Its the Song of Christmas

“This night we pray our lives will show this dream He had, Each child still knows.” The glass wardrobe still unopened far too long. So while singing those lines, I wiped the dust off the smoky handle and pulled. A rush of Lorelei’s jasmine and sea spray perfume rushed me mixing with oiled leather and kelp gowns. Every summons she ever got still side by side on a shelf, each sealed in transparent gold pouch. Beneath them were her Coupe de Monde all star cheerleading trophies, and medals. Beside remained the one ring she never got to wear. The one that came after my last visit to Antarctica.  Even now, standing in this room, her room, on Christmas eve, hurts. She still remains gone. Stiff and cold in Antarctica. 

I’m princess of the Assembly now. The first siren in four hundred years, bonded to the first circlemaker in five generations. None of that matters for my best friend and sister is missing her fourth Christmas. So what possessed me to enter her room for the first time in a year. To remember her sea foam comforter and 1920’s vanity. To caress that stateroom lamp she claimed off the Titanic and sit in the chair she swore Jesus himself made? That right there. Jesus. Tom believes in him much more than I do, and this time is his thing. He, in his own way, prodded me into proving that chair was real. That’s when I shared something I hadn’t told anyone. I’ve seen him.

“You’re not that old. Your mother isn’t that old. Not even King Vann is.” He held that smarmy smile, he gets when he thinks he’s so smart. A twinkle in his brown eyes brush away the sadness in my hazel. Brushing away honey strands of curled hair from my face, I grin.

“Look closely at her trophy case. I know you’ve seen it before.” His grin gets wider as he scans its numerous shelves until he freezes on the center.

“I thought all memory crystals were in the library?” Surprise lit his chiseled cheeks. “She had her own stash.”

“Always. Politicos can make them anytime but only with quartz, six sided prismatic transparent quartz. It…”

“bands when full.” His delight pushed all the hurt away for a moment. He didn’t know how close he was. A finger stabbed at the one bundle of seven in a plastic Nativity cup. Thin and straight as a metal Slurpee® straw, each held names in Assembly: Mariam, Silas, Yosef,  Balthazar, Jether. Both Mariam and Jether were on two. “Mermaids love to keep secrets. Still, there’s no way thats actually them. That event happened two millenia ago.”

I looked at him and without blinking sang Christmas Canon from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Its the only one I can sing that contains power because power is in the words. He blinked away the tears in his eyes, and squeezed my hand.

“That is a moment of perfect beauty.”

“That’s the song the angels sang. Its the first Christmas song we siren sang. We all know it.” I handled him the first of the crystals marked ‘Mariam’. “Activate it. Go through them all. Then tell me, neither of us saw Yeshua.” He took it and together we borne witness again.

A soft breeze rustled the leaves of the olive grove. A young girl walked amongst the gnarled branches of the various trees, her hands touching leaves as she passed. Pausing occasionally, she analyzed a tree; curious how it tolerated the diminished sunlight of winter time. Shadows drew across her as wispy clouds hid the sun. Such long shadows and dark patches drew jagged botches upon the dry, dusty soil. Blinking in the sudden dark, a wrapped sandal caught a root. Hands sprung out, catching her yet the two girdles of her tunic loosened again, one digging into her bust while the other slid into her hips. That made her blue linen skirt slip.

Rewrapping herself with ease beside a stagnant pool, she knelt down to look at herself in the mirror reflection. Her youthful, round face stared back as she brushed the cloak’s hood down, stroking acorn locks bound with a ribbon. A few strands tickled her broad, stubby and cherry nose as a bitter wind whipped up. Shivering she rubbed her high cheeks and fig colored eyes before pulling the hood back down.

Voices floated into the grove, eventually resolving into a single voice, a shout. She rose, giddy with excitement, as the voice continued to beckon. Climbing up the granite exposed outcropping, she halted just before the acadia covered wine press. Beyond, to the line where blue meets greenish brown, shiraz vineyard unfolded. Heads bobbed amongst it like surfacing moles as they went about checking the cover crop critical to the vineyards winter survival.

