Moses was a Liar: 3 EXODUS 6: The Exodus Begins

Posted: November 3, 2011 in SciFi

And thus it is written:

At the beginning of time and in the age of stones

the earth was created when the silver bird of the heavens

descended upon a lone mountain;

it brought to this earth the seeds of time

when the red waters covered the earth

and great fires spewed forth into the skies

then came forth a force to deliver us from the waters

 the seeds of time descended to earth to populate the soil.

  when we observed what had transpired

we saw that it was good.

And the Red Angel said to us

Go forth and multiply

Create the beginning but know the end was not in vain

know that you are the seeds of time

and on the eighth stone so it came to pass.

The multitude went forth and multiplied

To the sixth generation

 in the Promised Land as was prophesied

and the seeds bore fruit

In a multitude never before seen

and thus was borne the new nation

and it was good

The time had come for the exodus to begin. Karl had set the date after considerable discussion and debate with the villagers. In each village there was some consternation as dissidents who wished to remain in the comfort of their homes and live the lives they had become accustomed to became more strident in their warnings of doom to those who were finalising their preparations for the long journey to a destination they had no understanding or even vision of.

After a long and drawn-out round of negotiations with each of the tribes with the Red Priestess observing and guiding Karl in the background, the date was set to coincide with the next full moon, which he had told them would be in roughly two weeks time. It had been agreed that they would set out in a southerly direction toward the warmer climes of the African plains and if possible to get closer to the equator which the Red Priestess had explained to Karl was an imaginary line between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of the planet, where the sun and the seasons changed but little. She also explained why they would be better off in the warmer and more tropical climates. The land of the mythical Promised Land lay in that direction she said. To the north lay cold wastelands not to be tested by the tribes. Of course she had to explain to him how to maintain a southern route and taught him about the Southern Cross which she had pointed out to him just above the southern horizon. Rachel also presented him with a mysterious black metal box.

“This is the instrument of Oscar the Navigator, Karl. I don’t know how it works, but it was handed to him by your grandfather Karl eighty years ago. He kept it until he died about fifty years ago or about thirty bird migrations, if you prefer, after we crashed. He tried to explain how it worked to me but because we had no celestial bodies to measure, I couldn’t learn how to use it. The only thing it could do was to look at the horizon and measure the angle of any object I choose.”

“To what use would you put this so-called angle, Rachel?” Karl asked while he fiddled with the unfamiliar instrument and looked through its small telescope. Rachel showed him what Oscar had showed her so many years before but without the privilege of a star or a moon. Karl was astounded by the clarity of the stars. She then showed him that when you pointed it towards the horizon, and knew what angle a star should be you could calculate the latitude of the earth. To Karl this was all hocus-pocus stuff but he thanked her for the sextant and decided quietly that he would give this to one of the New Londoners. They would know what to do with it. Ahmed would be delighted to help with navigation.

She then stood up from her customary stool and walked into the inner recesses of her cave. When she returned she was carrying a bundle of what looked like parchments or skins wrapped up with hemp strings.

These she handed to Karl who looked at her questioningly.

“These are the maps which were drawn by your forefathers and especially by your grandfather Karl on his last-ever exploration south of Red Valley. It was the time when he was attacked and injured by the lioness and Beowulf saved his life with his short hunting bow. These maps contain much information regarding the terrain you and the pilgrims will cross on your journeys. Nobody else has seen these maps and only a navigator can use them. They are clearly marked with mountains and rivers to the south and will guide you as surely as an arrow shot in the sky. You will find evidence of cities of lost civilisations and even the spot where your grandfather was attacked. Also the location of the Bushmen tribe which befriended Beowulf and your grandfather is recorded on this precious map. Let me explain to you how you are to read it.”

Rachel spent some time with Karl explaining the maps and how to interpret the information so laboriously recorded many decades before. He was transported back into history; a history as relevant to him as it was to his ancestors when they compiled it. The documents before him were indeed sacred and he would protect them with his very life.

