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Volume III
TITLE ~ Queen of Heaven: The Life and Times of Mary Magdelene

Chapter 40

     She looked up from her writing.

     Yeshua stood before her. At first she was shocked at his appearance, for she had been writing his words as she remembered them at that moment. She had, for some time written a number of her recollections about their father for Sarai and Avikai. She had devoted time to teaching them both Greek and Latin, some Kemetic and the Parthian Aramaic. They knew three names for everything, and she taught them from an early age that different people described the same flower or stone by different names. She spoke to them mostly in Greek, for she detested Latin as it was the official Imperial language, even though most Romans wrote in Greek.

     They happily learned the proper names for each and every object, and if Miri revealed only one or two names, they would clamour for other names, and they quite happily asked if their were more than three names, and if she knew them, she added their Hindu names, though she knew only general words for many objects, and Yusef, the camel driver, now their houseboy, taught them Nabatean. In the afternoon when the sun was at his fiercest, they sat in the cool shade of a great acacia, engaged in sewing, embroidery, weaving, or any number of tasks, but Miri taught the twins, and Yusef, who had no scholling, reading, writing and arithmetic. And they would all at some point decide it was time for a nap.

     That day, as the others slept, Yeshua looked South and pointed to the source of the Nile. Miri recovered from her surprise at seeing Yeshua, and stood up to reach out and embrace Yeshua, but he had no substance, and was there in spirit only. He who was before her, now stood behind. “You can no longer touch me!” he whispered in her ear. She could feel his breath on her ear and shivered and the words formed within her head as he spoke them. For a moment he took possession of her and she shivered in delight. As they joined together, the world about her seemed to change and revolve about them, and her thoughts embraced the world and became them. A wave of ecstasy swept over them, and she no longer though of herself in terms of “I” or “me”, but “we”. And the ‘we” expanded to include her family and her neighbours, and she embraced them all and wrapped her arms about the world.

     “Who are you talking to, Mommy?” asked Avikai.

     She snapped out of her vision, and looked down at her son. His eyes were so beautiful and full of innocence, she swept him into her arms and felt as though her heart would burst. “Your father!” she whispered.

     “Is her here?” asked Akivai, his eyes peering about. “Behind the bush?”

     Miri laughed, “No!” she spun him about. “He is everywhere!”

     “Is he God?” asked Akivai, for he had heard that God was everywhere.

     “No, but he is everywhere that god is,” she told him.

     “Then I can speak to him?” asked Akivai.

     “Of course!”

     “Will he speak to me?”

     Miri frowned, and was at a loss to answer. She stared out over the western horizon as if the answer was just beyond the edge of her world, but in the same instant realized the answer was in it.

     “If I am angry with you, do I need to speak?”

     Avikai smiled wickedly for he was aware of Miri’s volatile nature. “Your face is an open book, Mama!” he said mischievously, and he mimicked her displeasure by placing his hands impatiently on his hips and glaring at her.

     She laughed at herself reflected in her son.

     “He can’t put his hands on his hips like your Mama,” she said, “Somewhere about you, you will see the signs.”

     “Like the birds?” asked Avikai.

     “The birds?” asked Miri, thinking instantly of auguries by the ancients who watched the movements of birds to tell the future.

     “When the cat is about!” said Avikai, “They fly to another perch! I can’t always see the cat, but I know she’s there when the birds scatter!”

     “Exactly like the cat!” said Miri. “Her presence is revealed by the movement about her.”

     “I’m hungry!” said Avikai, and they set about making a snack for themselves and the others still sleeping.

     A sudden noise in the middle of the night woke them all. Miri instantly gathered the twins under her robes. The entire household had been sleeping on the roof of the house. Yusef the younger peered over the parapet to the courtyard gate.

     “There is someone there!” he whispered.

     The sound of a disgruntled camel split the stillness of night.

     “Moses!” said Yusef excitedly, and he flew down the stairs to let Moses and Yusef the elder.

