toned tendons of delicate hands adorned with splendid gems only crusted layers of decaying tissues wrapped the appendage, replete with hungry annelids. It was then she screamed the wail of all who abandon hope: “Nnnoooo-oooooohhh……. . . . . . . . . . Bagru and Allepo stood at the entrance affecting studious scrutiny and I’m sure the patronizing Pari had difficulty stifling his pleasure over Wenkele’s living nightmare. For nine-hundred odd years a divine promise had lain dormant under the refuse of her unspeakable crimes. Instead of the verdant vine she once was, an unabridged inversion emerged from beneath paps that should have nurtured blessing: a befouled mass of interminable ruination. Her pyrrhic heart would fill no more with innocent blood and forbidden delight. There was no escaping the unveiling, the apocalypse. She had died and gone to hell. There are nineteen gates to hell each with a Mighty Guardian whom none can withstand. This gate’s warden nodded assent as the death angels checked Wenkele’s name on his roster. He raised his left hand indicating the trail. The last moment of peace she would ever know was thus abruptly curbed. They lengthened her chains and commenced dragging the socereress to an incontestable end. A third mentor appeared wielding a barbed whip and began flogging her; each blow ripping immortally debased flesh to the bone. The Hall of Pits mirrored earth bound graves—both interred and not—which ties remain intact until the final day. The pit however, was far too good a purgatory for the likes of Wenkele as it was reserved for common murderers, thieves, slanderers, hypocrites, unforgiving souls, drunkards and decent folk who had mocked God’s grace and provision with insincere mouthings at requisite social venues. All awaited the ‘Day of Judgment’ in respective berths of suffering which, I am told, the living might hear or even see under certain conditions at graveside vigils; not that I recommend such awakenings. In this third of seven Parallel Realms, hell was laid out as a gargantuan mass of dark energy and matter in unseen reaches of the Samawat where all was negatively charged by divine wrath and absolute absence of grace. The funneled entrance at the far end of the canyon led to an inter-dimensional vortex that transported the damned from earth’s belly after death; buried and not. A further six gradations of torment remained under which Wenkele’s room was reserved at its nadir. Her wages were due. The journey had just begun. The desire of all who dabble with what Allah hid and forbid was fulfilled therein according to the monumental effort she had made for its attainment. Caravans of incrementally damned humans and jinn lined the trail for nearly fifty miles in length amid the pitted landscape that never varied except for occasional flame filled hollows minus a tenant. Much like roadside grottoes, these were reserved for the sport of encouraging reticent pilgrims to rejoin the march. One could generally judge the prior estate of a new arrival by the number of assigned escorts. Most had one or two. But those of particularly wicked status were usually in the company of three or more, and as the trail thinned towards the far horizon, these comprised the majority. A King of Somaliland, for example, had five such attendants in addition to a black-maned lion who savaged him at leisure. A British Duke traveled with seven, three of whom were gruesome clown-like creatures who laughed as they danced about piercing him with the gilded swords he had prized in life. All in all, the journey to Hell’s nadir was an educational experience for Allepo and Yamad. The Belly of Hell is reserved for intelligencia who expected to slide into heaven—those who balanced repetitive sin with good works—many of whom consciously followed false doctrines for earthly gain. I believe Shiekh Hanbal said they were the ones who ‘sold their religion,’ or something to that effect. There was an especial condominial reserve for others who practiced the black arts, where each sectarian coven deserved its own neighborhood. Hell’s torments are highly specialized and specific according to the iniquitous propensities of tenants in vivo. Pharaohs and such, for example, endlessly built tombs, palaces and cities with the aid of flog-happy gaffers while suffering the privations of thirst, hunger, and exposure to the flaming discomforts of a generally odious environment. When each project is completed, the entire structure is demolished for the purpose of immediate reconstruction. Idolatrous prelates and such are the focus of devotees of gladiatorial prowess who practice dismemberment, attenuated exsanguinations, experimental skin debridements, internal organ explorations and so forth, but there’s simply too much to relate without straying needlessly from our tale. Finally brought before Shaitan, Wenkele imprudently demanded that he inform Prince Amane of the error. The Prince however, rose and said: “I am Amane.” “Impossible! Amane promised me a millenium of life followed by an eternal kingdom with him. I served him faithfully … why am I here? What have I done wrong?” asked the damned vixen. “You served me well and in so doing have earned a proportionate portion of divine disfavor. Your respite is over. God has placed you at the unremitting disposal of my equally damned servants.” By now the pitiful remnant of a woman was reduced to a dirty shadow within a charred frame prepared to carry on with earthly arrogance. The Shaitan cut her short with a mere gesture that threw her so violently her left arm was torn off by its chain. Her flesh restored itself as three newly assigned escorts lifted her to a stone and proceeded to assault every orifice with serrated phalli. A fourth beast opened her and carelessly removed the black lump that served as a heart, holding it high with shouts of triumph to