When she was satisfied that Karl understood the importance and relevance of the maps and knew how to read them, she rolled them up and after tying the bundle again, handed it to Karl with the words: “You are no longer Karl the Hunter; now you shall be known as Karl the Navigator. Lead your people to the Promised Land and go in peace.”

 

The New Londoners had sent out a number of scouting groups and in collaboration with Karl and the Caesareans, had established two supply stations each seven days away from each other. Their strategy would be to use these to replenish supplies as the exodus advanced and establish new ones further south. Hunting parties constituted by each tribe would seek food as they progressed.

Meanwhile the Jesuits were struggling with the exodus. Timothy the Vicar General was supporting the expedition but a large sector of his village wanted to stay behind. They argued that they preferred the known to the unknown and in any case were not comfortable to follow a pagan leader into the unknown. They were mostly the older citizens who had traditionally been followers of Joshua, the deposed Vicar General, who was still isolating himself although he had commenced eating again.

Timothy’s followers made up roughly two-thirds of the village. They were ready to depart. In fact they were impatient and looked forward to leaving the place behind in which they had been shamed.

The Convocation’s decision to allow the former Vicar General to remain behind if he so wished still stood. A group of more than 200 citizens loyal to him decided to remain behind and it became a rallying point for the conservative group of Jesuits. They believed that Father Timothy represented a spiritual aberration from the teachings of Jesus Christ and that he had been unduly influenced if not bewitched, by the Red Priestess. The City of the Jesuits was sorely divided and many a scuffle took place between the two camps in the days leading up to the departure.

The High Priest and his acolytes had also prepared themselves for the journey. Rachel’s son had consulted with his mother on several occasions during the months leading up to their departure. She had impressed upon him the importance of his contribution to the overall exodus. To ensure that he and Karl would constitute a formidable team, she arranged for the two to meet and discuss the way forward. The Red Priestess had encouraged Karl to use the High Priest as Oracle and Prophet and to afford him some standing within the control structures they had planned together so carefully.

Michael realised that his departure from the valley would mean that it would be the last time he would see his mother and while their farewells were not as emotional as one would expect between a mother and son, she silently cried in her heart; he was her last link to Hassan.

 

About two weeks before the departure of the pilgrims, the Red Priestess left her cave with instructions to the girls to prepare themselves for the expedition and clean up all rubbish and unnecessary objects in the cave which had become their home over the last eighteen months.

The following day she arrived in New London and asked to see Ahmed. She was shown to his home and when she entered the dim room was happy to see him poring over parchment documents. He had never married and was somewhat of a recluse, being happy to work on his research. Now that the stars had been revealed, he had many years of work to do.

He looked up in surprise at Rachel: “And to what do I owe this privilege?”

“Hallo Ahmed, sorry to burst in on you like this, and I am somewhat tired, so before answering your question, answer this: Do you have a bed for me tonight and perhaps something to eat?”

Even more nonplussed now Ahmed could only nod.

“Ah good. We have much to talk about,” she replied somewhat relieved.

“Let me show you to your bed,” Ahmed said, leaving his table and walked her down a small passage to a tiny room which was spotlessly clean with only a bed and table as furnishings. Rachel freshened up and after some time emerged with a large parcel. Ahmed had meanwhile brewed some fresh char and she could also smell something cooking on the fire in the hearth.

“Come sit down. You must be tired and thirsty,” he said, having recovered his composure.

“Yes, thanks very much,” she replied as he handed her a cup of char.

“I must say that you are the very last person I’d have expected here tonight, or any night for that matter. But please feel free, you are doubly welcome as my guest. It gets lonely at night so some company is just what I need right now,” he said as he busied himself with the food setting two places as he spoke.

“Ahmed, I have a very special mission and reason for seeing you, but before I get to that I wish to enlighten you on some of your history in Red Valley,” she said looking keenly at Ahmed in the dim light of the tallow candle on the table where he had dished up food and sat down facing her. Ahmed said nothing and waited for her to continue.

