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Rosemary and the Dove


Jerusalem, Summer Solstice

The streets of Jerusalem buzzed with excitement. Vendors sold their goods to oncoming travelers. My heart leapt with joy, tonight was to be the biggest summer celebration of my life so far. In all my fourteen years I've never seen the streets so packed. I tightened my shawl about my waist. I was dressed in my late mother's garments. It was all I had left other than a pendant which I always wore.

“Rosemary!” My Papa called me back to our stand. My family and I were simple folk, we spent our days helping our Papa with the stand and our nights lying under the crystal moon. Tonight was to mark the blue moon, the first in three seasons. My dark hair flew behind as I dashed toward Papa.

“Papa” I said, waiting for instructions; my two brothers, David and Markus, also stood by.

“Rosemary take this bundle of sweet grass to Helem, and don't be away for long.” He gave me the sack, for an average girl it would have been too much. Fortunately I was not. I nodded and bore the sack with ease. Helem was an old friend of ours. Though, she was odd. She would spend hours upon hours shouting about a savior to come. Papa always told me to humor her, since her two sons had died of famine she had never been “right”. I walked across town with the sack on my shoulders, the fiery sun beating down on my face. I passed Jasmine’s scented oils, only the wealthy could buy such goods. I took a couple minutes to stare through the window, ladies in red and purple linen fawned over the oils. I looked down at my simple gray-blue attire, I rubbed the dirt off my cheek. Suddenly a woman came out,

“Goodness, go away you filth, you’ll ruin my window dressing”. She waved me away, I shrugged and reluctantly took up the sack again and went on my way. I finally made it to the gates of the city. Helem’s house was still a while away. The sun was setting over Jerusalem's main gate, the mountains and fields beyond were darkened by the glow of the fiery sphere. I started down the road, heading east of the gate. Helem lived in a small village not far from the city but the terrain was hard to pass. I made my way slowly but surely in my well-worn sandals. The path gradually changed from paved cobble stone to packed down soil. In the distance I saw the glow of tiny fires. I was not far from the village. I quickened my pace, soon I could hear ancient hymns and see people dancing near the flames of the central fire. The solstice had begun and I was not with my family. Instead, I was bringing a sack of grass to an old delusional crone. I was tired and hot, frustrated with myself. But all my feelings melted away when I saw Jacot. He was an old friend of mine, our mothers were the dearest of friends. He came up to me and embraced me.

“Hello Rosey” I flinched at the nickname,

“How many times do I have to tell you J, don’t use that nickname, It’s embarrassing” I nudged him, he only chuckled.

“Oh come on Rosey, have a heart” He nudged me back, then he stopped, “Why are you not with your family? It’s the solstice.” I looked at him squarely.

“I have something to deliver first, to old Helem” I said. Everyone stopped and looked at us, I glanced at the people around the main fire. Jacot shifted his stance uncomfortably.

“She's not here Rosey,” I looked at him, suddenly feeling fear. The King has been taking delusional people lately and no one knows why. “She’s on the ridge, talking to herself.” I felt a little relieved, I looked up at him again.

“Jacot can you take me to her, I have to deliver this.” I adjusted the heavy load. J sighed.

“Alright, come on” He led the way and I followed. We were walking up hill in silence, all I heard were the noises of the surrounding area. It was weird the way J was acting right now. In all my years I knew him, I could never get him to be quiet. Now it was different, I couldn't get him to talk. We remained in silence until we got to the top. I saw Helem, her old form bent out of shape. Mumbling to the fire that glowed faintly in front of her.

“Helem?” Her body stiffened, she looked up at me with her watery blue eyes. I approached her and laid the sack at her feet. I straighten and she clasped my hand violently, I jumped. Surprised at the strength in her grip. Jacot came closer. His hand on the sash around his waist. Helem pulled me down so I was face to face with her.

“My Lord God has chosen you to be his weapon of belief” She said in a low growling voice, my heart rate quickened. “You shall be the one to destroy those who cower in front of idols of the damned and bring pain to those who disobey the Lord's commands”. Fear clenched my heart, I struggled against Helem, who, it seemed, had finally lost it. “You are now the blade of the Lord!” She shouted, her painful burning touch raced through my arm. I cried out, Jacot swooped in and pulled me away from the mad woman. I clasped my wrist, my hand burned like the sun itself. Helem laughed a crazy laugh of joy. Jacot led me away from the site and down the hill, not releasing me from his protective grip. We heard her screams as we fled. “You run from the Lord, no matter where you go, trouble will always find you!” We broke from the hill and entered the village again. The village had resumed their celebrations and no one noticed our arrival. Jacot led me away from the fire and into his family's hut. No one else was there. He left my side only to light a lamp which instantly lit and warmed the room.