a crowd that appeared out of the shadows, many of whom were pupils and victims of her ministry, invited to the macabre initiation. The mob’s tumult muted her screams as she was unceremoniously disemboweled then dragged by her lovers to a cell that would house her for eternity: a relatively comfortable oven built into the wall of a circular tower with tiers of similar accommodation extending from top to bottom for some seventy odd miles, all of which were occupied by former members of the occult. This Magi Tower is reserved for Satan’s human polity—there are others. The rooms are small, stark, stoked with ignited other-worldly coals, sturdily barred, locked, personally guarded, and completely without amenities except that some inmates have the displeasure of endlessly reviewing major crimes from the victim’s perspective complete sensorial empathy, while others view fond memories of what might otherwise have been eternal bliss; depending on what would psychologically cause the most torment. Wenkele was provided with an incombustible rocking chair—more like a grill—and a rag doll facsimile from her childhood. She sat behind the bars where she rocked and roasted in perfect agony, able to think lucidly; acutely aware of every nerve that continually conducted discomfort; disconsolately ensconced on a throne of woe while her husband sluiced London and the Wermid enjoyed the comforts of her Tanakian Estate. Her only consolation rested in knowing that they too would meet their fate in this hotel. Then she remembered. “It was the tea. That damned British assistant poisoned me.” Only then did it strike her that she had surrounded herself with people and spirits who could never be trusted. They caught her completely off-guard, being exhausted from the jungle trek with Marga. She remembered Razel handing her the tea after she placed the stricken young man in his cage. After a few sips she attended to Songo’s rescue from the bouda-men, then finished the tea and sat in her rocking chair. The next thing she knew she was in the funnel enroute to the Magi Tower. “It wasn’t fair,” she thought. Then, once again, she shrieked the shriek of the damned. ______________________ CHAPTER ELEVEN THE ROUND HOUSE Oladuso found his way to the Round House as prophesied. He was given one meal at sunset consisting of rice porridge and a slice of bread and forbidden to talk to anyone. He had only water to drink. Nevertheless, compared to Songo he was in pretty good kip. His father told him not to come out until he had decided his penance. School assignments were delivered daily and the only diversion he had was the Book of Psalms by David. He had three days to decide, otherwise, his father would cane him in public. The pressure was on by the end of day two. He didn’t know what reparation would suffice and no one seemed to care about Marga and Songo. He had no idea of what was being done. He couldn’t sleep and on the second night, sometime after midnight, a light appeared in the center of the room. There stood Allepo with what was left of his glory, looking ever so kindly and sympathetic. “Do not fear, Oladuso. I am sent to comfort and advise you in this hour of trial,” said the little specter. “You’ve been chosen to help the missing children. Yah is concerned and requires your assistance as a test of faith.” “Who are you?” asked the boy. “I am Allepo of the Fourth Realm, a servant of the Guardians of Yah over the Shasu.” “How can I—not yet a man—be of use if restrained?” asked the boy. “I will guide you but tell no one of my visit. Follow my direction and all will be well,” said the spirit. “Tell your father you will fast and remain in the roundhouse for one week more as your penance. I will visit by night to instruct you on the path of this trial,” he said; then he vanished. Oladuso was a bit puzzled but he had had prior commerce with angels in dreams. Being somewhat comforted was able to sleep. In the morning he announced his penance to Maldu bin Safa. As a sign of acceptance his father gave no reply and the boy remained where he was, anxiously awaiting instruction from Allepo. When ben Ono had returned from Ashum after the demise of Creola, he called a Council meeting during which Oladuso related all that had happened in the wood. The boy was soberly rebuked and sent to the roundhouse. The elders then deliberated over their course of action. They decided the problem was complex enough to justify a fast and supplication for three days. On the fourth day they reconvened after morning prayer. The Seer was first to speak: “The tide of The Hunter’s horror has returned. I pray Allah we disperse our seed abroad in a timely manner.” Always brief and to the point, he then sat down. The Statesman then spoke: “The British influence and power cannot be withstood. Their cause prospers in the North, West and East, and our enemies have plans to exploit mineral rights in Taroaz. They require most of the valley for depot, processing and transport preparation, and will stop at nothing in its acquisition. Should we remain, we will initially be overwhelmed by intruders and eventually enslaved. Our life ways and environment will be ruined. Knowing we will not treat with them we must also acknowledge we have no allies strong enough to help us withstand them. Furthermore, the national will is that we are sacrificed for the benefit of wealth they do not realize will be stolen. And there is another factor: while the Menelek pretender plays war with Italians, the Lion’s Paw turns the tide of Egypt and Sudan in its favor. If we remain and submit, those who survive will be absorbed in the iniquity.” The Teacher then spoke: “Soon Islam’s pretense of unity will fall and bring all out war. In addition, the proxy leaders of several regions represent agencies that will alienate traditional folkways. This will lead to religious reactionism