“Your grandmother, Shenaaz was the sister of my husband and as you very well knew was happily married to your grandfather Gary, one of our original survivors who played a major role in our lives for many stones until his death about four stones ago. Shenaaz and he were very happy.”

“I know that but I was not aware that you had married and now you’re telling me that in fact you are my great-aunt by marriage,” a somewhat taken aback Ahmed replied.

“Hassan, your great-uncle was my husband. He died in an accident on the cliffs of KRAT. I was devastated as we were still quite young and our son was only three months old.”

“What? A son, you?” he said in some shock now. Not only had she informed him that she was his great-aunt but that she had had a child: “Who is he? Is he still alive?”

“Yes he is very much alive and you have seen him, especially on KRAT. I believe his favourite colour is blue,” she said with a twinkle in her voice, looking at Ahmed’s shocked face.

“No, I don’t believe you. Are you talking about the High Priest?”

“His name is Michael. We named him after my father, Michael Hailey. After Hassan’s death and the more shocking murder of Christine, I left Michael in the care of my dear friends Esme and Oscar who served as his foster parents. I retreated to my cave as you heard me tell after the tornado in the Jesuit church. I visited him as often as I could and indeed we still meet today and share information about the doings in the Valley. Michael has a real talent in that he can to some degree foretell things as we have discussed. This is not as mystical as it may sound as I helped to develop his intellectual capacity and strengthen his so-called ‘vision’ as did Esme at my request.”

“But nobody knew of this,” Ahmed protested.

“It was by choice that I decided not to divulge our relationship. It could have harmed him or painted us both into a particular corner in the eyes of especially the Jesuits.”

“So why are you telling me this now, Rachel or should I say Aunt Rachel?” he asked with a mock-pained look on his face.

“Relax, I’m not going to burden you with anything. I’m telling you this in order that you appreciate our bond and as an introduction of something infinitely more important.”

Now doubly suspicious, Ahmed waited for what was to follow.

“The world which I came from was very different to what it is today and certainly from what we know here in Red Valley. We were technically very advanced and I know that you as a person with a very enquiring mind would have enjoyed the marvels of the modern world. Many of the things you are researching right now have been resolved many centuries ago.”

“Such as what?” a visibly excited Ahmed asked. His eyes shone in anticipation of her answer.

“Well now, that would be telling wouldn’t it?” she replied laughing at his expression. “Just to whet your appetite, there was a famous scientist called Isaac Newton who formulated the so-called laws of motion. His second law of motion states that if you place force on an object, it will accelerate and it will change its velocity in the direction of the force. In other words it accelerates in the direction you push it. If you push twice as hard it accelerates twice as much and if its mass is twice the mass of another object, it will accelerate only half as much.”

“What was the first law then?” Ahmed asked, barely able to contain his excitement.

“No, I’m not a scientist and I believe that the New World will have to re-discover many of the scientific things which we accepted as common occurrences. Newton for example was the first scientist to break light into its different colours.”

“Now you’re teasing me, Rachel. How can light have different colours?” the frustrated man complained.

“No, I don’t want to tease you. I merely want to stimulate your already capable mind to think beyond the norm; to help you with the objective that you will carry a message of enormous import into the New World you are about to journey to. The journey of the mind is infinitely more exciting and challenging, but it requires discipline and hard work. You will fail many times and as another famous inventor once said, each failure was a lesson on how not to do the experiment.”

“What do you have in mind?” Ahmed asked looking at the large parcel that Rachel had brought from her room. It lay in front of them like a snake ready to strike.

“Many years ago, I was asked to take an oath. It was an oath which required of me to keep a secret and to look after a heritage from the Ancient world with my life. Are you willing to take a similar oath now Ahmed?”

“I don’t understand what it’s all about, Rachel. In any case I don’t believe in gods and spirits so what is the value of an oath?”