“Let me see your hand” I gave him my burning hand, it was red and swollen. J got up again and grabbed a wrapping. Then he came back and tied my hand; my heart rate slowly returned to normal. I let out a long exhale, he looked up at me. I could see the concern in his eyes. “Are you okay?” I nodded, I wanted to tell him how I felt but I did not know how. “You should stay here tonight Rosey” I shook my head.

“No, I need to get back to Papa. He needs me.” I looked at his eyes; he was about to say something when we heard shouts from outside. He ran to the door and flung it open. Fire was everywhere, people were running away. I could see the terror on their faces. “What’s happening!?” I shouted to J. He ran back into the house away from the door. He grabbed his scythe from under the bed.

“It’s a raid” My heart was beating faster, slamming in my ribcage. Jacot was about to leave when I grabbed him.

“Take me with you, I can fight” He shrugged me off.

“No, you stay hidden I’ll be back as soon as I can” He turned away.

“J!” But he had already disappeared in the chaos. I ran to the back of the hut and looked through many pots and pottery when I found something useful. I pulled the iron knife from the mess, studying it. I stuck it through my sash. Then I went to look under the bed, but all I found were old farming tools. I pushed the items out of the way when rough hands grabbed my legs. I was pulled away from the bed. I yelped as the rough hands clung to me.

“General I found one!” My attacker pulled me out of the hut. I was suddenly surrounded by flames and desperate people. Soldiers bearing imperial emblems darting here and there chasing women and girls; fighting off the men and boys that tried to hold them off. I was dragged to a bald man with a furious gleam in his eyes. His armor shone in the flames of the destruction that surrounded us. The man grabbed my shoulder, digging his fingers into my arm as if looking for something.

“She would do fine in the palace as a slave to the advisors,” He smirked. My mind spun at the realization of their presence; these men were looking for slaves. I fought against my restraints, cursing my weakness. “Take her” The man waved his hand and my attacker dragged me to a chestnut steed. I saw Jacot and I cried out to him. He spun and stared at me horrified. I struggled against the soldier as he tried to pull me onto the horse.

“Stay still girl” I tried to break his grip on me, but it only tightened. Jacot called to me.

“Rosemary! Hang on!” I was almost on the horse when I suddenly remembered the knife on my waist. I pulled it out desperately and slashed the man's hand. He yelled and released his hold on me; I fell to the ground. I turned around to see the soldier holding his hand. He looked at me angrily, reaching for his sword. My heart pumped fear into my veins. I looked around for the knife, the soldier approached me. My head whirled, desperate. He brought his sword up and swung it down. I threw my hand up in an attempt to stop the blade. A glorious bird of light burst from my palm and it drove the sword into its owner. Shocked and confused I fell back. My hand burning more than ever, the world sounded fuzzy and vertigo washed over me. My head ached and my thoughts drowned me. I stared at the soldier that I had just killed, his face displayed shock and his eyes were cold. My heart still drummed in my ribcage. Someone came up from behind me and took hold of my shoulders. My head snapped up but my arms did not move. Jacot pulled me onto my feet and supported me. He was talking to me but I couldn’t understand. My mind was on the soldier and his blade. Jacot led me through the chaos, fire was everywhere, soldiers shouting, crying women, fighting men; it was too much. My legs gave out, J caught me. The world was fading fast, I tried to grab onto the last piece of light; but it slipped through my fingers.

?

There was no noise, my feet met no ground. I felt like I was falling but I wasn’t moving. I looked around and saw only darkness; I curled myself into a ball, the darkness enclosed me. I was not afraid of the dark instead I welcomed the silence. I closed my eyes, slowly moving my arms through the space. Suddenly I felt a presence in the gloom. I opened my eyes and saw a man with deep brown eyes and black hair. He had a slight build and he wore a red and black tunic. He came closer, I stayed still; He reached out and touched my shoulder. A ripple of terror ran through me as I saw my skin turn black and dry. I screamed and took a step back, the man grabbed me, his eyes were full of want and desire. I screamed again, the darkness spreading across my skin. I pressed my other hand against him in attempt to push him away. My hand was consumed by the blackness. “Help,” My mind screamed, “Help me”. From my palm the glorious bird erupted again. The man’s face expressed fear and he released his grip on me. The bird rested itself on my shoulder; I felt the warmth of it’s blazing white flames yet I was not burned. The man took a step away from the bird. His face showed anger and hatred. The bird flew at him, talons bare and vengeful. To my horror it flew through his body and out the other side. He let out such a scream it reverberated through my skull and down my spine. His body then faded into the darkness. My legs became weak and I fell to my knees, the bird landed in front of me, it’s flames licked my chin. My heart beat steadied, I let the warmth flutter within me. Then there was a voice in the gloom; first it was soft then it grew and vibrated against the darkness.

