Hello readers! I present to you first two chapters of my up coming first book in the Mekonnen Epic series, "The Warrior of Light (previously titled 'The Warrior From Aksum')". It is still a work in progress but because of high demand to read the story from anxious fans I decided to treat the world a couple of chapters and the glossary. Be aware that there may be a few spelling and grammatical errors but I hope this does not distract you from enjoying the story. Thank you and Enjoy! All story and artwork copyright to Jerome Matiyas, 2006 to 2018 and beyond.
A young man runs as fast as he can! He darts through a moon lit forest at full speed, because his life depends on it. Bare foot and bruised all over with ripped clothing that was once white linen but now soiled with patches of green and brown from plants and dirt, mingled in his own sweat and blood.
“My life is in your hand, Egziabeher! Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly!”
This is the young man's desperate prayer, loosely quoting a verse from one of the beloved sections of the sacred oracles known as Dawit Mezmur (The Psalms of David, chapter 31, verse 15), is all he can remember right now.
For those who hunt him right now are savage creatures. Maybe demons from the pit of Hell. More than a dozen of them have the appearance of tall men in white robes and hoods over their heads, but they have no faces. The skin of their faces, arms and legs are darker than the blackest night. Their eyes glow red under those head coverings. They are armed with all manner of weapons: swords, daggers, scimitars, spears, bows and arrows. They have killed and wounded many of his warrior comrades already. Now arrows and lances wiz by this lone running warrior who proves to be an elusive moving target, dodging and ducking behind trees.
Just as terrifying are the dog-like creatures with the hooded ones, that are more like hounds from hell. As large as lions and leopards, but much more ravenous, with dark, murky colored fur, red eyes and long vicious teeth. They snarl and howl like no animal he has ever heard in the land or seas. The wound on the young man's left arm is from being bitten by one of those savage beasts earlier, but right now he has no time to feel pain. Just run for his life.
Oh, how life has transformed from beauty into terror in a short space of time. Just a few days ago he was fulfilling his duties as a guard for the Kingdom of Aksum in Aksum City to the north, along with his comrades. Oh, the smell of incense and spices that filled the air. The sound of church bells, singing and children laughing. The sight of priests and deacons in radiant robes and garments more colorful than a rainbow, in processions through the streets. And the streets of gold he walked after the Atse, the Emperor, through handfuls of coins and gold nuggets into the crowd. It was one of the sacred annual celebrations of the Kingdom called Timket, when people come from far and wide to participate. How he took all that beauty and splendor for grants.
He lost his weapon a while ago in the mountains, a sword of the royal guards of Aksum with a golden hilt. He grabs up a sturdy stick from a tree branch, hoping it will suffice if one of the creatures catches up to him and near enough to cause harm.
Still the most surprising weapon he has right now that never expected harness such potency is the mysterious golden belt around his waist. It was a gift given to him two day earlier when he was about the leave a meeting in the Atse's palace. A mysterious young man approach him with a formal salutation and handed it to him, claiming it was a gift from “The King of Kings”. It seems whenever he is a great danger or calls out the Almighty One for intervention, a bright, blinding flash of light emanates from the belt itself, temporarily blinding his pursuers. There is no logical explanation for this phenomena, but it has saved the runner's life at least three times already.
He knows he is in the south-western end of the great mountain range of the land called the Semien, but he has no idea what direction he is running nor the distance to the nearest town or village. There is a river nearby, for he can smell the water. A little closer and he can hear that its a water fall. “Which one of the waterfalls is it?” he thinks as arrows fly by his head. “It can not be Tisissat falls. I expect it to be bigger. Must be one of the smaller, uncharted waterfalls. Must get closer.”
He runs closer to the sound of rushing waters until he comes to a ledge where he can see the waterfall. In a second all he can think of is jumping into it to escape his pursuers. “I would rather drown in this waterfall than be ripped apart by these creatures.” he declares.
Without further ado, the young warrior runs then leaps off the edge, making a swan dive into the cascading waters, falling head first with arms stretched up, vertically aligned to the magnificence wall of waters. As he free falls his life flashes through his mind. He remembers the rich beauty of his home city, and thinks back to the moments before all this happened. Before his life changed, and darkness descended upon the kingdom.
