Part II: The Search
When Seline was kidnapped, I first thought to find her by catching the ships before they docked. I had learned that Iuz came from a land far south, a land known as Ninevah. However, to reach Ninevah, Iuz’ ships would have to dock first in Crete and then Aegyptos. I knew that I could not catch them by sail, since they had departed long before I could have obtained a ship. But with Thunderfoot, my mighty steed, I could circle the Great Sea through Cannan, where I hoped to reach Aegyptos before Iuz and his crew.
The very day of my wedding, I returned quickly to the King, and promised him that I would return with his daughter. Then, I leaped upon my horse and left that very instant, not having thought to bring any water, food or clothing. All that was in my mind was to find Seline and nothing more.
For two days I traveled without stopping to eat or sleep. I watched as the sun rose and set, without tiring, without letting my horse a moment’s rest. We moved at lightning speed, over mountains and through river valleys, beyond forests and lakes and barren plains.
At last, Cannan spread before me, a hot wilderness of hills and rugged terrain. I looked down upon the land and saw a city in the distance. I knew not which city it was, but later learned it to be the ancient city of Jericho. Wearily, I pushed my horse to the outskirts of Jericho, until even my godly steed collapsed with exhaustion. I leapt off of him and made the rest of the journey on foot.
Far below, I saw a fruitful pasture, and climbed down the hill feeling the jagged and broken rocks cut into my naked skin. I could feel my bare back boiling in the sun, knowing it was not the sun of Apollo, but the light of some other, unforgiving god. My throat had become as dry as the land and I could not swallow.
When I stepped at last on level ground, I saw that my feet and hands were bloodied and blistered, and I regretted not having worn any clothing. Unlike my homeland, here did nature thrash upon the body, so that a man could only live by struggle and tribulation. Here, in the land of Cannan, nature was not the friend of man but the enemy.
I walked for miles along the plain, until collapsing in a pasture, where sheep and cattle were grazing.
When I opened my eyes again, I found myself in a soft bed of straw. Leaning over me was a dark skinned woman with brown eyes and hair. She spoke to me in a language I could barely comprehend, but I understood enough to communicate. Her native tongue was Hebrew, but she knew a little Phoenician, which was similar to Greek. The woman was holding a grail in one hand and a damp rag in the other. I asked, “who are you?”
“I am Sarah. My husband found you lying on the ground, out on his field. He found you without clothing and nearly dead.”
“I thank both of you for your kindness.”
“Well. . . we could not let you die. Kindness is the will of God. That is what my husband always says.”
“Where is he now? I must thank him and take my leave.”
She pushed me back into bed. “Rest now, you are not strong enough to leave.”
“But I must go. . .”
“No. You will sleep in my bed tonight, while my husband and I sleep in the stables. I have prepared an extra place for dinner. You must eat and drink before you can be well,” she said, lifting the grail to my lips.
I drank the bitter tasting water and wondered how such people could live day to day drinking it. But I was so thirsty at the time, I was willing to drink anything. Compared to the water which came from my mountain abode, however, it was filth. “I thank you again,” I said.
“Do not think of it. We are happy to share our home and our food. I would have dressed you in my husband’s clothes, but you are much too big for them. Before you leave, I will sew a tunic and make some shoes, so that you may continue your travels.”
Later that night, I gathered with Sarah and her family for dinner. I was surprised at how small the table was and the portions of food. Either the people did not like to eat much or had hardly any food to serve.
There were no chairs, so we sat on a carpet over a dirt floor. Nehemiah, the husband of Sarah, looked much older than she. He had a long gray beard and was poorly dressed. Resting alongside the table was his shepherd’s crook. Beside him was his son, Jacob, who looked no older than eight or nine.
Before we ate, the three said a prayer to their god, thanking him for their food. I wondered at that, at how they could thank their god for giving them so little. If it were Zor who gave so little, I would have cursed him. All that we had was flatbread with no taste, a strip of lamb intestines, and dirty water. Such a portion could I have eaten in a single bite.
Little was spoken during dinner. It was a far cry from the screaming and arguing that went on during most Greek dinners. Then again, I had never eaten with such poor people. I was accustomed to the indulgences of kings and the feasts I had made for myself after hunting.
At last, the silence was broken by Nehemiah, “you did not tell us your name, stranger.”
“I am Dynotus.”
“And how come you to be lying unconscious on my pasture and naked? Were you mugged and beaten?”
“No, I was traveling south when I collapsed in exhaustion. I did not have any clothes, for where I come from, there is little need.”
“You are not from Cannan, then, are you?”
“No, I come from the north, from Hellas.”
“I have not heard of such a place. Is it near Syria?”
“Actually, it is further north, beyond the Great Sea, near Troy.”
“Yes, I have heard of Troy, but only in legend. I was told of the great, unparalleled riches of Troy. But that land was destroyed, wasn’t it, by your heathen gods?”
“And what gods rule this land?”
“No gods rule this land, but the god of Abraham and Moses, the god that took the people of Israel out of Aegyptos. We may not speak his name, but he is the one true god.”
“Your god does not appear to provide you with much,” I responded.
“He is all knowing and all powerful. All things work through his will. We do not have the riches that you have in Troy, because our god is a jealous god, and vengeful. The land of Cannan is in a state of famine because our king is unrighteous. But the twelve tribes of Israel care little for material wealth. We strive for righteousness. Such is the covenant we have made with him. He leads us toward righteousness. Do your gods give you that?”
“I don’t know what is righteous and what is not.”
“Righteousness is humility before god. Humility means, that if we are offered a great abundance of food, we take little. If we are given many fine coats to wear, we keep only one, and give to the needy. If we are offered many women to have fornications, we choose and marry one, and resist the temptation of the many. To indulge in the pleasures of wine, women and song, is to be unrighteous before the eyes of the Lord.”