of the most dangerous kind. We cannot protect the next generation from this and as an independent agrarian based community we are completely at odds with their goals. We also have too great a name to go unchallenged by the growing central authority.” “But there is more: though the authorities have kept a respectable distance we have no defensible claim to valuable land belonging to an insolvent crown beset with fantasy and conflict. The King requires funds for consolidation and reconstruction, and for that he will bow to the British. Hence, I stand with the Seer, it is time to disperse.” The Shepherd then spoke: “Our alliances with local tribes are tenuous. When united by propaganda and superstition, they will easily turn as we have just witnessed. The call of their Shamans is a force that must be considered in concert with the encroachments of greater colonial powers. Their god and creed are one. Creola’s death as pretext is but a small example. They will turn against us out of hatred and envy.” “We will be accused of murdering their children and there will be no friendship found when their ranks follow heathenish rage and vacuous survival. Even those who know we are innocent will join for the sake of their skin. Politicians will stir them against us and against each other to thin all ranks to manageable numbers. Their people are far too feeble minded to withstand such a storm and will turn with the wind, all but a few.” “Muslim friends in the north repel the French for the sake of Britiah gold. Their Imams are in league with Black Guelphs as speaks the example of Cairo’s Mufti, an Initiate and Grand Master of their lodge. Except for Libya’s Sanusi, a few Somalian and Yemeni, we stand alone.” The Shepherd was then silent. “The Mufti has returned to the faith of Pharaoh has he?” asked ben Ono. The Statesman answered: “I’m afraid it is true Ben Ono. The commoner cannot comprehend the iniquity but I’m afraid their gentry and many of The Book have secretly succumbed to the deception. They unwittingly follow the Asiatic Brethren; Gnostics who gave rise to the Templars. Then the Patriarch spoke: “Only Yah can stop them but that war will follow after Isa’s return. They will skirmish to test our resolve and strength, so we must use what time we have to best advantage. Some of us are too settled and will not leave, but we have no choice but to compel the younger generation to depart. Mark then those who will go. As for those who remain, prepare them for war and death.” “What of the old?” asked the Shepherd. “Our enemies will have no quarter. Prepare them,” was the reply. “Make ready the exodus. Outwardly we continue as normal. You will instruct your people individually and hold them accountable to silence in the matter. Anyone wishing to speak to me privately may do so.” After the meeting, ben Ono called me aside: “Go to Ashum and speak with the Hunter. He will listen to you. Tell him I need his help, he will come. Then prepare for a journey to Sheba.” I immediately protested the trip abroad. “Hear me out my friend. Do you remember Mukhtar bin Adad whom we visited on our long journey home?” “Yes. The Sheik with the ebony stallions near Irem,” I answered. “He tires of throwing stones in the valley. He will not remember you so give him these prayer beads. Tell him I said ‘it is time’ and return with all speed. The Hunter will go with you. I will persuade him.” Two days later, Salasi and I departed. He remained relatively mute but his wit and skills were as keen as ever. The journey took three months in circuit. But before we left we dealt with the fate of Marga. Salasi had never taken his eye off from Ruba after noting his boots had the same green laces of one of the ‘dark heaps’ who menaced him at the ferry massacre. He had stalked him over the years and learned much about slavers and other matters concerning the dome. This intelligence, when added to Oladuso’s testimony and Ruba’s behavior during the current crisis, was enough to obtain ben Ono’s permission. Ruba was a thrifty fellow and had made his own plan for the boy. Eunuchs were in demand from Baghdad to the Magrib and brought a pretty price. So with Songo on hand as the virginal dish, after dispatching Wenkele, her assistant, Razel, administered anti-venom and sedatives enough to allow Ruba to remove Marga’s manhood with relative ease, after which he contacted slavers. The boy had seen too much and would need to disappear anyway. The Warlock merely exercised an entrepreneurial option. But Marga could not travel for three days; otherwise, he would bleed to death. Salasi knew the slavers had been contacted and when their messenger arrived at the Ashum village, we followed. They took the western trail around Lake Tana to the cottage of a cane grower where Ruba had taken his gelding. The lad was sick with fever from his wound however, and a dispute arose as we lay in wait. They finally settled on a price and departed with their ill burden and us in pursuit. We struck when they had camped for the night. There were three men plus the messenger who ran like the devil during the scuffle. We took no hostage and left the bodies for scavengers as a sign for others. The next morning Ruba sat with the Chief when we returned Marga to his uncle along with six ears and three noses. Our goal was to send a message and cause tension between Ruba and his Tanakian pact. Bapa Ono hoped to rekindle the alliance or at least gain a truce with the Chief in order to buy time for the Shasu exodus. Ruba’s glower held the promise of contest known instinctively to mortal enemies and the scowl did not go unnoticed by the Chief. Marga meanwhile, became far too ill to speak, and, as it turned out, was unable to give any details of his ordeal and died. But by then, Salasi and I were on our way to the Yemen and Oladuso was on his way out of the Round House.