“I know that, Ahmed, that’s why I selected you. An oath does not mean you swear before some deity for fear of being struck down should you break your promise. All it means is that you undertake on your honour to fulfill the conditions of such an oath. Your honour has infinitely more value to me than a hollow oath to some invisible god or spirit. What is expected of you is to protect a work of art; a work of wisdom. A work which contains very important discoveries of man. You are expected to ensure that this is never to be used by persons with dishonest and mystical intentions. What say you?”

“I can go along with that; I too jealously guard my work and allow nobody to abuse it. There are many fools in the world and it is too easy for someone to steal your work and declare it to be their own,” Ahmed replied.

“You have illustrated and confirmed the wisdom of my choice, Ahmed. Thank you.” Rachel stood up and carefully unwrapped ‘The Ten Pillars of Ancient Wisdoms’. As the skin covers fell away, the dark burnished wood glowed softly in the candle-light. The carvings seemed to come alive and dance as the flame flickered. Ahmed gasped and reached out to the object but Rachel stopped him.

“Wait Ahmed. I need you to swear that you will never permit this book to fall into the hands of a religionist or any mystic who may wish to use its contents to benefit him/herself, or who may wish to destroy it. You must swear to protect the book with your life and only to allow those who you believe will uphold its values and teaching, access to its contents and who will use this in the best interests of mankind. You must swear that you and only you will keep the book in your custody and only permit those of whom you approve to read it in your presence. You must swear this by the lives of your great-grandfather Ahmedi and your great-grandmother killed during the birth of Mt Brutus, your grandmother Shenaaz and Hassan my dear husband and all others you may hold dear.”

“I swear that and more. I swear by my life and by the lives of those who may follow me, to uphold the sanctity of the book,” Ahmed answered solemnly

Rachel now handed the book to the new Custodian of the Book with instructions for the care for the book, how to read it and a final instruction to ensure that when the time was right, to pass the book on to a suitable person as she had done.

“Rachel, why did you select me?” he eventually asked, very intimidated and humbled by the responsibility that she had placed on his shoulders. He was paging slowly through its soft skin pages without reading. The illustrations, mathematical notations and drawings were mysterious yet in a strange way somehow familiar to him. They seemed to stir some ancient and buried memories in his mind. His hand trembled as he turned the pages.

“I’ve my reasons just as much as you will have your reasons for choosing a successor, years from today. But know this: the contents of the ten chapters are of such importance that as you work through the pages you will realise that man’s mind will require a mature and intelligent approach to appreciate the relevance and impact of what is written. In the wrong hands this information could once again lead to man’s downfall; to his ultimate and inevitable destruction. As Custodian it will now be your responsibility to ensure it is put to the best use.”

The two of them sat quietly contemplating what lay before them; Ahmed whose life lay before him and who could look forward to sharing the wisdom of the Ancient World; Rachel who now could lay to rest the ghosts of the past.

 

The dawn of the departure day arrived and the sun was greeted by an astonishing sight.

Gathered in Red Valley was a motley crowd of some 950 souls. The gathering was clearly divided in four distinct groups with the smallest constituted by the High Priest and his small entourage. The largest group was the Jesuits who were clearly distinguishable by their drab clothes and religious accoutrements. The Caesareans together with the New Londoners made up the balance of the exodus.

Standing on a small hill overlooking the gathering, the Jesuits who had decided to remain behind, had gathered. In front of them the deposed Vicar General could be seen. He was quiet; quietly awaiting something to happen. In his left arm he carried what seemed to be a Bible while in his right hand he held a long staff, crooked at the top. With his flowing grey beard and disheveled long hair, he looked the part of the mythical Moses of the Israelites, Rachel thought to herself where she stood on a hill facing north at the exit from the valley.  Sitting beside her were the acolytes. The young girls had been groomed and prepared for this moment but they were nonetheless terrified by the prospect of leaving their mentor and soul mother behind. When Karl signaled their departure, they had been instructed to march down to him and join him and the High Priest as a group.