Three days earlier. Aksum City, circa 530 A.D.
It all began in the highlands of an ancient land in the Horn of Africa, nestled in the mountains like a multi-hued, sparkling jewel near the Erythrean Sea (Red Sea), flourished the Kingdom of Aksum. A great city in all its splendor and glory, Aksum was situated in the northern parts in the land of Habeshinya (Abyssinia), and south of what the Greeks call Ethiopia. As the source of the great Nile River this land that has been a mystery and a myth, to the Greeks and Romans for centuries, and which the Egyptians revered for millennia and dare not provoke its inhabitants. Here reigned a succession of kings who declare themselves, “Negusa Negast” which means King of Kings and “YeYihuda Anbessa” which translates from their official Aksumite language of Ge’ez to The Lion of Judah. This of course is in reverence to the one and only true King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the risen and ascended redeemer, Iyesus Kristos. These kings ruled a monarchy that claimed descendants from the controversial union between the ancient Israelite King Solomon and the famous Queen of Sheba, who traveled a great distance to learn of Solomon's wisdom and riches.
|Aksumite Empire, circa 530 A.D.|
All citizens of the cities and towns, the shepherds, merchants and artisans, the priests, monks and clergy of all churches and monasteries, all royalty and nobles in the palaces and castles prepare in great anticipation for one of the most colorful and splendid ceremonies of the year. All the King’s noblemen and guards also prepare in their own ways and according to their responsibilities. They awake before sunrise to bathe and perfume themselves and dress in their distinct uniforms. The Kesset (the Priests) dress in full regalia of splendid ceremonial robes of velvet and fine satin, and swing bronze censers with sweet incense smoke billowing into the air. Guards and warriors, in full garb and armed with swords, shields, spear, bows and arrows, are all poised, distinguished and yet still ready for battle. The musicians in the king’s court begin quietly orchestrating music on the kirar, begenna, washint, sistras and masenko, letting the sounds resonate through the halls, and permeate the souls of all who can hear as well as those who cannot hear but can feel it.
Ella Ameda II, officially titled Gebre Meskel, son of the honorable Ella Atzbeha also known as Emperor Kabel, is the reigning Negusa Negast. and Queen Semret1, his wife, the Empress and First Lady of the land, officially titled Nigisa Nigist, Queen of Kings. Together, His and Her Imperial Majesty arise early in the morning and go to separate rooms with their maids and servants to prepare. On top of the king and queen’s white cotton garments is a black jacket, embroidered with gold patterns around the neck and extending to the shoulders and down the front hems. Over this layer of clothing two servants assist the king with a magnificent royal-purple robe which is placed upon his back and shoulders, decorated with golden, fanciful embroidery patterns of geometric shapes and cross motifs. Next, His Imperial Majesty (HIM) is presented with rings for his fingers, his strapped sandals, lion headed scepter and finally his bejeweled golden crown. The King and Queen both step out of their changing room quarters wearing matching regalia today. They greet each other with kisses on the cheeks, right, left then right again, and proceed down the hallways, escorted by two servants and four guards to the throne room for breakfast. Already the corridors and hallways of the royal palace are permeating with the aromas of sweet smelling incense and frankincense mingled with food.
While the royal family prepare, so do the royal guards in their quarters. Hundreds of guards of various ranks and distinctions. There are chief warriors of higher ranks, experienced captains and sergeants and young foot soldiers and royal guards all according to their assignments and ranks. It is an honour for a young man to be considered worthy to become a warrior and defend the King and his country in the name of Egziabeher Amlak, Almighty Creator, God of gods. Enforce the law, defend the faith and execute judgment justly and truthfully.