A thick, buxom woman, fresh faced and fierce, awaited beside a matching press. This one released fragrant peppery scent, like fresh cut grass. Calling out again, she turned and squeaked, startled. “What makes you so happy, Mary?”

Bemused, she pointed to the glistening stone, still slick with residue. When she glanced over, Mary tugged up a sleeve. “I was betrothed to Joseph today. He has paid the price my father set. See.” She held up a small shining bronze ring on her small olive toned finger. The other girl giggled. “Haggai is supposed to pay mine tomorrow. I wasn’t supposed to say anything but he sprung it on me early. I am so happy. So tell me everything.”

Mary looked about the area. “What about these, Ruth?” She stared at her friend’s round face, her coca colored eyes twinkling. Lips pursed in delight. “I lied. We are not summoned. The slaves will return shortly. A uprising went on last night, so punishment dawns today.” Ruth waved her arm at a massive hulking man clad in leather breeches and vest over gray undershirt. She glanced away from his sharp profile. He stared briefly, squeezing a whip, before returning to his silent stare into the distance.

Ruth led Mary over to a short retaining wall still under the cover before resting against it. “Well, It happened outside. I stepped under a canopy stretched over four poles. Joseph, my father, the rabbi and his aide stood beneath. I wore a simple veil as my father instructed me to. He lifted the veil briefly so Joseph could see me then we drank wine.”

“Really?” Ruth said surprised.

“Really. The priest actually said, ‘You are praised, O Adonai, King of the universe, who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us regarding illicit relations. He prohibited us those who are merely betrothed; but has permitted to us those lawfully married to us by chuppah and ḳiddushin. You are blessed, Adonai, sanctifier of His people Israel through chuppah and ḳiddushin.’”

Ruth looked enraptured, picturing her own briefly. “Wow.”

“After that we drank the wine. I lifted my veil and then he took my hand. He slid on the ring and said ‘Behold, Mary, daughter of Heli, consecrated and betrothed unto me, Joseph, son of Jacob, with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel.’ I couldn’t help but smile lovingly at him. My father leered at me and sighed. Still, Joseph stood radiant in his robes and kippah as he said the words.”

“So what happens next?” she asked, beaming with delight. In the background, the sound of a cracked whip generating howls.

“The Ketubah. He read it. ‘On the 24 day of the month of Tebeth, in the year 3755, Mary, daughter of Heli, and Joseph, son of Jacob entered into this covenant of marriage before HaShem. We pledge to nurture, love and respect each other throughout our married life. Open, and honest, accepting and understanding, loving and forgiving our lives become. We pledge our loyalty to each other. We promise to work together to support our family and our life as long as we live.’ He then presented it to me. It is beautiful.”

“Awww. That is so exciting. I can’t wait.” Ruth beamed as she stood.

“In three months the wedding ceremony will happen. We can have ours together!”

“Really?”

“Really?”

They bounced up then hugged and danced around a bit. Mary again stopped to adjust her tunic. Ruth shook her head, hugged and ran out into the town. In the distance, smoke spiraled, perfumed with the scent of burnt lamb, and charred wood. Both ladies wrinkled her nose and frowned, ignoring it for the day was far spent and night approached.

 

That night as Mary laid against a chalky wall on a woven mat, sleep fled. As she tossed and turned, a brilliant light consumed the window above her. Rising, she stepped around other peacefully sleeping family members as the light beckoned. Moving into the empty living area, she paused and yawned. The light moved, shining radiantly off the bituminous table top. It now illuminated the room enough that she could see everything clearly. Walking to the window, she looked out at the cloudy, smoky sky. A bit of breeze still carried grayish white smoke, thick with ash. Yet other than stars twinkling, the sky remained dark. Shaking her head, she turned away. At that moment, warm, white light flooded the room. Mary froze, her thin linen shift clinging to her youthful, petite form.

A majestic being towered before her. The hay colored hairs on his head brushed the stone ceiling as he stood. Radiant, wolfram carbide scale armor covered his body. Indeed, his breastplate, shoulders, leggings, gloves, breaches and boots all sparkled in a dusky white light. When you looked you could see individual scale pieces played with the light. A golden sunburst carved in the breastplate held a single name written four times. One she could read said ‘Yodh, He, Waw and He’ in Hebrew. Unbeknownst to her, it said the same thing, the name of Yahweh, in Modern English, Latin and Assembly; the language of those who lived in the sea.