The previous night had been a sad affair. Karl and the girls had said their last goodbyes in private to Rachel. She had marked the occasion with her last lecture to them: the legend of Beowulf.

She told them the story starting with his momentous birth which signaled a new era for the survivors. They heard how he had grown up to become a young hunter and explorer; how Karl’s grandfather had taught him everything he could. They also heard how the Jesuit priest had tried his best to convert him to Christianity but how he had rejected not only the priest but also any form of religion. They learnt about his exploits, his exploration of the Red Valley and the world which lay beyond the Great Divide.

“It was about twenty-five years after his birth that his mother Esme died after contracting cancer of the breast,” Rachel explained to them.

“What’s cancer?” one of the girls asked.

“It’s a terrible disease which destroys the healthy body cells until you eventually die. In the Ancient world they had ways and means of curing most forms of cancer but it still constituted one of the biggest killers,” she replied, before continuing. “After Beowulf had executed the priest of the Jesuits, he disappeared and only came back to us on odd occasions. On one of these trips he learned of his mother’s death. He was very sad that he had not been there when she needed him most. He then left Red Valley for almost five whole migrations and when he returned he had changed a lot; he was more aggressive and withdrawn. He also told me that he had again encountered the Lost Tribe to the south of the Great Divide. They had tried to convince him to remain behind with them. There he met the woman called Amanda. She was the one who was abducted many years before and since then had had five children. She seemed to be quite an influential person and virtually ruled the Lost Tribe. Their chieftain was a man called Jim but he was very old by that time and close to death. Amanda was the one who protected Beowulf from harm when they met him.”

“Why did Beowulf not stay behind with them?”

“He told me that they were total barbarians. They killed for pleasure and attacked small tribes who had established themselves in the area, killing and raping as they went. They even ate the livers and hearts of their victims. He found their lifestyle totally abhorrent and left them in the middle of the night, lest he be killed as well. They followed him but he escaped.”

“What then became of him?” Karl wanted to know.

“The night before he left Red Valley for the last time, he came to me and told me he was going to go away for a long time. He said he had discovered a very beautiful valley next to a very large lake where he would be able to establish his own village. I asked him how he would do this on his own and then he said quite a mysterious thing. He said he had a family which awaited him. This was the first time I heard that he had already established a family. He must have met up with a tribe or at least a woman and with whom he was prepared to live. I believe this was his dear friend Xcaixia. He tried to explain to me where he would be, but from what I could understand his village was very far south; according to him at least two month’s distance from Red Valley.”

Rachel stood up slowly and walked to the rear of her cave and after rummaging around for a short while returned to hand to Karl a beautifully carved object. It was made of the finest ivory and showed the figures of two people embracing each other.

“Beowulf gave me this as a token of his love and respect for me. He said that if I ever left the Red Valley to seek him I should bring this token along as it would be a peace token even after his death for whosoever carried it. I want you Karl to carry this close to your heart and if you should find Beowulf’s tribe, show them this with this message from me: “I come in peace and hold this token in memory of the Red Priestess and her friendship with Beowulf.”

“It is now over 50 years ago that I last saw or heard from Beowulf. If he is still alive he would be an old man. Seek him on your journeys,” she instructed Karl.

To the girls she said in farewell: “Go in peace and find peace where you go. You’ll be confronted by many challenges and many dangers. Be confident in your own abilities and although you are still very young, you are to remember that you carry with you the history of the New World. Protect that at all costs and allow no person to destroy or corrupt your minds and what you have learnt. It will be your oral tradition which will be carried forward to the next generations. The legends of the future will be based on what you tell the world. Karl will protect you and guide you where guidance is needed. I also tell you that my son will be with you as well,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes.

“Your son, who is he…?” they, including Karl, yelped in consternation.

Laughing at the looks of disbelief on their faces, she said: “My son you all know very well. You have seen him conduct many ceremonies. Yes, the High Priest is my son. He was the issue of my husband Hassan and myself when I was about 27 migrations old.”