Maldu bin Safa, the curiously gifted, was not immune to the twilight visits of Allepo. The spirits he had seen since childhood never spoke with him nor he with them; save for one. Neither did he control his peculiar extra-sense as it operated whimsically and was independent of his will. Over the years he did learn to accommodate both seen and ‘seen-unseen’ life forms to his normal routine of shoe making and made neither boast of the matter nor saught advantage. It was just something that happened. However, he had become skilled at discerning a shade’s allegiance according to astral outline and color. This had taken many years of observation and association and he was greatly relieved to behold fewer evil specters since coming to Shasum. Bin Safa was a Havilite of the Ubar tribe from the line of Shem by way of King Da’ud’s cherished Shunamite woman; a tribe that had produced people with the endowment for nearly four millennia. He was also once a slave in the service of Mukhtar bin Adad, who gave him to Ben Ono on the pass through Sheba some twenty years before. Of the many shades he had seen, he admitted that Allepo was the most peculiar. There was something not quite right in his color and bin Safa was unable to classify him according to the much learned criteria. Therefore—and for no other reason—he mistrusted him. Usually, a jinni in service to Iblis was discernible by a faint outline that delimited the astral border. This was lacking in Allah’s messengers (angels) but Allepo’s border fringe wavered: sometimes present, sometimes not. Also, the color of the breast was not quite right as on occasion he discerned a vague dimming towards the center. The clincher was this: Allepo never acknowledged bin Safa’s gaze, which was foreign to his experience of heavenly creatures. Bin Safa informed his father of the visits. As you might imagine, such a talent is best left undisclosed to those who lack wisdom. Bapa Ono was not surprised. Events had robbed him of sleep and he was often seated on his veranda at midnight seeking wisdom. From there, the roundhouse was visible and he easily observed the boy’s doings. Things were afoot he did not comprehend. Surely he had followed the ways of his fathers, but there was something amiss that he failed to comprehend and the tenor of these midnight visitations unsettled him. As an afterthought, Maldu Bin Safa reminded him of the prophecy: “When wind and child stray, behold, a stranger will slay the beast and raise the morning star.” ‘Perhaps it is time?’ he thought, but he didn’t have the key to unlock the mystery. It occurred to him that ‘the stranger’ might have the key. ‘Who then is this stranger?’ he pondered. There was naught to do but wait and watch. Meanwhile, the matter of Oladuso’s mysterious consultations required delicate handling. With penance done, the boy was received by his father at a ‘family only’ supper, to re-instate him in their circle and honor his repentance. After the meal, when the women had withdrawn, came a knock at the door. Bapa opened and the Shepherd asked permission for the elders to enter, saying: “We have heard that a new man was recently born to this house and would like to meet him.” This perplexed no one but Oladuso who sat dumbfounded looking about the room, seeing no one else but his older brothers. One by one the elders entered and sat on the floor. As was the custom, the boys retired to the periphery. However, the Seer told Oladuso to sit by him. The women then returned, bringing coffee and sweets. When all were served, they too remained. Silence reigned for a moment and then the Teacher spoke to the Seer: “Who is this new man that sits by you my brother?” “Ah,” said the Seer, “he is someone to admire.” ‘Why so?’ asked the Shepherd. “When alone in the wood, he saw danger and did not run. When confronted by his error he chose not to hide. When asked for the truth, he spoke plainly. When paying the price of disobedience, he did so without complaint,” said the Seer. “Such a man is to be trusted with greater responsibility,” responded the Teacher. “This is so,” said the Statesman “but he requires instruction. Which of you will take him under your wing?” One by one they all responded: “Not I, for he is not of my heart” — all but the Statesman. “What is this?” asked the Statesman, looking intently at Oladuso, “Am I the one you choose to follow?” The boy shifted ever so slightly then spoke: “If you will have me and if it pleases my father, then yes. It is my desire to be as thee.” “I have need of a chamberlain and secretary. Am I to understand correctly that you speak the local dialects as well as Arabic and English?” “Yes sir.” “Then it is done, unless Bapa Ono objects.” “I have no protest, said the Patriarch, “let him walk with thee until he is full and prepared to marry.” They carried on as if there were no crisis; as if Allah would somehow continue their enterprise despite its Pariending demise. Knowing he would die, ben Ono gave his youngest son in adoption to the Statesman. But there is more. Ben Ono knew he would have great difficulty in broaching the matter of Oladuso’s nocturnal visitor and the Statesman was the perfect man for the job. That night, Oladuso slept undisturbed in his father’s house for the last time. In the morning, the women packed his belongings and Ben Ono took him away. Isana wept. The parting of father and son strengthens each differently: if the old man has done well, he is released for other work as the young man seeks his own. Ben Ono’s last words to his son were akin to what follows: “Love Yahweh with your mind, strength and heart, stand clear of lust and remain pure as the sun, sleep little and work much, study diligently so your thoughts are established like mountains, and keep away from things that bring shame. If you do all of these, you will succeed.” The next time Oladuso saw his father, he closed his eyes in death.