One such young man, in the prime of his youth, is Mekonnen, son of deceased senior warrior Sofaniyas GebreTsion, just six months shy of being 27 years of age, serving as king’s guard and warrior since he was 20 years old. Young, fresh, bright eyed and ready to take on the world, Mekonnen Sofaniyas is skilled in sword fighting, spear throwing and archery. He can perform hand to hand combat without weapons, in martial arts fighting styles similar to those of ancient Egypt, Nubia and Meroe. He practices with his friends and fellow warriors everyday except the Lord’s day, on Sunday, when the whole Aksumite Kingdom attend church services.
Mekonnen is approximately 4 cubits tall (6.1 ft)2, medium built and muscular like most warriors would be, particularly in the shoulders, arms and upper chest area. Black curly hair like sheep’s wool frames his medium brown face, a handsome face it is. His noticeable eye brows shelter lively brown eyes, divided by a high nose ridge that form a bridge from his round and wide forehead down to a nose shaped like an arrow head pointing downward, rounded at the tip with elliptical nostrils. He has the typical, distinctive features of most inhabitants native to this part of Northeast Africa, where the land, people and culture of the various Kushite peoples are in close proximity to the land, people and culture of those of the Shemites of Sabaea3 and Arabia across the Reed Sea to the east, and the Puntites to the southeast in the Horn of Africa. Historically, and in popular legends, Hebrews from the land of Israel and Canaan were known to have journeyed into Kush and Habeshinya and settled here since about 2000 to 1000 BC adding significantly to the genealogy, culture, customs, dietary laws and belief systems of the people, including that of the royal family and monarchy.
Today, the first day of Timket, Mekonnen puts on his loose fitting but comfortable off-white trousers, fitted long sleeved shirt of the same color with vertical ribbed ridges from shoulder to wrists. He fastens his brown leather belt with a bronze lion head for a buckle, with two sheaths, one for a long sword and another for a 6 inch dagger fastened to the waist. He wears a robe of lion’s fur on his shoulders, covering his back and forming a flower shape, narrowing as it comes down the front. The older Warriors wear more colorful robes and lion fur head pieces. Mekonnen straps on his sandals, wraps a white turban around his head and grabs his 2 cubits long spear in his right hand and his metal shield which is a cubit in diameter, geometrically studded with small dome shaped nubs near the curved edges in his left hand. He wears a decorative, one inch armband around his right biceps, not a requirement but just for personal style. All the men in Mekonnen’s rank wear matching warrior apparel and march out together as one unit, ready to protect the King and Queen and celebrate Timket.
|Priests, Deacons and Musicians in a procession for Timkat Festival.|
“Selam! Kemay aleka?4, Hello! How are you doing?” Mekonnen addresses his fellow guard, Afeworqi.
“Selam, Melkam! Greetings, I am doing great!” Afeworki replies. “Nice morning isn’t it?
Mekonnen: “Yes it sure is, Egziabeher is gracious to give us fine weather, this morning. But I think it could rain later this evening.”
Afeworki: “Rain? No, don’t say that. It will be sunny all day, I hope. It is not even rainy season.”
Mekonnen: “I only say that because of yesterday. It seemed Egziabeher and the Nachash5 were fighting each other, sun, then rain, then sun. Then sun and rain at the same time.”
Afeworqi: “Yeah, I remember. Then there was a beautiful rainbow in the south over the Semiyen Mountains.”
Afeworqi muses as he motions with his out stretched right arm to the highlands of Tigray to the north-west and Mount Ras Dashen, the highest point of the Semiyen Mountains, in the southern highlands of the Amhara region. As he turns around to face Mekonnen, Mekonnen’s eyes widen and he exclaims jokingly,
“Oh, but look, the rainbow is still there!”
Afeworqi swings his head around to view the highlands again, “Huh, where?”
Mekonnen playfully taps Afeworqi on the back of his head,
Afeworqi quickly realizing the joke hits Mekonnen on the arm with equal playfulness, then they both have a good laugh at themselves.
“ …but this is a new day, Meko my brother, let us eat.” Says Afeworqi and the two companions follow the rest of the guards to the breakfast-hall tables.