Massive wings larger than she had ever seen, spread behind him, flexing as he breathed. The feathers also glittered in warm, intense light. His flawless face bore strong, handsome lines with a square jaw and piecing blue eyes. Staring at her as if transparent, he smiled.

“Behold Mary, highly favored of Adonai. Yhwh is with you. His grace surrounds you.” His long broadsword scabbard etched lines on the limestone as he shifted.

Mary cowered against the wall, shaken. What kind of greeting is this? Why would one of the hosts of heaven greet me so?

“Fear not! For you have found favor with Adonai. I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of Yhwh. Behold, you will give birth to a son. His name: Yeshua. He will be great, known as ‘Son of the Highest. Yhwh himself will give him King David’s throne. There he will rule forever.”

Mary blinked, rubbed her hands against her shift “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

Gabriel smiled. “Ruach HaKodesh will come upon you; the power of the most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy child birthed will be called the Son of Yhwh.” He paused as she realized what he spoke. Wonderment came across as her face filled with joy.

“Were you aware that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son at her age? Everyone called her barren, and now she is six months pregnant! You see, nothing is impossible with Yhwh.” With his massive hands held aloft, he praised.

Mary responded in kind, bowing in respectful awe. “Behold, I am HaShem’s handmaiden, ready for service. As you spoke, so shall it happen.”

He then vanished in streamers of rainbow light and sparkling motes. Yet the light remained. A swift whoosh of wind entered the room through the windows followed by a single dove that roosted on the sill. The wind and light seemed to swirl around Mary as warmth prevailed her body. A slight tingle in her abdomen became a mild heat. Sweating, she felt giddy. As wind faded, she felt a release. With a final coo, the dove flew off, leaving her to return to her mat, bubbling in overwhelming joy as soft night returned.

When the morning shone through the windows, Mary arose. A feeling of peace pervaded her senses. Love fell like a crashing wave, breaking across her. As she dressed for the day, her mother noticed her jubilance.

“You seem happier than you have in a while. Is it Joseph?” she remarked as she prepared the morning meal.

“Better! The angel Gabriel visited me last night. He said I had favor with HaShem and would bring about his promise.” She stared careful not say what specifically because that might invoke wrath or worse.

She stopped cutting and stared, a serious frown on her face. “Who are you? He has dozens of priests to do his work. They remain night and day in Jerusalem. Your cousin’s husband is one, remember. You dream of an angel and think it was a vision. Be thankful of your station and not boastful or proud.” Then she went back to her prepping.

Mary blinked in shock. So she said no more. Her mother noticed she hadn’t moved. “Can you be careful when you transfer the fire? You left scorch and scrape marks on the floor.” Her mother pointed to the boot shaped black marks on the stone. There was a long scrape mark beside the final set. Mary smiled to a knowing smile to herself. “Yes, mother. I am sorry. I will do better.”

She walked off into the other room to brush her hair and prepare herself for the day ahead. Ruth’s betrothal day dawned. My final day here before my journey to visit Elizabeth for the duration of the betrothal period, Mary mused as she brushed her hair.

Later that day, as everyone feasted on pomegranates, various berries, flatbread and deer, Ruth and Mary stood under the chuppah canopy comparing notes. “A similar canopy or was it just an upheld tallit?”

“Similar to this one,” Mary smiled, pointing to the off white linen sheet interspersed with threads of yellow lying slack against the poles that upheld it.

Ruth nodded, casting her gazed to Haggai, who grinned back. Mary knew they would be taking the trip together along with her brother who would return when the time expired. Unaccompanied women remained an oddity or worse, a whore.

“Before you return to him, can I tell you something?” She said joyfully yet hesitantly. She stared at Ruth, her brow crinkled in worry. A soft breeze rustled the canopy, making strands of her dark chocolate hair float. Drawing strength from that, she said. “I had a vision last night.”

Ruth’s deep blue widened in surprise. “Really?”