     Lamps were lit and everyone scurried about, and Yusef, out of breath, wasted no time on formalities.

     “You must leave!” he said, “You have been betrayed, and Imperial troopers are on their way to seize you and the twins!”

     Sarai clung to her mother, and Miri lifted her up to give herself some mobility, then handed her to Yusef, for she had belongings to pack. She cleared her scrolls from the writing desk and called Avikai to hold open a sack. He ran to her aid, and stood as she packed the sack with scrolls and her writing boxes. Martha already had cleared a stone shelf of herbs and some bread loaves and was bundling food.

     Sarai demanded to be let down, and Yusef kissed her and she immediately ran into the garden and from the sound of smashing pottery, she had retrieved the money sack from its burial spot in the garden. For a moment, Miri stopped to acknowledge her little girl’s quickness of thought, and thanked the Great Mother she had such bright children. Though they had never experienced a fugitive life, they instantly acted in concert with the others.

     A growing rumble made them all stop to listen. The sound was unmistakeable. War chariots!

     “Take the boat!’ shouted Yusef the Younger, “Moses and I will give them a run for their money!” He lept onto Moses and kicked him hard, and cried a triumphant “Ya! Ya! Ya!” and with two stokes of a switch of willow, Moses roared in anger and jumped into a gallop. Yusef steered the camel directly at the distant chariots until he was sure they could see him, then whirled Moses about, and charged away from the farm and towards the Eastern desert.

     Gathering their bundles, Yusef the Elder, Miri, Martha, Saria and Avikai ran through the garden to the canal where a reed boat was moored. Though it was severely overloaded, and the water lapped at the boat and seeped into the hull, they floated silently from their home. Miri and Yusef paddled quietly, and Martha handed the children two pots with which to bail out the water seeping in.

     Moses ran like the wind, and within moments. The camel thundered into the sands at the edge of the Sinai. He wheeled as he found a large stretch of sand and Moses changed his step to match the new surface, but slackened his speeed only slightly. But as the horses and chariots hit the sand, they bogged down, and the horses quickly ran out of wind, and the Captain of the Horse called a halt.

     One of the charioteers near the rear called out.

     “There is a boat!”

     Miri had hauled up the sail, and the winds blowing from the North carried them upriver.

     “Where will we go?” asked Sarai.

     “Meroway!” said Miri, her heart racing, “The Land of the Kandake!”

     As the night closed in about them, Miri suddenly felt the dangers of travelling at night along the Nile. Crocodiles! She immediately felt exposed and fearful for her children, and felt that at any moment a huge maw bristling with teeth would open up bebeath them and swallow them whol, but thankfully, they passed without incident. They stopped in Memphis at the head of the delta to find another boat to take them south, but could only hire a boat as far as Per Medjeb. The man spoke Kemetic and for that reason alone, Miri hired him. His name clinched the deal. Neferhabhat in Kemetic meant Pure of Heart, and thankfully he lived up to his name.

     Miri told him they were on a pilgimage to Philae, though even speaking the name of the community there made her uncomfortable. Neferhabhat was delighted he was ferrying pilgrims to Philae.

     “The old ways are dying!” he said wistfully. “I would that you could do me a favour?”

     “Name it!” said Miri.

     Neferhabhat “Deliver my prayer to Auset when you reach Philae!”

     His request put her in a difficult situation. To deliver his prayer, she would have to enter the temple. And there, she was sure she would be recognized. He noticed her hesitation.

     “I shall refund half your passage!” he said, suddenly concerned that a situation to send a prayer to Auset at the source of the Nile would be lost. He owed his living to the great river and he wanted to repay that debt.

     “I shall pass your prayer to the Queen of Heaven,” promised Miri.

     “Tell her this,” said Neferhabhat, “I, Neferhabhat, give thanks to Auset, for without her, I would not be!”

     “I, Neferhabhat, give thanks to Auset for without her, I would not be!”

     “In Philae!”