These two are very familiar with each other as they grew up together. In fact people notice that they resemble each other in appearance and that is because they are near kinsmen, cousins in fact, their fathers being brothers. Although many Abyssinians of the Aksumite Kingdom may resemble each other even if they may not be close blood relatives, yet many are related in some way, having large families and marrying within their close knit towns and communities. Even strangers can recognize the unique facial features of the inhabitants of Aksum, a mixture of various ethnic groups, of Khamite and Shemite influences in genealogy, culture and speech. The Arabians across the Red Sea to the east called them Habeshat, thus naming the country Habeshinya (Abyssinia), land of the mixed people.
The City of Aksum, situated between two mountains that are among a greater range of verdant mountains, is a center of attraction at this time of year. The city itself is arrayed with magnificent palaces, castles and church cathedrals of fine architecture in authentic Aksumite style that suggest combined influences from local Kushite and Shemite cultures, with Mediterranean and Sabaean elements: A unique style identified by semi-circular arches over doorways, crescent shapes atop obelisks and chiseled out of walls that represent the rising sun; Coptic style crosses called mesqels illustrated and carved in walls; square shaped beams at the four corners of real and false windows and doors; and mural paintings depicting people, angels and the Godhead with large almond shaped eyes and oval-shaped heads amidst grand biblical and historical events.
The Royal Palace sits upon a platform of steps and has four high towers each adorned with a brazen unicorn as if protruding out from the towers, elegantly formed with fine craftsmanship, frozen in a dramatic trotting pose standing 20 cubits high, each facing in one of four directions, north-east, north-west, south-east and south-west. In the center is a dome shape with balconies around it and a coptic cross at the very top. Reports of these four shiny unicorns galloping out of the four towers have reached as far as Rome in Europa6 and is even written in the journals of the Egyptian monk, Cosmas Indicopleustes*.
The hundreds of towering Aksumite stelaes are impressive structures to behold, surpassing even the ones in Egypt. The underground passage ways, tombs and rock hewn caverns are still a mystery to most Aksumites. People from far and wide come to the glorious city to either celebrate, trade or obverse. Indians, Arabians, Egyptians, Sabaeans, Himyarites, Nubians, Hebrews, Judeans, Chinese from the far-east and even Greeks, Romans, Turks, Anatolians and Syrians are all expected to converge into Aksum and other Ethiopian cities to intermingle with the locals. Some foreigners take advantage of the season to do buying and trading with those who would need wares, clothing, satin, lace, spices, frankincense and materials needed for festival preparations. They themselves are hoping to return to their respective countries with large shares of Abyssinian gold, bronze, ivory spices, myrrh, exotic animals and birds and much more. Not to mention mint Aksumite coins for business and souvenirs.
By this time of morning people are caravanning on foot, donkey, camel or horse back according to their social status and what ever one can afford. Some nobles, officials, and various royal and priestly individuals come in chariots and carriages drawn by handsome horses and tremendous African elephants fitted with beautiful harnesses decorated with gold and silver fabric and colourful precious stones. Chariots drawn by the elephants are a grant spectacle and leave the little children awestruck from the enormous size and motion of the whole thing. Followed by the giraffes, zebras, lions, leopards and exotic horses that are paraded in the main streets of Aksum for a grand spectacle.
Some time later Mekonnen and Afeworqi are at their post near the king’s palace. Mekonnen is, and has been thinking deeply about his life and state of being for some time. Questions have been swimming in his mind like, “What is the purpose in life”, “What is my destiny”, ‘Who is Egziabeher and is he real?”, “And why were we put in this world, to labour, suffer and cry in pain?.” So he turns to Afewerqi and says,
“You know Afie, I’ve been thinking, about life and such. Like the future and destiny. What about you, do you think about the future?”
Afeworqi glances at Mekonnen and wonders about his cousin’s sudden cogitativeness.
“Yes, I think about the future, I don’t worry about it, because I know exactly what I want to accomplish in this life. In the right time Egziabeher will provide and show me the way. What’s wrong, thinking about a girl. Thinking about finding a wife Ato Meko? Start a family?” Afeworqi smiles as he makes fun with Mekonnen.