Mary nodded. Looking behind her without moving, she continued. “The archangel Gabriel came. He called me favored of HaShem. That I am to bear Messiah.”

Ruth covered her mouth with her hand. “You are serious?” Ruth nodded. “The angel Gabriel, the one we learn of in the Torah lessons, spoke to you and said ‘You will bear Messiah.’ Her face telegraphed her disbelief.

Mary’s countenance fell. ‘I had hoped that you of all people would believe me.”

“I do. I do,” Ruth covered, yet her eyes revealed the lie. “It’s just so outrageous.”

Mary frowned, her gaze downcast.

“Mary, it’s just, you are speaking of Messiah as prophesied by Isaiah.” She paused a moment catching her thoughts. Reciting, “Moreover Adonai spoke again to Ahaz, saying, ‘Ask a sign for yourself from Elohim; ask it either in below or in the sky above.’ But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, nor will I test Adonai!’

Then Adonai said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary Me also? Therefore, I, Yhwh, will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will conceive. She will bear a Son, and His name will be Immanuel. He will eat honey cheese that he may know to refuse evil and choose the good.’” She spoke Yhwh as Adonai.

Mary nodded. “I know this. Gabriel told me. Please believe me.” She sighed, pleading. Yet Ruth looked torn. “We will discuss this more on the journey to Hebron.” She raised her left hand, a signal that someone approached. Mary turned, an smiled at Haggai.

“So what are you ladies discussing so animated?” He remarked, curious.

“Weddings. We are going to have ours together!” Ruth replied quickly.

Haggai smirked. “Does Joseph know? I would say his standing outranks this old vintner.”

Mary bristled. “He is a carpenter.” Ruth looked at her, taken aback.

Haggai chuckled. “And a stone mason. His brother is a blacksmith. There are rumors that when Sepphoris is rebuilt, he will be asked first. Did you not see the boat he crafted for Zebedee? A fisherman does not go a full day out of his way to find a carpenter who can act as a shipwright unless his reputation precedes him.” Haggai beheld Mary’s wonder and shook his head. “You are blessed to be chosen by him. I would do nothing to ruin that.”

He cast his gaze to Ruth who smiled politely. “Come, there are a few I would like you to meet before you must leave.” He held out his hand. Ruth threw a final concerned glance at Mary as she left.

Yet Mary remained, staring at the weathered tan stone. I should have told no one. No one believes me anyway. So what happens when I am with child? She shivered at the thought because she knew exactly what would happen. She had seen it with her own eyes. Darah had been stoned after being caught with Eli, the butcher’s son.

She shook off the worry. He spoke to me. He will protect me. I believe his words. It did happen. Nothing can change that. New found strength and clarity washed over her. With her head held high, she went down to the feast. With the pomegranates refilled and the rest of the roast deer out, she would enjoy this night even in the coldness of the winter; for the journey began tomorrow.

Elizabeth watched patiently beside the doorway knowing that soon her diligence would be rewarded. Glancing into the mirror she held, she checked her visage one final time. I look hoary. Silver curls where there was once tawny maroon. Folds under the eyes and around the cheeks. My chin sags as does everything else. Yet still I am a miracle. I am with child. A horse drawn cart had approached from the north. It had just stopped when a servant slid beside her. She asked if that was the expected party. Elizabeth nodded. Stepping out the doorway into the late winter morning chill, she watched. Wearing a yellow hooded cloak, Mary exited the cart. She conversed with an unknown man as he climbed off his horse. Yet he ignored her as she retrieved her satchel of clothes.

Was that the friend’s brother she had mentioned in the letter? She smiled, pleased that Mary finally arrived. A year passed since she beheld her last. So much changed since then. So much transformation approaching. Finally, someone to talk to since Zachariah lost his voice while burning incense. A blank slate remained unconductive to conversation, she mused.

Mary’s chaperone walked over to a servant and spoke pleasantries. He requested water and feed.

The servant nodded and approached Elizabeth. “Tell him that we will water the horse before he returns if he so desires..”

“Yes, mistress,” she nodded, returning with haste to the man.