     “Is that all?” Miri asked in surprise for the prayer seemed awfully short.

     “What more is there?” asked Neferhabhat.

     Miri shrugged.

     “I shall do my best!”

     Neferhabhat did not notice the conditional answer she had given him, and she felt guilty, for all her being cried out not to fulfil her promise to him, and already she was thinking of ways to avoid it. He did not notice her turmoil and turned happily to guiding his boat to Oxyrhinchus. He insisted they stay with his family. He moored his boat at his brother’s house, but he lived further inland with his wife’s family, and he left them by a well as he went ahead to prepare the way for them to visit. An old man sat on a stone wall nearby to collect a fee for the water.

     As they sat by the well, Sarai and Akivai ran to examine the well. Miri immediately joined them to prevent their curiosity from causing them to tumble into the dark shaft. She placed a hand firmly over their belts as they leaned over and peered into the well. As they stared into the inky blackness, a young woman arrived to draw water for her sheep. The familiarity of the task comforted Miri, and she asked if she could help.

     The girl was polite enough to allow the stranger to draw the water, but she did not feel comfortable doing so. She spoke to the old man to make sure he would not charge her the fee for tourists, but would allow her the credit he extended to her family, and after a brief conversation returned to instruct the strangers on how to water the flock, but was pleased when the beautiful woman already knew how to water the animals, and handled the dipper like a true shepherdess. She laughed as the children turned an arduous task into play. She interceded only once when too much water was spilled, and, as she took the bucket from Sarai, she explained that water from a well was sacred, and must not be wasted, but by that time the flock was watered, so they sat and she spoke to them about the well.

     “This is the Well of the Seven Sisters,” she said, “And the well was a gift of Horus to them.”

     “Seven Sisters?” asked Miri, “The daughters of Hathor?”

     “The seven Het-Heru!” replied the shepherdess, “In those days they were cattle, and at the birth of Heru, for seven days, they supplied milk for the young god. And when the child was hungry he suckled from their teats. On the first day, from the first cow, he received the scepter of the Universe, and she was transformed as a beautiful woman shining in bright raiments, and he named her Lady of the Universe. On the second day, he suckled from the second cow and after drinking his fill, he received the power over the rains, and she, too, was transformed as a beautiful woman in shining raiments, and he named her Sky-Storm.

     On the third day, the third cow suckled the young prince and from her he received power over death and the wisdom of those who pass to the Western Desert, and she, too, was transformed as a beautiful woman, and he named her Lady of the Silent Land. The forth to suckle the king, gave him the power of Min that his seed would take root in the womb of the Earth, and as she changed to human form, he named her Lady of Khemmis.

     On the fifth, day, she who suckled Heru, and from her, he received dominion over the Red Land, and was transformed into a beautiful red-haired woman, and he named her Red-Hair. The sixth suckled the young god, and from her he received the blood of his mother Het-Heru, and the power over death that he might be reborn, and he named her the Crimson Lady.

     And then on the seventh day, he suckled from the seventh cow and received knowledge of all that is fashioned by hand that he would want for nothing, and that which had not existed could be brought into being, and she was transformed and called Your Name Flourishes Through Skill.

     But their transformation waned over the first year of the new child, and they called out to Heru, and the land dried up from their want, and Heru called upon Hapi the god of the Nile to bring them water, and Hapi obeyed the new lord and swelled wide and full, and they drank of the waters of the Nile, and were returned to their human form. But again the following year, they thirsted again, and they became as cattle and Heru called upon Hapi, but Hapi was not ready, and to save his benefactrices, Heru assigned the people of Kemet to bring the seven Het-Heru water, but the people who served them were struck by the worm from the Nile, and to save them from the scourge, the Seven Sisters called out to Heru that their servants be spared, and he caused a well to appear so that the water they drank would carry no pestilence. And that they never thirst, he made them immortal and placed them in the constellation of Apis, the Bull, so that they could watch over the people of the Land of Kemet to await the appearance of the star Sothis to declare that Hapi was ready to renew the Black Land.