[i] Mubahala literally meaning ‘mutual prayer’ (Arabic: مباهلة Cursing) or Li’an (Arabic: لعان) but in Islamic tradition it refers to a form of resolving religious disputes. When the argumentations from both sides fail to resolve a religious issue, the parties jointly pray God to cast his curse on whichever of the two parties is false. Since curse means ‘moving someone far away from the divine mercy’ [hence, the ‘Gulf’ of the Curse upon Cain’s Children] and moving far away from mercy is being close to divine wrath [reprobation, being given over to demonically inspired delusion]—therefore, the essence of the meaning is: Wrath be on the liar. As such, whoever is the liar shall face the evil consequences whereupon the truth will become evident before the disbelievers as well. Many times Mubahala is a kind of ordeal which instigation or call to the ordeal may be more important than execution of it.
[i] It is used in a list of enemies inscribed on column bases at the temple of Soleb built by Amenhotep III. Copied later by either Seti I or Ramesses II at Amarah-West, the list mentions six groups of Shashu: the Shasu of S’rr, the Shasu of Lbn, the Shasu of Sm’t, the Shasu of Wrbr, the Shasu of Yhw, and the Shasu of Pysps.
Hasel, Michael G. (2003). “Merenptah’s Inscription and Reliefs and the Origin of Israel” in Beth Alpert Nakhai ed. The Near East in the Southwest: Essays in Honor of William G. Dever, pp. 19–44. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 58. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research. ISBN 0-89757-065-0
Hasel, Michael G. (1994). “Israel in the Merneptah Stela,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 296, pp. 45-61.
[i] “And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman” (Num. 12.1). Zipporah, his Midianite wife (Exodus 2.15-22) was a descendant of Abraham through his wife Keturah.
Moses married a Nubian princess named Barthis (or Barthees) after a military campaign at Kerma, where she watched the battle from the wall and fell in love with him. He must have been only 18 or 20 years old at the time, and she was probably 15 or 17. She would therefore have preceded Zipporah, whom he met only after he fled to Midian at the age of 40. It seems unlikely that as an Egyptian prince, Moses would have remained unmarried till about the age of 40. Zipporah seems to have been his second wife, which was quite legitimate for the Hebrews. (King David too had several wives and concubines. The concept of monogamy only emerged with Christianity). No further mention is made of the Nubian wife, and the sudden problem about his “Ethiopian” wife only erupts after the Israelis have crossed the Red Sea into Midian. Christians who are uncomfortable about Moses having more than one wife seem to forget that the Old Testament is about Judaism, not Christianity. Though closely related, they are not the same religion.
– RALPH JOSEPH-MIRANI
Tempest and Exodus
By Ralph Ellis
[ii] Numbers 12:1,9-15:
Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman). So the anger of the LORD burned against them and He departed. But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous.
Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned. “Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb!”
Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!”
But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.”
So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.
[iii] The Midianites were a dark-skinned people often called Kushim, the Hebrew word used to describe dark skinned Africans.
See: Ex. 18:2; David M. Goldenberg. The curse of Ham: race and slavery in early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, chapter 8. Pg 124
[i] SATANISM: AN EXAMINATION OF SATANIC BLACK MAGIC Globusz® Publishing New York • Berlin, retrieved 6 Nov 09 http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/Satanism/00000010.htm