“But Rachel, why didn’t you get him to lead the exodus,” Karl asked. He was taken aback that she had never told him this.

“Karl, my son is not a leader. He’s a mystic and as I told you before, you should use him as the Oracle and maybe even as a Prophet. The mystics of the Caesareans as well as the Jesuits love these things. But beware; let mysticism not become your tradition or your strength. Remain rooted in reality and cut through the bullshit; that is your strength and where your leadership will win the day. Let the mystics play their games but do not permit them to rise to positions of power. That has been the downfall of many civilisations in the past.”

They had all packed their possessions in preparation for the journey and after each girl performed a small presentation in thanks to Rachel, Karl left to return to his home. The cave grew quite as they slept waiting for the new dawn.

 

In the Valley, Karl stood on a small mound which gave him a view of the whole entourage. He raised his arms and said in a loud voice which carried to all: “Hear ye who wish to create a new world. Today, this day is known on the calendar of the world of the Ancients as July 1st 2093 after the death of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Jesuits. It is also the year 83 of the new world, our world. A new count shall herald today. Thus we shall create a new calendar. This day shall be known as July 1st, 83 after the Apocalypse. Hear ye who have the courage and vision to find a new beginning. Hear ye who are prepared to confront the challenges on our journey and who have faith that we will overcome and conquer. We leave this valley which has been home to us for so many years to seek our land of milk and honey. It is our destiny to do so; it is also our destiny to become the foundations of future generations; there can be no greater honour and there can be no greater reward for our forefathers who arrived in this valley under such difficult circumstances. They have left behind a heritage for us to follow. They have trodden the road we are setting out on and they have communicated their wishes to me. They will all be proud of our achievements and our journey will honour their memory. We may not disappoint them. I here today pledge my loyalty to them and also to you; we are the seeds of the future!” he turned and with a wave of his arm signaled the start of the new exodus.

A roar rose slowly from deep in the belly of the crowd; it rose to a crescendo and as one man, a movement started, first a small ripple then more urgent; a flow through to the very last family as they gathered up their belongings and set off on a journey which will for generations, nay centuries to come be the lore of legend and song.

The Red Priestess was standing alone as the young girls streamed down the hill toward the entourage of the High Priest. They merged with the younger priests and with sad glances at the lonely but regal figure on the hill, moved in coiled lines like a winding serpent out of Red Valley. She watched as the pilgrims left the valley; the only home they had ever known; the decisions and debates that had raged for the last six months in each household as they considered whether the exodus was wise, were tempered by meetings in which questions could be asked of the leaders and even of the Red Priestess herself. She was the instigator of the exodus; she was the one who had sketched the New World to them. It was due largely to her vision of this new world which swung the majority of the villagers over to support the exodus. She had converted the exodus into a pilgrimage; a voyage into an unknown but challenging future where the limit of their achievements would be determined by the limits of their joint efforts and imagination. Like Moses of Egypt, she was not destined to see the promised land. The exodus appealed especially to the young and more adventurous and who were becoming increasingly stifled by the geographic borders of the valley. They hankered after new horizons. The growing population also recognised that the valley had limitations concerning its capacity to feed and clothe them; new fields and pastures were needed.

As Karl passed Rachel’s position he turned and saluted her with a straight right arm raised shoulder high. The tears rolled down his cheeks as he moved on. She acknowledged his salute with her two arms outstretched to the clear skies. Her body was racked with the pain of their departure; the new world became her ultimate, final legacy.

Behind him and to his right strode the Vicar General, Father Timothy who had surprised even the Red Priestess in his support for the pilgrimage. He had told his followers that he had had a vision which showed them entering a promised land much like the Israelites of old; a land of milk and honey where water and food was abundant and fields were fertile. He told them that the Lord Jesus Christ had spoken to him and had told him to lead his people out of the Red Valley. When he was asked about the leadership of Karl, the Hunter, his reply was simple and to the point:

“It is the will of God that a man such as Karl has been chosen to lead us.”