     And whenever a child is born, the Seven Het-Heru attend the birth, and they pronounce its fate. The Seven Het-Heru know the future and the moment of death for every Egyptian. Your destiny depends on the hour of your death and the luck of ill-fortune was connected with it. No one is exempt from their pronouncements, not even the Pharaohs!” She leaned into the children and whispered, “It is said that the Het-Heru would exchange a prince born to ill-fortune with a more fortunate child, therefore protecting the dynasty and the nation.”

     She plucked at her hair and showed the children a red ribbon tied to her hair. “I wear this red hair-ribbon blessed by the Seven Het-Heru is used to ward of the jiin, and bind dangerous spirits and render them harmless. Because they must decide the life of the child at birth, they are also called upon for help in affairs of love, and to protect us from evil spirits.”

     “I want one!” said Sarai.

     “So do I!” cried Akivai, and the shepherdess laughed.

     “I have no ribbon!” declared the shepherdess, “but I shall fetch some before your leave!” At that she bade them farewell, and walked away. She had no need to herd her charges for they followed her faithfully.

     Both Saria and Akivai were excited by her visit, and they clapped their hands in anticipation of receiving a red ribbon from the strangess. The heat of the sun guided them to the shade of acacias nearby, and they waited there for the return of Neferhabhat.

     As they sat, Martha and the children fell asleep. Miri stared tearfully down at her niece and her children in their innocence, and she wished a world existed where they could remain so. How could they kill such children in the name of greed? For what else drives the powerful than to have more than their own fair share of the bounty of the Goddess.

     “We are a cruel and thoughtless race!” she whispered through her tears.

     Neferhabhat arrived to bring them to his home. A splendid meal of loaves and fishes was spread for them, and as they sat down, the shepherdess arrived with cheese. She was a niece of Neferhabhat, and her sisters, six of them, arrived with cooked oats and lentils, each with a dish, and between them, several jars of beer. Their supper became a wonderful party, and many of the neighbours from round about came to join the celebration.

     Sarai and Akivai were delighted when the shepherdess tied red ribbons of Het-heru into their curly black hair. “This ribbon is for the gift of Fortune,” she whispered as she tied a ribbon to Sarai. One of her sisters tied another to Akiva, and they all joined in tying the sacred ribbons of Het-Heru to the youngsters’ hai. Miri recognized the looped knot as the knot of Auset, that mimicked the torus topography of the Ankh. Her heart swelled at the blessings bestowed upon her children, but as the last sister tied the final knot, a young man, disheveled and out of breath burst into the courtyard.

     “The Romans are coming!” he shouted, “On chariots!”

     Screams and cries immediately burst from the celebrants and some scranbled to the gate, and sure enough, through the tress, a cloud of red dust rose above the tree tops announcing the approach of the Romans.

     “This way!” whispered the shepherdess to Miri and Martha who had immediately flown to the side of the twins. They gathered their belongings and called Yusef. As they fled the house, Miri suddenly realized she had left her scrolls behind.

     “My papers!” she cried and turned back to rescue her papers. Martha grabbed her firmly and pulled Miri forward.

     “There is no time!” she said fiercely.

     The Romans had already reached the house of Neferhabhat, and several hands pointed towards Miri and her friends. The Romans wasted no more time at the house and immediately the chariots thundered down the road. The fugitives followed the shepherdess along a road between date palms and irrigated barley fields. In panic, they crowded together to cross a plank laid over a small irrigation ditch. Once cross, the shepherdess lifted the plank and threw it into grass beside the field.

     The Romans were bearing down on them, They skirted the edge of the field as their passage through the crop would reveal their path, and then across another ditch. The Romans were forced to pursue them on foot, as there was no bridge large enough to accommodate their chariots, but they arranged to regroup further into the desert by taking the horses by another route. The chariots wheeled about to head off the fugitives before they reached the desert.