“Well, yes but, not that. I mean eventually I hope to marry some day but more than that, Like what is this life for? We eat, sleep, fight, play genna, celebrate festivals and protect the tabots, Ark of the Covenant and the Emperor. But what else is there to live for?”
“Well, to protect and to serve one’s country and honour your family and fellow man is to serve Egzio. Is it not written in the holy scriptures to ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ And ‘Do to others as you will have them do to you.’ “
“Well yes, this is what the priests read to us in church. But how do I know that’s what it says for myself? I’ve just been thinking.”
They stand in silence for about a minute observing the crowds gathering and young women dressed in blue dresses and red crosses stitched to the front, singing church songs and clapping with high praises.
Then Mekonnen says to Afeworqi, “You know, the other day I wrote a song.”
“Oh really, you write songs now? I did not know you can sing.”
“Well, No, I don’t really sing, but I write songs and poems sometimes.”
“Hmm, Mekonnen the Psalmist! That is interesting. How does it go?”
”I do not want to sing it now, well, maybe I will just recite a few verses. It begins:
Oh, Aksum, Kingdom of great splendor,
And magnificence among other kingdoms.
Kingdom of high steles and glorious palaces
Perched upon high mountains, like a nestled dove
For all the nations to see
Your fame has gone abroad, How God has blessed you
With magnificence and Glory of the Kings of old
Upon your throne is the seat of King Dawit
The throne of the son of the wisest King of Zion
Within you resides King Solomon’s abundance
And the most Holiest of Holies,
The Ark of the Covenant.
Wisdom and glory abounds but where is your heart and soul?
Do you have a heart and soul?
Do I have a heart and soul?
Are my beauty and splendor in my outward appearance
In what I see?
Or in what is within me?
My heart cries out, my soul thirsts to be filled
Fill me with peace, and contentment.
I pray thee not for power and glory
I pray thee, for wisdom and understanding
And let me be all that I could be.
Afeworqi pauses for a moment then replies,
“That was deep my friend. I like it! you should put it to music. Let one of the court musicians help you.’
“No, I do not want to do that yet, it is a rather personal verse, straight from the heart.”
“Which is why others should hear it. Oh wait, Look over there.”
Six young Abyssinian girls were approaching their way, very beautiful, shapely with petite figures and doe-eyed glances, dressed all in white covered from head to ankles with embroidered meskel crosses at the top, center and front of their dresses. Three of them wore round brass disks along their hair lines at the top of their foreheads, framing their faces. They all seemed to have near flawless complexions, ranging in shades from amber to dark brown. Their heads were covered with blue and white shemmas, which could not hide their lovely smiles as they walk pass two handsome guards that are Mekonnen and Afeworqi, blushing and smiling with a softly spoken,
“Selam.” As they keep walking by, giggling amongst themselves.
“Selam!” The two young warriors replied, sticking their chests out and tucking stomachs in with a little more effort than usual. When the young ladies were a good distance away from them Afeworki says,
“You see Mekonnen, there are many lovely maidens in Aksum. You can have someone in your family arrange to set you up with one if you like.”
With a smirk on his lips Mekonnen replies, “Well, actually I was speaking to one of those maidens yesterdays. You didn't even know.”
“Oh, really?! I didn't even see you two! You see, you already have a head start!”
Mekonnen, smiles and thinks to himself that Afeworqi’s suggestion may be a good idea.
Afeworqi draw closer to Mekonnen, “So which one was it you were speaking to?”
“None of your business. I'm not telling you.” Mekonnen rebounds.
“Hoy! Come on tell me! I bet it was the one on the far left. Or the one in the middle with the blue shemma!”