“Rosemary, Rosemary” It called, I looked around, but I was alone in the dark. The voice called again, I searched the blackness, again I saw nothing.

“Who are you? What do you want with me?” I cried out, the bird’s white flames grew brighter and taller, I fell back. Enchanted by the flames I got to my feet and took a few steps toward the fire. The voice called to me again; I waited.

“Rosemary,” I looked at the flames, to my amazement I saw a figure standing in the flames. He was as white as the clouds in the sky and he glowed as brightly as the northern star. I thrust my hand to him, into the flames. The fire was astonishingly warm and soft, not like the fierce fires that cut and burn anything in their paths. Again I asked,

“Who are you? What do you want with me?” The man looked at me with his ox soft eyes. His touch was cool against the warmth of the flames.

“I am the God of all Gods, I am the wind in your hair, the breath in your lungs” I fell to my knees and bowed my head. I shook with fear, “What does this god, the one that has given me this weapon of destruction, want with me?” The Lord spoke to me again, “Dear child, do not be afraid. Speak the words on your tongue do not let them anguish you.” I faced the flames and cried out.

“If you are the God greater than life on this world, why have you chosen me, a merchant girl with no wealth and no power, to be your weapon of justice” There was a silence between us, my fear was lifted from me and I stared with strength at the Lord. After a while, I felt anxious with what I said. Then He answered me,

“Dear child, would a child younger than you be more suited for the task or an old maid? Would a child of fortune relate to the people?” I thought about that for a moment.

“Why Lord of Life, would you chose me? I am one of many, no different from my brothers or sisters.” He knelt in front of me and laid his hand on mine.

“Dearest one, that maybe but you have something in your heart rarer than gold.” I looked at him puzzled,

“My God, what could I possibly have that would make me of service to you?” I felt a warm sensation in my heart. I pressed my hand against it.

“Because your heart holds love and compassion for all” He replied. I suddenly felt a nagging in my heart, a nagging that stirred it. I had this feeling that I had to do the Lord’s bidding.

“Alright, my Lord, I shall do your will” He then disappeared from the bird’s flames; I remained on my knees, sucking in deep breaths. A voice softer than snow remained in the dark.

“My child, go to King Shonal, tell him to change his ways and to turn to the light. Warn him that if he doesn’t repent for his sins you shall send out your dove and cast his house into darkness” With that the voice faded. The darkness deepened and the light of my bird went out.

?

The wind was soft on my skin, the ground was calm under my body. I opened my eyes slowly, I was surrounded by pine and elm trees. I pushed myself onto my elbows, feeling my arms sink into the loose ground. I stared at a tree trying to figure out how the gods I got there when my encounter suddenly smacked me. I stared at the dirty bandage on my hand and pulled it off. On my hand and down to my wrist was a glorious bird symbol. I ran my hand down the flowing lines, it was a beautiful piece of artwork. On touching it the symbol sent a shock of warmth through my body. I heard someone or something come up behind me; I turned on my knee and faced the shrubs nehind me. Jacot stumbled out of the trees carrying an armful of wood. He looked up and instantly stopped, Jacot dropped the fire wood and came at me. He embraced me in a tight hug, I felt his body shake and I feared he was crying.

“Are you really awake? Rosey?” I hugged him back and nodded,

“Yes J, I’m okay” Then I sat back, I needed to tell him; “J we need to talk,” He looked up, concern was written plainly in his eyes; I told him everything about my encounter with the Lord. Jacot listened carefully until the end. We remained silent for a while, I let him process what I had told him.