     But they did not flee to the desert. They had dropped into a ditch and crawled though the mud and water like crocodiles and swam their way to the River Nile. There, they found a small skiff, and the shepherdess hereded them into it, and untied the boat, and pushed them out into the stream.

     “Use the sail!” she said, for she knew their only escape was to the south.

     Saria began to cry as Yusef and Miri unfurled and hoisted the sail. It seemed once again they had eluded their captors, just as the sun was dipping into the western horizon, the soldiers pursuing them had found a road alongside the river, and now kept pace with the boat. The horses though could not keep pace with the constant wind, and the pursuers soon had to give up the chase and set up stakes for the night.

     The boat bumped the shore at Hermopolis, but they could find no lodging there, but they managed to buy some dates and fill their wineskins in the market in front of the grand basilica that dominated the square, but when they returned to the skiff, it was gone! They looked up and down the shore, but they had lost both the boat and their bundles. They had nothing but what they carried in their purses.

     “We will walk!’ said Miri.

     “Where?” asked Martha in desperation, for she was not well suited to travelling.

     “We have nowhere to go!” cried Sarai. Yusef picked the little girl up, and smiled broadly, for he was taken by a sudden faith in Miri to deliver them from any Evil. He tickled Sarai under the chin, “We shall follow wherever your mother guides us!”

     Akivai slipped his hand into Miri’s.

     “I will walk there, mama,’ he said and her heart was fortified at their acceptance of their lot. She spied a ferry preparing to disembark.

     “Yusef!” she called out, “Can we cross the river?”

     He patted his change purse and frowned. “The ferry or food!” he said gravely.

     At that very moment, the chariots of their pursuers entered the square.

     “Ferry!” they all said together.

     Standing on the Eastern shore was a depressed them all. They had no money for the ferryman had sensed their desperation and pressed them dearly. But the approach of the Romans left them with no choice, and the ferryman seemed to sense the source of their discomfort.

     “He will betray us the moment he returns!” said Yusef.

     “We must take to the hills!” said Miri.

     “It is desert!” said Yusef.

     “A cave is better shelter than a cell!” said Miri. She pointed at the hills to the east. “Limestone outcrops!” she said, “We shall find caves there!”

     As they entered the small village, the inhabitants stared at them suspiciously, and the doors and shutters clattered shut against them. They looked neither to the back or the side, and continued stoically through the village, and did not turn back As they approached the line of hills, they were met by a breaded man dressed in black.

     “Welcome! Welcome!” he said happily as they approached.

     “You know him?” asked Yusef.

     “No,” replied Miri. “I have never seen him before!”

     “I am not visited by many people here!” he said happily, “Please, I have a room prepared for you!”

     The family was perplexed.

     “You knew we were coming?” asked Akivai.

     “Of course! Of course!” replied the man.

     He led them to a rock face wherein a number of caverns had been cut.

     “I was not quite ready yet!” he said as he took them into a small area used for cooking, and he blew on some ashes that erupted into a grey cloud. He blew until a small flame popped up and he smiled at them. His whole face had turned gray from ash and coloured his bushy eyebrows and beard. He snapped a dung cake in half and crackled part of it over the falme, and as it grew he added the bigger pieces. He put on a metal pot of water.

     “I will show you your rooms!” he said happily, and led them to another cavern.

     They each had a small carved niche in which to lie.

     “It reminds me of a tomb,” muttered Martha.

     The man frowned and thought for a moment.

     “I had never thought of that!” he said, “You are a very perceptive woman!”

     He took a deep breath. “Well, I must cook some supper!” he declared. “Make yourselves at home!”

     And he left.

     “Most peculiar!” said Martha.

     Yusef’s eyes shone. “It’s a miracle!” he whispered.

     Martha just grunted to show her disapproval for his assessment.

     “This place is a mess!”

     Miri patted her niece’s shoulder. “I am sure you could help him in that!”