Rachel watched as Ahmed walked past her. As he reached her he looked at her and with a slight bend of his back cast his eyes down to the ground in a salute of the deepest respect. On his back, a large square object tightly bound in skins and hemp ropes, rode comfortably on his broad shoulders.

On the opposite side of the divide, Father Joshua remained standing, still as a statue. The scene playing out before him seemed unreal. His greatly reduced band of followers were all quiet; there were many who now doubted the wisdom of remaining behind, but no-one dared break rank. He had not played a major role to convince them to remain behind and neither did he have the opportunity to do so. This had been a collective decision taken at meetings when a split became evident. The hardliners refused to agree with the younger and more liberal followers of the new Vicar General and after the compromise was reached to release Father Joshua. Now they awaited his guidance.

As the last of the pilgrims left the valley and turned a corner around a mountain to disappear, Father Joshua raised his wand and pointed it at the Red Priestess. As one, his followers roared as they sped down the hill toward the spot where she was standing on the hill opposite them, only to come to a confused stop as a pall of white smoke enveloped the priestess. When it dissipated, the hill was empty.

Father Joshua roared at his people to destroy the witch and led the charge up the hill. As he crested it, he looked around in amazement. The witch was nowhere to be seen; for miles around him he could see the terrain but she had disappeared into thin air.

“I told you she’s a witch,” he screamed partly in fury, partly in fear as he looked around him: “Find her, find her!”

His followers scurried around the small hilltop but they could not discover the cave system which was cleverly concealed and into which she had disappeared only to emerge more than a kilometer away, hidden by an outcrop of rocks. She was astride her trusty steed which sped across the ground at a breathtaking speed.

She had discovered many years ago that the ostriches which roamed the countryside when trained, were perfect for her needs and could cover large distances in a short time. She had trained many of these large birds over the years and they could be seen innocently grazing around the valley effectively hidden from inquisitive eyes by the flock.  At least ten birds were at her disposal at any one time. To mount them she had made ingenious saddles which placed her weight directly over the legs of the bird and allowed her to mount it without any difficulty. To steer, all she had to do was to put some pressure on a wing and the bird would turn in the opposite direction. To stop, she hauled back on their thin necks restricting the bird’s ability to see. No-one ever suspected them to be her means of transport and when she mounted one, the rest of the trained birds followed, providing her with fresh steeds on her journey which often took place at night or the very early hours of dawn. This allowed her to cover long distances silently and quickly. At a distance it looked like a swarm of animals was trekking in a cloud of dust. On closer scrutiny one could see that one of the ostriches had a hunchback.

By the time Father Joshua realised that she had escaped them, she was far away. He immediately gave instructions that her cave be invaded. A short while later the group of fanatic persecutors burst into her cave without ceremony only to find it and its inner recesses deserted. They ransacked her abode and destroyed everything they could lay their hands on. Father Joshua searched high and low for the cursed camera not realising that it had been handed to the girls sometime ago.

When they left the cave he instructed them to pack brushwood into the cave and set light to what had been Rachel’s home for more than 60 years. She was watching them from afar and saddened as she was at the wanton destruction of her domain she became angry, very angry. Clicking her tongue at the ostrich, she turned it around and headed for the City of the Jesuits. She would reach it a full day before Joshua would arrive with his followers.

 

Frustrated in their attempts to apprehend the red witch, the remaining Jesuits returned to their now deserted and strangely quiet village on the slopes of KRAT. As they approached they could see a small flock of ostriches grazing on the slopes but gave them no further thought. They were tired and were looking forward to sleeping in their own beds again.

Joshua headed straight for the church and flopped down on his bed in the cell in which he had been a hermit since being deposed as Vicar General. After washing up and drinking deeply from the gourd of water next to his bed which unbeknown to him had been laced with a hallucinatory drug extracted from certain mushrooms which grew in the vicinity, he retired for the night. In most of the homes of the remaining residents, the same process repeated itself. Within an hour of their arrival the village was quiet.