Mary, on the other hand, held no such haste. She continued adjusting the items in her satchel before hoisting it onto her. Seeing the servant pass by a second time, she looked up embarrassed. She looked to Elizabeth smiling, waiting for her. As she walked over, she shouted, “My dear cousin Elizabeth, greetings. HaShem be with you.”

Suddenly, the baby leapt inside her. A pain unlike any she ever felt before torrented through. As it left, a warm, rushing wind surrounded her. It pervaded her senses, restoring the strength of youth. Her feeble hands rejoiced as the feeling settled and stayed. Her eyes lit up and she exhaled, no longer the least bit cold. The Lord has truly blessed me. Zachariah spoke truth. She fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah. This is wonderful! My child, John, will be his cousin.

Mary remained fixed and silent, concern etched upon her face. Knowing she had staggered a moment but sudden influx of strength allowed her to right herself quickly. She smiled at her as if nothing remained wrong. Wonderful, more than wonderful for HaShem did this. “Blessed are you among women,” Elizabeth announced, “Blessed is the child within you.”

The servant feeding the horse and the other man froze. They turned toward Elizabeth in wonder and consternation. Other servants in earshot paused briefly before continuing. “What is this to me that the mother of Messiah our Lord should come to me? For as soon as you greeted me, my baby leapt for joy.”

The man’s eyes grew wide as he listened. Yet none other of the servants noticed save the one tending the horse. He continually adjusted and polished the four horns jutting from the saddle. Everyone else seemed to be aware that something magnificent was happening.

“Blessed is she who believed. For there shall be a performance of those things, which were told her from HaShem.” Elizabeth finished speaking with a smile. Zachariah was behind her now, his face delighted. Above his head he held a slate. The slate said, ‘Therefore, Adonai himself gives you this sign. Behold, a virgin conceives. She bears a son, called Immanuel; Adonai with us.’ As he nodded his head in acknowledgement and belief, Mary grinned. Peace broke over them like a crashing wave. Behind him, a servant stood carrying a second slate as the first could not be erased now.

Mary blinked. “Thank you, Zechariah for believing His word. My breath exalts HaShem. My spirit rejoices upon HaShem, my Savior, because he favored the modesty of his handmaiden. Holy is his name because His mightiness made greatness. His mercy is upon the generations that revere him. With his mighty arm He did epic works. He scattered those who believed themselves superior to others to the four winds. He thrust down rulers from their thrones, and exalted the humble. The hungry, He filled with good. The opulent He sent away empty. He took hold of his child Israel to remind them of His mercy. Just as he spoke toward our fathers and Abraham, and his seed forever.”

Elizabeth clasped her hands together with a wry smile. “That was beautiful but he cannot speak. Rendered mute while burning incense.”

Mary frowned. “Sorry to hear that but glad to be here now. We have much to discuss. Like when your child will be born? Why didn’t you tell me in the letter?”

“I was told not to.” She replied as they walked inside. “Have you told anyone else?”

“My mother and my friend, Ruth.” She answered as they sat on divan in the entry room. Servants flowed by with her things.

“I got a sense that no one believed you.”

Mary nodded yet said, “It matters not. HaShem said it. That is enough. I am his servant. He will lead me. He will protect me. Even when I walk in a deep shadowed valley, I won’t fear evil for with his rod, He comforts me. It is enough.” Her confidence radiated off her.

“Then you are not concerned that the gentlemen you came with, will tell everyone when he returns to where he came from.” Elizabeth’s apprehension also radiated.

“I expected it. It can’t be avoided. I have to trust him. I know what the other side holds. There is nothing else but to trust him.” She flashed a quick easy smile. Elizabeth warmed to it. “I doubt he will retrieve you now.”

“I know. His friends are of the tenth legion. The roman legion of the sea straits.” She frowned.

Elizabeth frowned as well. “I see. A servant will take you back then. You will need him, so consider him yours to use.” Mary’s eyes grew wide.

“My father has many.” She responded sheepishly.

“You don’t. You will need him.”

Mary raised her hand to protest.

“No, this is the Lord’s doing. Your journey is long still. It’s rough and stormy. I insist. You will take Silas. He will work for you. He isn’t a slave. His family died in an attack. So he opted to work for Zechariah as a servant. Joseph will like him.”