     She stepped out of the caves and from the hill, she had a fair view of the river, and the village which had shunned them.

     She stayed on the ridge until Akivai came to tell her supper was ready. She noticed Martha had swept the floors and tidied up the rooms. They offered their dates and wine to the hermit, but he refused the wine.

     “I have sworn an oath,” he explained, “Though I an extremely fond of dates!”

     And he ate one.

     “Have another!” said Yusef.

     “Oh no!” he said apologetically, “One is more than enough!”

     Martha thought the man was mad, though she held her tongue.

     “Did you rest well?” he asked, after they finished their supper.

     They all agreed they had, though Miri had remained watching the river.

     “Excellent!” he said, “And you have had enough to eat?”

     And everyone attested to his wonderful cooking skills, though the bread had been slightly burnt and the lentil soup a little bland.

     “Excellent! Excellent!” he said, delighted at their praise, “I will take you south as soon as the moon reached her zenith. You may wish to rest until then!”

     The old hermit stood up and gathered the bowls and carried them out.

     “Very peculiar!” exclaimed Martha.

     Yusef stared at Miri looking for some hint of her thoughts about their host.

     “Yusef?” Miri asked that he might frame a question, but he did not.

     The moon was full and lit the desert with a silver florescence that turned the hot glaring sand into a glittering wonderland. Though they were being hunted, the desert calmed Miri’s thoughts and she looked upon the timeless land as a welcoming friend. Here, her passage was an unusual event, for very few passed through there, and every creature in the area knew of their passage. Beetles and scorpions scuttled out of her way, snakes wriggled across the cooling rock, and the desert marked their passing, and patiently awaited their deaths, for death was inevitable, and time had no meaning to her. A day was a week, and a week no shorter than a month or a year, and the years left no mark upon her.

     As the sky lightened and Sothis appeared at the horizon, they crossed a desolate flat plain dominated by a strangely shaped tell, then passed through a pass over some hills, and at dawn, they stopped to rest in a cave along the eastern ridge of the Nile Valley. Their guide, pointed at a point on the river. If you pass through the southern edge there, you will find a landing to el-Qusiya!”

     Miri was nervous. She was was worried about being recognized, for this was the home town of Anetch and Setem, but then again, they were close to Koptos, and even if Demetrios was no longer watching over her possessions in Koptos, they could no doubt find assistance from Ptolemaios and Claudia. That they were fugitives would mean she could not stay there, but she was sure that Ptolemaios would probably give her whatever she wanted and Claudia would be sure to do everything in her power to make sure they were safely on their way.

     The hermit drew in his breath.

     “What is it?” asked Miri.

     “Barbarians!” he said.

     Instantly Miri and her family froze.

     Their pursuers had landed on their side of the river in a large cargo ship. Their ranks had grown for they had a detachment of infantry from Heliopolis.

     “This way!” said the hermit, and led them up the face of the escarpment and they came upon a narrow cleft that was hidden from below. As soon as they claimbed into the gorge, the air became cooler and they were soon surrounded by tall papyri. Water bubbled at their feet.

     “What is this place?” asked Miri, for it seemed strangely familiar.

     “This place,” said the hermit, “is sacred to Mother Het-Heru.”

     The sky moved further away as the walls rose above them, and after a twisted trail, they came to a cave, beside a deep emeralds pool beneath the sheltering arms of an ancient sycamore. A fountain of water burbled happily from the cave, but its jolly percolation added a joyful atmosphere to the peaceful calm of the grotto, and both Saria and Akinai were elated. As tired as they were, the sight of a shallow pool, propelled them forward to leap into the waters.

     “No!” cried the hermit and, quick as a cat, he grasped both children by their tunics, and held them back at the exact same moment that a huge crocodile exploded from the depths of the pool, huge jaws opened wide. They were drenched as the wicked rows of teeth snapped shut and the giant reptile splashed back into the pool. Everyone scrambled desperately as far up the walls of the canyon as they could. The only escape seemed to be the open arms of the sycamore.