In the darkest hour of the night, the priest felt a presence in his room. Fearfully opening his eyes he saw a vision on the ceiling above him. Its light filled the room and smoke swirled as the dried cannabis seeds Rachel had placed beneath his bed, smoldered.

In a quavering voice, he asked: “What will thee of me?”

A loud and deep voice thundered: “Man of God, why do you persecute me?”

“But I know thee not, who are you?” he screamed in fear.

“I am the soul of thy father; I am thy conscience; I am thy worst nightmare; how dost thou not know me when you have been my consort for so long?” the voice continued hollowly, echoing through the passages of the empty church.

“What will thee of me?” he asked again voice rising, fearing the answer.

“I have come for thee; I have come to take you to your destiny and to your own personal hell.”

“But I have been a loyal and faithful servant for my whole life,” the priest protested. “What more do you want of me?” The fear clutched at his heart and his breath was shallow as he tried to compose himself.

“Joshua, you have denied your real calling for so long it is now the time to face your true master. I am Lucifer and I have come to claim your soul for myself,” the voice thundered back at him. “Have you forgotten your promise to me so many months ago when you said that you would give anything to rid the valley of the witch? Well I’ve now come to claim your soul in payment before I rid the valley of the witch on your behalf.”

“No, No, No. I know thee not. I promised thee not. I am but a weak and pathetic human and have failed in my faith and in my calling to the Lord Almighty…”

“Hah, the Lord Almighty wishes not to hear from thee. As it is written, the sins of the father shall be visited upon his sons so shall ye now pay the penalty for the sins of thy wicked father and for the murder most foul for which he was responsible.”

“I know only of the crucifixion and execution of Satan’s daughter. She was sacrificed in the name of God Almighty. I did not commit this crime and cannot be held responsible. I am a God-fearing and obedient servant of the Lord Jesus Christ!” the priest wailed.

“So now you deny the writings in the Holy Bible as well, priest. You have denied God and have carried hatred in your heart; instead of preaching love and the power of love everlasting, you have preached hell and brimstone; you have called for the death of thine enemies and promoted hatred of all who opposed you; yeh even of your own brethren who have now left this valley to escape your influence. Now it is time to face the consequences of your actions.”

The voice was replaced by a screeching sound which seemed to fill the church. The priest who had fallen to the ground lay on his back staring at the vision on the ceiling, felt a sharp pain in his heart as the fear clutched at his chest, suffocating him.  Panting, he crawled to his bed and flopped over onto his back. The last thing that filled his living vision was the Red Priestess standing over him.

“Lucifer, I know thee now,” were the last words of Father Joshua.

The following morning his cold body was discovered sitting upright in the church, facing the door. His face was contorted in a grimace of fear. Above him on the wall below the empty space of Christ’s Crucifixion, hung the craven figure of his father with an arrow through his neck.

 

On the slopes of KRAT a lone figure could be seen laboriously ascending the path towards the Source. As she crested the familiar plateau she stared for a last time at the valley below. In the distance to the south she could just make out a dust cloud moving slowly toward a promised land. Rachel turned toward the spring on the top which had served them for so long and after slaking her thirst one last time she walked slowly to the graves of her loved ones. Her mother was buried here as were Hassan and her sister Elizabeth. This was where she now belonged.

As the sun set over the western slopes of KRAT, Rachel Hailey sat down next to Hassan’s grave and lay her head next to his; closed her eyes and joined her ancestors.

The rays of the setting sun shone through the rising dust cloud; a golden ladder. The new pilgrims stopped and stared at the great shimmering crown of light. As one, the girls fell to their knees and cried softly; Michael the Oracle raised his arms to the skies and Karl, standing next to him raised his staff in salute. The sun set and darkness softly embraced the planet. Even the hyenas were quiet.

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