Mary nodded, accepting the gift. She wondered, How stormy will it get? We both know it will be well. It cannot be any other way. An minor olive presser’s daughter with a servant. She beamed. And yet I bear the Lord’s messiah. I must remember to give thanks during evening prayer.

 

The three months fled rapidly, filled with study, prayer and reflection. Occasionally chats with Elizabeth happened. More often chores compelled her. The chores were a soothing time. There existed no hard push like her mother commanded. Even the servants talked about their lives, loves and thoughts of things. Neighbors and cousins visited, rejoicing with Elizabeth. They remarked at how Adonai shown her great mercy in answering her prayer.

Snow and bone chilling cold faded to memory again. Spring bloomed. Smells rode on the wind as sunlight warmed Mary’s skin. Her spring tunic and mantle grew far thinner. Now it appeared evident, she bore a child. Yet with Elizabeth no one said anything. she knew change came when she left. No dread, just understanding of the steepness of the road ahead.

Elizabeth wore just a belted tunic as she was in her final month. Mary always smiled when she saw Elizabeth because she reminded Mary that he fulfills his promises. Will I see the birth? she kept wondering

That question was answered on her last day there. As Mary prepared to leave, the midwife arrived for her weekly visit. Elizabeth informed her right then that she was ready.

The stout lady with a crooked nose and hair greying at the temples repeated the statement, pleasantly shocked.

“Yes. I feel the push.” Elizabeth said through wincing.

The midwife and a servant escorted her to a second empty room used for prayer. Two beds remained there. A stiff one for use during labor and a soft one for rest after delivery. Mary followed her in and waited with her as the midwife vanished. Minutes later, she returned with the birthing stood. A servant behind her followed with various items in a bushel basket. Off to one side another servant brought what looked like a feeding trough as it was filled with hay. Yet on closer inspection it was flax and cotton not hay. In the bushel was an abundant heap of pennyroyal, barley, groats, apples, quinces, lemons, melons, cucumbers, and sea sponges. In the midwife’s satchel several ampoules of fresh olive oil and an unused sea sponge rested.

No men were allowed into the chamber, and Elizabeth asked a servant to tell Zachariah and the male servants not to enter. Once that was finished, the inner door was closed. Elizabeth stripped. The linen support bandages that were used to help bear the added weight were removed as she lied on the hard bed. This lasted for an hour. During that time, the midwife rubbed Elizabeth’s belly with the olive oil and anointed the genitals with myrrh and aloes.

Once the child began to crown, she moved to the crescent shaped birthing chair. Thick arms and back made of oak against which Elizabeth, groaning mightily, pressed her hips and buttocks. Mary watched all of this transpire in a mixture of horror, shock and awe. In the middle of the stool remained a crescent-shaped cavity; place the baby and the placenta are caught.

After moments, the midwife wrapped her hands in fresh linen. She directed the female servant that brought in warm water to swab Elizabeth’s belly as she squatted waiting for the child to fall through the hole and into her hands. Mary stood beside Elizabeth now, daubing her forehead with a wet cloth as she pushed.

Finally, the child plopped into the midwife’s hands. She cleaned him quickly, then cradled him with one hand while extracting the placenta with the other. Placed in the trough for the cord cutting, then bandaged and wrapped in linen before returned to the through. She watched him as he screamed and wiggled. She looked to Elizabeth. “He is fit and can be reared.”

Elizabeth beamed, exhausted. Servants helped her move to the other soft bed. Other servants brought in a new tunic that would allow her to nurse. And another summoned Zachariah. Mary looked at the child and smiled. Turning to Elizabeth she flashed a wan smile.

“It is well. Remember that,” she said weakly as servants came and went around her.

As she left, Zachariah entered. Pausing at the doorway, she watched him rejoice at his son. God had fulfilled his prayer. She knew He would fulfill what was spoken to her as well.

 

The journey back to Nazareth with Silas went without incident but it gave her time to reflect and prepare. Unfortunately, the basterna had left when Elizabeth greeted her those months ago. Now, padded horseback remained her only option. She braced herself for what would come. They would accuse her of relations with another man. Then her family would disown or cast her out. That led to the stoning by the bridegroom. He was the one the breach was against. Fear rippled down as she approached Nazareth, knowing someone approached.