     “Sobek is the guardian of the cave of Het-Heru,” explained the hermit apologetically. “You will be safe in the cave!”

     “How will we get past the crocodile?” asked Martha.

     The hermit shook his head. “I can only bring you this far!” whispered the hermit. “Once you enter the cave, Het-Heru will protect you!”

     “But how do we get past the crocodile?” asked Martha again.

     “Sobek?” Asked the hermit, as he slipped down from his perch. “It is not for me to say!” he said, “I can only lead you here!”

     With that, he dropped from the tree and disappeared from view, and left them alone. No one spoke, and below them the surface of the pool rippled with the passing of Sobek.

     “What are we going to do?” asked Sarai.

     Suddenly a great commontion arose in the the thicket of papyri, and the hermit, running as fast as he could, made a beeline for the sycamore. Old Sobek lunged at him from the pool, and the hermit leaped high in the air, his foot landing on the great reptile’s snout just as it rose up to snatch him. The combined energy gave the old man an extra lift and he landed back in the tree beside them.

     “Romans!” cried the hermit breathlessly.

     Below them Sobek’s thrashing gradually subsided into a swirling ripple as he sank just below the surface.

     Akivai leaned over and peered at the ripples in the emerald pool.

     “We’re in a pickle, aren’t we Mama?” he asked.

     “Yes, Akivai, we’re in a terrible pickle!” she replied.

     “I am so sorry!” said the hermit, “I did not think…”

     “Shhh!” hissed Miri, and the hermits mouth snapped shut just as several infantrymen crept into the glade. Thankfully, they did not look up, but poked and pushed at the papyrus growth. One of the soldiers was exploring closer to the pool’s edge and was stepping closer to Sobek’s striking range, and Sarai looked up at her mother to tell her the man was too close to the crocodile, but Miri put the index finger of her right hand to her lips to keep her silent, but it was too late.

     “He’s gonna die!” cried Sarai, and as their pursuers looked up at them, Old Sobek exploded from the pool and his great jaws snapped tight on the soldier closest to the water’s edge. Everyone screamed in unison, both the hunters and the hunted, and each and every human in the glade sprang into movement. The twins scrambled further up the tree. Two men moved toward the tree and Yusef and Miri dropped to the ground, both thinking they could act as decoys and draw the soldiers from the tree, and Martha scrambled to block the twins from view, accidentally knocking the hermit from the tree. The hermit landed, through no fault of his own, on one of the approaching soldiers. Three Romans rushed to save their comrade in Sobek’s jaws. As javelins flashed and stabbed at the great crocodile, every soldier moved to their comrade’s aid.

     “Jump!” screamed Miri to the twins, and without hesitation, they dropped from the top branches of the sycamore, and she caught them both, only a second apart. Marth screamed and dropped into Ysuef’s waiting arms, and the five of them broke into a made dash back down the canyon. Once he realized his guests were escaping, he decided to follow their lead, and broke into a run. One of the Romans glanced up at them and his eyes locked on Miri, and he was instantly smitten by her beauty, but his immediate need was to save his friend.

     Miri and the others ran like the wind, for their lives depended upon it. Miri felt a great euphoria as she ran, knowing they had eluded their captors. Suddenly though, Sarai slipped and fell. Yusef scooped her up and swung her over his shoulder like a sack of peas and they scrambled pell mell into a phalanx of troops patiently blocking the entrance of the ravine.

     Miri and her family, including the hermit were quickly subdued and trussed up, and tied together. Hoods were thrown over their heads, and they were pushed to the ground and told to stay still.

     Saria called out to her, and Miri told her everything would be fine, but her words almost choked her.

     “Quiet!” growled someone and struck her head. It was not a hard blow, but Miri bit her tongue and warm blood welled from the sharp cut. “Please, God, save my children!” she prayed, but she was struck in the head a second time.

     “I said be quiet!” growled the guard again, and she fell silent.

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