The sun is a little higher in the sky and the King and his Queen begin to come out of the royal palace with royal guards before and behind them, marching out in time and formation in perfect rhythm. The palace priests follow in beautiful, kaleidoscopic colors holding the holy tabots above their heads. Musicians follow them playing on their instruments and singing praises to Egzio and his son Yesus Kristos. Warrior guards and foot soldier like Mekonnen stand at the outskirts of the platform and palace and up on high walls and low among the people, on the alert for crowd control, suspicious behaviors or the very rare sudden attacks. The palace is elevated by many steps, at the top is the wide platform where the King and all his 50 guards and 24 priests now stand looking down at the sea of people, most dressed in all white like earth-bound angels, the faithful citizens of Aksum, Abyssinia and strangers from the utter most parts of the earth, bow down low to honour the Atse (Emperor), Gebre Mesqel. The tops of tabots can be seen from the palace as priests from other provinces and towns in the kingdom come to celebrate with the royal family. Not all the priests from far away districts are able to come to the capital city of Aksum but the ones that are at close proximity and reasonable distances do make an effort to march up to the King’s palace.
Also scattered randomly among the crowds are hermit-monks called Bahetawi who are not affiliated with a particular house of worship but are still considered to be holy men, respected and revered as much as local priests and bishops. They emerge from their solitude in the wilderness and caves they choose to make their homes during major festivals and sacred ceremonies to observe and intermingle with the crowds, giving advice, exhortations, counsel and prophetic words to those who will receive it. Their may look like one of the monks or priests, wearing brightly colored robes and head wraps with Coptic crosses and emblems of the Virgin Mariam with Iyesus the child, or Qeddus Giorgis on horse back slaying a dragon hanging from chains around their necks, holding up a staff or cross in hand. But what usually sets them apart is the sign of the Nazarite vow, as described in Numbers (Numbers chapter 6), the fourth book of the Orit of Moshe (the five books of Moses), as they sport long locks of hair, in varying length and thickness depending on the amount of time that has past since the Bahetawi had started his extended walk and talk with the Almighty Creator of the universe Egziabeher Amlak.
As for the history and significance of the tabots, the fabled Ark of the Covenant and the whole Timket festival with the processional of priests and musicians through the streets? The story behind it is fascinating and complex. But most of the common folk of Aksum can explain to any stranger in a few sentences at least. They will tell you that the tabots carried by the priests on their heads wrapped in cloth are the actual or copies of the stone tablets engraved with the 10 commandments that the biblical Moses received from Yahweh, the Great I AM, The God of the children of Israel. That the tablets are usually stored in the mysterious but powerful Ark of the Covenant, an object in the shape of a rectangular box with a golden lid on top ornamented with 2 cherubim facing each other as the I Am instructed Moses and the children to Israel to build while they wandered in the wilderness after escaping from being slaves in Egypt. It was between the cherubim that Yahweh, the Great I AM, came down as a great Light to commune with the Children of Israel, and by His power embodied in the Ark they were able to level cities like Jericho, defeat there enemies and establish the kingdom by King Dawit and King Solomon.
They will also tell a stranger that the priests are Levites, descendants of the Moses’ brother Aaron, who came from Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant during the time of King Solomon of Israel. As for how the Ark of the Covenant and Levites and sons of Aaron made their way to Aksum is another profound mystery. The fact is that not even in the sacred oracles and chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Yihuda is it mentioned what happened to the Ark of the Covenant, sometimes called the Ark of Tsion and Holy Tsion. It seemed to have just disappeared from the pages of the sacred scriptures and history.
But to the Askumites, people of Habeshinya and particularly the royal family it is not a mystery as to what happened to the Ark of Tsion, for they claim to have it sealed and protected right there within a church sanctuary called Qedus Mariam Tsion (St Mary of Zion) right there in the City of Aksum. Mekonnen has not seen the Ark of Zion himself, for only an assigned monk and a chosen few are allowed to see it, but he has been assigned to guard the sanctuary several times. Though he has heard stories that in earlier times before he was born they did bring out the Ark of Zion in processions through the streets for all to see on special occasions.
Mekonnen looks about the city and can see the streets and alley ways are teeming with people, from near and far. It is always a glorious site to behold. After the king’s exit and the citizen’s and visitors bow, a lot a chattering ensued. Then two musician, one at the far right and one at the far left of the platform, took three steps forward, stopped, turn slightly and 45 degrees, one on the left to the left, and the other on the right to the right, each raise a horn to the lips then blew in unison:
“Tutooooot, tutoot, TuTooooooooooooot!!”