“Forgive me, I did not wish to insult you. I only thought that you wanted to have more.”
“We did have more, once, when we were slaves in the land of Aegyptos. There, you shall find many gods, and riches beyond your wildest imaginations. But the land is corrupt and evil. They have gone astray and have given in to wickedness. They live from day to day without doing work. They have become sloths, forcing their slaves under whip and chain. And because of their slothfulness, they have degenerated to drunkenness and lechery. But long ago, we abandoned these things, to be poor but free, to worship our god and find righteousness through him.”
“I was going to Aegyptos. If your people came from there, perhaps you could help me find the way.”
And Nehemiah said, “I would not wish to help a heathen man find a heathen nation. But, I spoke to God before you awoke, and he told me to help you in any way that I could. Though I do not understand His purpose, I shall not disobey Him. The Lord God works in mysterious ways, and He has His finger on you.”
“Good, then perhaps you could tell me if it would be possible to reach Aegyptos from here, before the sun sets on the third day. It is all the time I have.”
“It could be possible, but only by chariot. Unfortunately, we have only an ass for plowing, and he is very slow. But if you wish, I shall give it thee.”
“No, I could not take your only mule. I shall go on foot, even if I do not make it in three days.”
“Then we shall offer you clothing and a satchel for bread,” Sarah said. “You will need much food for such a journey. We shall offer all that we have.”
“I could not take your food. But, if you wish it, I shall accept your clothing.”
“That is good. The sun of Aegyptos is not like the sun of Cannan. It will burn any man who goes there without protection, like the flames of a furnace. It is the hot sun of Re, the god they worship in Aegyptos.”
That night, I played with their younger son. The child had never seen anyone like myself. He would commonly ask how I came to be so muscular, and wished to know if I was stronger than Samson. Though I did not know who this, Samson, was, I told the boy that he was a weakling compared to me.
“Why must you leave us?” asked Jacob.
“I am on a quest, to find my wife, who has been abducted.”
The kid laughed at me, as if I was telling a fictitious tale, and replied, “are you going to fight the bad men?”
“I will fight and kill the bad men,” I told him.
“I think you could. But you hafta watch out for things in the desert.”
“What things?” I asked.
“Horrible things,” he answered, “things like monsters and giants.”
I laughed, “what monsters?”
“You know. . .giant scorpions, and large birds that eat horses; they live out in the desert,” he said.
“And how do you know so much?”
“I was told.”
“Told by who, your father?”
Then, he looked and pointed upward, whispering, “I was told by God.”
I laughed again, “don’t believe everything that God tells you.”
Suddenly, the door burst open, and there stood two men. Sarah screamed and grabbed the child, while Nehemiah rose and confronted them. “What are you doing in my house!” he cried.
“We have come to collect your taxes,” they responded.
“What. . .I owe no taxes,” said the old man.
“Well, you do now! Pay us or we shall take what’s ours!”
“I’m not afraid of you! This is a house of God. You cannot force us to do anything!”
Then, one of the men pulled out a short sword, saying, “you’ve been hearing too many stories about David and Goliath, old man.”
Sarah rushed over to her husband and tugged on his arm, pleading, “please, Nehemiah, don’t fight them!”
The other guard walked into the house and smacked Sarah across the cheek. She fell to the ground, bruised. “Please don’t hurt us. We’ll give you what you want.”
My blood boiled within, knowing in the blink of an eye, could I kill the two guards. But I waited to see, clenching my fists tightly, if I could use their intrusion to help me.
“Do you have any gold or jewelry?”
“My wife does not own any gold, nor do I. We are poor and only work enough to eat. But if you wish, I can offer you a few of my sheep.”
“Ha ha ha, we don’t want sheep, old man!”
“Please, we have nothing else!” Sarah replied.
Then, the men looked around the room, until they spotted the boy, “we’ll take the kid. We should get a lot for him in Aegyptos, if we sell him as a slave.”
Sarah burst into tears. “No! Please don’t take away my baby!”
Finally, I decided to act. I stood up and confronted the two men. “You don’t need the boy. Take me instead.”
“You? You would take the boy’s place, as a slave?”
“If you take me to Aegyptos, I will.”
“Well, you look pretty strong. We could get a lot for you. All right, mister, come with us.”
Sarah fell to my feet, kissing my arms and my cheek. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” was all she could say.
“It was the least I could do. But don’t worry. I will use them to get a free ride to Aegyptos. They have a chariot.”
“But. . .don’t you understand? You will be a slave, the rest of your life,” said Nehemiah.
“Don’t worry. We Greeks do things a little differently.”
Then, Sarah ran to give me the tunic and sandals she had made. I quickly dressed and prepared to take my leave. I said good-bye to my new friends: Nehemiah, Sarah and Jacob, but before walking out the door, Nehemiah approached me in secret. He handed me a large backpack that seemed to weigh a ton. “What is this?” I asked.
It is a stone plaque that I found buried beneath my pasture. When I prayed to God, he told me where to find it. He said that I should give it to you. I did not understand, but it is for your own safety. You must keep it until you find a place to make use of it.”
I opened the bag, finding a large, green, stone plaque. Engraved upon it were many Hellenic words, and beside the words were strange pictures that I could make no meaning of.
“The Lord said that it would be called, the Metamphrasis stone. Guard it carefully, Dynotus, for someday it shall save your life.”
“I will, kind sir. I do not know the purpose of this stone, but I shall carry it as your god commanded. Thank you, and may your god bless you and your family,” said I, before joining the slave traders.
The two men put me in the back of a carriage pulled by four horses. Looking back upon the house of Nehemiah, I saw it beginning to rain. It was a heavy rain, like one that only Zeus could bring, a rain that seemed uncommon in the land of Cannan.