“So you need to go talk to King Shonal and tell him to change his ways or you will basically kill him and his entire household.” Jacot finally said. I shifted uncomfortably at his words

“Essentially yes” Again we fell into silence, I looked away but I still felt his deep brown eyes on me. I heard him sigh,

“Take me with you” My head snapped back and faced him, he was crazy;

“No Jacot, I will not risk your life” He made a small smile, my heart warmed;

“You already did” I chuckled a bit, realizing that he was right as I had just told him about my mission.

“Alright fine” I agreed. He smiled brightly now and nodded briskly. I got up, shaking of the dirt and grass that clung to my clothes. I looked to the sky, it was almost midday.

“If we are to get to the King and give him this message, we better leave now” Jacot got up and nodded softly. We walked south, my legs stiff from not using them for who knows how many hours. In the nights we slept close for warmth and rationed whatever food we could find during the day. We traveled for a week, away from any towns and villages. Away from the gates of Jerusalem; from my Papa and two brothers. Silent tears crept down my face. Jacot looked at me, he placed a hand on my cheek and stared at my face,

“They're okay you know, don’t worry” I nodded, he brushed one of my tears away with his thumb and smiled. We traveled for another few days, I began to feel the weakness of hardly any food or water. On the seventh day of our journey we finally saw the gates of Tel Arad, the great city that housed King Shonal. Jacot was weaker than I was and I had to help him get to the gates of the palace. The bronze doors swung open and I collapsed to the floor.

?

The smell of incense woke me; the sound of the wind calmed me. My eyes fluttered open to behold a large and brightly decorated room. I was in a bed of fine linens and I wore soft garments that tickled my skin. I pulled the heavy covers off and stumbled out of bed. I found my gray-blue robe on an elm wood chair, I removed the comfy nightgown and replaced it with my mother’s attire. I just finished changing when a woman walked into the room. She bore the silver star of Tel Arad and she bowed before me. I was stunned no one had ever bowed to me.

“King Shonal asks for you to accompany him, in his throne room” The woman stayed bent. I sucked in a quick breath and answered.

“I accept the King’s invitation” With that the woman stood straight and beckoned me to follow. We passed hallways and many stairs until we stood in front of two great elm wood doors. The woman knocked upon them and the doors swung silently open. There stood a great hall of silver tapestries and majestic stones. On a tall throne sat the King who had a greedy look in his eye. I got to my knees at the foot of the throne. He was the first to speak;

“Get from the ground dear one and tell me your purpose to be in my hall” I stood up and looked at the king with a strong gaze; though my heart pounded like a drum skipping to an uneven beat.

“King Shonal, Son of Bouzar, the lord of Tel Arad; I bring a message from my Master” My voice echoed throughout the hall, vibrating in the corners, humming in the shadows.

“And what is this great message” The king’s voice hissed with a cunning tone. I answered his question;

“My Master wishes you to turn from your horrid ways and to repent for your sins or else” I said with a sure tone. The wicked king laughed, his voice boomed in the hall.

“Or else what? Dear one, Or else what?” The king got up from his chair abruptly and laughing. I took a step back. I kept my gaze hard and my tone strong, but my instincts told me to flee.

“Or else my Master will give me the power to bring your house and everyone who lives in it into darkness.” My voice remained in the air, the king had stopped laughing at my presence. His gaze turned cold and dark.

“How can I repent when I have done nothing wrong?” I looked around the room, I saw all the luxurious items he had. I knew my answer,

“You have robbed the people of their money for your pleasure. Greedy one! Repent your sins and spare your household” My tone was cold as the winter's wind, the king sat back down and hissed like a serpent, “Never”. I bowed my head, I threw my hand into the air and called upon the dove to my aid. Instead of a glamorous bird of light, one of nightmare sprang from my palm. It flew upwards, drawing every eye with it. When the bird had reached the highest peak of the domed ceiling darkness ran through the great hall. The king screamed in terror and every child, servant; man and woman screamed with him. I covered my ears, and wept silent tears. Then I felt a hand touch me and I saw through the dimness around me Jacot’s sad face. I embraced him tightly. Finally, the bird returned to my hand along with the curtain of night. I looked in horror at the king who had turned to stone, his face full of pain was as sharp and frightful as a bare blade. Jacot and I walked out of the silent hall, he had found a brown horse. We mounted and rode away from Tel Arad. Despite the outcome I felt relieved, like a burden had lifted from my shoulders. I stared at my hand and saw the bird symbol. I smiled, I was the Lord's weapon of belief, His light in the dark and I would do as He commanded ‘till my days came to an end. And we rode homeward, finally.

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