At the sound of the horns the crowds quieted their murmurings then gradually stopped talking because they knew the King was about to speak. Emperor Gebre Mesqel stepped forward then began in a loud voice:
“Greetings and blessing to my people of Aksum, in the name of Yesus Kristos!
Greetings to all visitors and strangers from afar, Selam, Peace be with you! I, Negus Gebre Mesqel of Aksum and Abyssinia greet and welcome you all to celebrate in our wonderful festival of Timket, venerating the baptism of our Lord Iyesus Kristos. We shall now proceed as we follow the lead of the royal priests through the main streets to the cathedrals, the field of great stelae and then to the water at Queen of Sheba’s Bath where the waters will be blessed tonight.
All praise to the father Egziabeher Amlak and the son Iysus Kristos on this glorious day. I salute and thank our friends and allies from the four corners of the earth for being here with us. I salute and recognize the Nine Saints – Tsadkan – (The Rightous Ones) that have recently encouraged the Kingdom of Aksum to translate the Holy Scriptures from Greek to our own language of Ge’ez. What a glorious blessing that is to bring the Words of Life to our priest who impart it to our own people to understand and be saved. Praise be to Egziabeher Amlak, his son Iyesus Kristos and the Nefes Qeddus (Holy Spirit). Amen. We give honour to the Holy Virgin Mariam for the grace given onto her to bring The Son of God into the world. We shall now have a reading by one of the Nine Saints, Abuna Aregari”
When the King said “Abuna Aregari” the crowds started to jostle a bit and some tried to press forward to get a better look at one of the legendary Abunas from the Mediterranean regions who contributed to the spiritual knowledge and culture of the people of Axum. Out comes Abuna Aregari from among the other priests and begins to read from the Holy Sciptures in Book of Mattewos (Matt 3:13-17) about Yesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by Yohannes the Baptizer. He reads the verse twice, first in Greek, then in Ge’ez,
“Then Iyesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by Yohannes. But Yohannes tried to stop him, saying ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me.’ Iyesus replied, ‘Let it be so now, it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then Yohannes consented.
As soon as Iyesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of Egziabeher descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, This is my Son Whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
At the end of the reading the crowd resounded, “Amen!”, Then the musicians began playing and the royal priesthood lifted their tabots, which are covered by decorated clothes, above their heads and proceed slowly down the palace steps. Some of the women in the crowd began ululations,
“Yuloo, loo loo looo…” and singing, dancing and clapping commenced.
Meanwhile, among the crowds of Aksumites and foreigners, there are strange figures lurking around in the shadows and alleyways in this city. They blend in quite effectively with the masses alright, staffs in hand, wearing all white garments with hoods and shamas like everyone else, but their hoods are hemmed with intricate designs that seems familiar at a glance, but at close inspection they are not. Strange symbols are hidden within their embroidered hems and tattooed onto their hands and feet. There are about eight or nine of them, probably more, the average height of men, dispersed among the crowds, looking, watching, waiting, signaling. What for? Nobody knows who they are or where they are from. Nobody really notices them, unless accidentally bumping into one of them and sensing an uneasy feeling within the spirit.
They blend in but seem suspicious. Spies from another country or province, scouting the land and kingdom? A strange cult seeking new converts? Word has it that cults, sects and isms sprout up quite often in the Egyptian city of Alexandria and cause all kinds of riots and unrest. Or are they strange beings from another dimension or realm, just observing human mortals like they’ve been doing since before the Great Deluge until Almighty Egziabeher saved only Noah and his family in the Ark? Perhaps self made monks and holy men.
Or perhaps scouts from The House of Israel – an ancient people descended from tribes of Israelites that intermarried with local Agew speaking peoples, who live by the laws and precepts of the five Holy Oracles written by Moses only and refused to convert to the religion on the Aksumite kingdom when Negus Ezana declared it in 330 AD, the new covenant and teachings of Iyesus Kristos. Therefore they are called Falashas since they were exiled from the kingdom of Aksum, so the two kingdoms have been in conflict with each other for more than 200 years with the occasional peace treaties in effect.
Though it can not be proven, The House of Israel may be venturing out from their own kingdom to the south of Aksum in the Semien Mountains and north of Tsana Hayk – Lake Tsana – by orders from King Phenias to plan another surprise attack. Nobody knows, few notice them. Who ever they are, their hoods cast a perpetual shadow over their faces so it is never revealed, even now in broad daylight.
The kesset (priests) walk single file with the tabots, which are covered in brightly colored satin cloths, over their heads. They are followed by the deacons, behind, then acolytes, and the musicians lead by the chief of Aksumite’s sacred music, Yared the Deacon and his skilled musicians of the royal court. Singing and dancing, like Negus Dawit7 in the streets of Aksum, commenced as they all head towards the Queen of Sheba’s bath place.
They sing a Psalm of Dawit (Ps 150):
Praise you the Lord Egziabeher in His sanctuary,
Praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power.
Praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet,
Praise him wit the harp and lyre,
Praise him with tambourine and dancing,
Praise him with the strings and flute,
Praise him with the clashing cymbals,
Praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Mekonnen says to Afeworqi as they stand together shoulder to shoulder,
“After this long day I would love to have injera and wot, then play a game of genna. What about you Afi?
“I will race you first to the field to play genna!” Afeworqi replies with a grin on his face.
Mekonnen boasts, “You want to compete against me, you loser?! You know I will run faster than you!
“Aykonnen! No Way! I will Not lose, you turtle!” Afeworqi replies, the two begin chuckling louder than they should on duty.
As they laugh a figure lurks and approaches the two from behind. It is a man, tall and with a serious scowl on his face, framed with an impressive head piece of baboon's fur that looks like like a lion’s mane. This person raises both his hands to the sides of Mekonnen's and Afeworqi’s heads and smack them hard on the ears, causing the duo’s puffy-haired heads to knock together. “Tonkks!”
They stop laughing immediately and turn around to see their angry captain, Negus Mulugeta, glaring at them.
“Stop laughing like hyenas and behave your selves in the presence of the Emperor! You two should know better!”
Captain Mulugeta scuffs at the young men, with his brilliantly colored robe over his shoulders and back revealing his authority and seniority as one of the head Captain of the Royal Guards.
Rubbing their aching heads, Mekonnen and Afeworqi bow and nod several times, apologizing repeatedly, “We are sorry, Geta Negus Mulugeta, yikrai-ta, yikrai-ta.”
Captain Mulugeta gestures roughly with hands pointing in opposite directions,
“You, Mekonnen, over there! And you Aferworqi, way over there! And don’t even look at each other. Look at the Negusa Negus and the crowds like you are supposed to!”
The young duo moved from each other immediately at Captain Mulugeta’s command, knowing their full punishment could be worst, or still pending.
“U-we, Geta. Yes, Lord.” And they were off.
When Captain Mulugeta was gone from sight the two glance at each other from afar and nodded and smiled, acknowledging their plan to still meet later.
But not too far away, one of the strange, dark hooded ones looked on at the scenario that just transpired among the three men. He is taking note of positions and movements of all the guards and warriors as if to plan some sort of malignant mischief, or deadly attack. His other shadowy companions are doing the same lurking motions throughout the city of Aksum. Watching. Strolling the streets. Emerging out of shadows and corners. Appearing atop buildings and high structures. Waiting. They observe everything.
1 Historically, the name of the queen was not known at this time. I use the name Semret, which means "Unity". Originally I thought of using “Azeb” from Ethiopian legend and popular girl name today in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
2 The Aksumites probably used the Greek Cubit which was about 18.3 inches. The Aksumites used Greek letters on their coins and did trading/business with Byzantine Empire.
3Sheba, across the Red Sea in present day Yemen.
4 I want to use Ge’ez here but I don’t know it yet so I used Tigrinya. Linguistically Tigrinya and Tigre are said to be closer to Ge’ez than Amharic.
5The serpent, the devil.
7King David from the Kingdom of Israel.
|The Epic Adventures of Mekonnen continues|