I know that I won’t be stoned but what else? What will happen? Will Joseph reject me totally? Tears began to well up as the image of him with stones angry flickered across her mind. I can’t believe that. He loves me too much. Yes, he is older but he said as much since we began this 2 years ago. She wiped her face as she focused on the promise. It remained the only rope she had to hold on to.

The arrival was anticlimactic. Horror reverberated. Joseph waited for her, so his shock and dismay were evident. She tried to explain but he just shut down and refused to look at her. He left her outside and went in to get her parents. Horrified and disgusted, her father cursed. He called her a whore, then called Ruth one too. He alluded that their discussions at the olive press were about sex. He then ordered her inside until he could handle the matter.

Silas introduced himself, and retrieved her belongings. Then he went back out to tend to the horses. He also wanted to know if he needed to return to Zechariah in the next few days. As he brushed and feed the horses, he listened to Heli apologize profusely to Joseph, concede that he had failed and that he would return the dowry. He also left Mary entirely up to his choice as how to handle it. It was evident that there remained more embarrassed about his loss of standing than upset about his daughter being stoned to death.

Yet, until Joseph rejected stoning her, he continued bustling about. Shocked motionless, he knew neither man saw him, nor cared. He ‘belonged’ to Zechariah so he would continue without any appearance of eavesdropping. Still, profound shock halted him. Joseph must love her deeply if he is refusing to do this. Or he knows she carries Messiah as well. When he finished with the horses, he went in and tended to Mary. Inconsolable and exhausted, she listened as he whispered to her what transpired. Still she seemed out of sorts, even if a wan smile appeared.

Ruth came in later that day. Shocked, marveling at what happened. Of course she still didn’t believe the truth either. However, when Heli announced that Mary would be cast out, that enraged her. Heli railed her, accusing her of various tawdry things. She held her tongue through it, then reminded him that he wasn’t defaming her. He defamed Haggai and Xacherial. They would handle that disrespect swiftly. Heli staggered back and vanished, cursing again.

Joseph approached her as she stood outside thinking. “I must apologize,” he said humbly.

She looked up at him. Heavily muscled, two heads taller than her. A giant man bearing chiseled topaz features shining in the noonday sun. With a wide forehead, beautiful aquiline nose and passionate crimson mouth, he frowned before brushing aside jet black hair spirals resting on his shoulders. A blue yakama rested lopsided on his head as the curls rustled in the wind. Wide set, haunting azure eyes stared at him, waiting for a response.

“You have nothing to apologize for. May I speak frankly?” She asked delicately.

He looked at her in concerned wonder. “You may.”

“You are putting her away?”

“I am. I won’t stone her.” A statement delivered with no emotion.

“May I ask where?”

“There is this place spoken of that she can go and her privacy remain.” He looked at Ruth wondering. “Why do you want to know?”

“Are you sure they won’t just take the money and cast her into a brothel?” Ruth remarked, worried.

“I believe what they say. I can’t house her. They won’t house her and I will not stone her.” Frustration clutched his words, furrowing his brow. “What do you wish me do?”

Ruth hesitated, taken aback. It remained beyond anything she dared contemplate. Regardless of what Mary did, she remained her friend. She must save her. She remembered what happened to Janna. Her haunted eyes remained bored into her soul. “There is an old abandoned house owned by my uncle. Given to Haggai as an early gift for he remained unable to attend the wedding. Business in Petra calls him.”

Relief washed over Joseph like a dumped firkin of water. “A most acceptable solution. Is it in the city?”

Ruth nodded. “No. 50 fathoms outside the city towards the ruins.”

Joseph nodded, then smiled at her. “Thank you for being her friend like this.”

Ruth returned the smile. “Thank you for sparing her life.”

Joseph walked inside the dwelling place to let Heli know. Ruth remained outside with her thoughts of that brothel. It was a place she never wanted to see again. Janna remained lost soul now. This way Mary wouldn’t. And perhaps one of these days I can convince her to tell me the real story.

 

In the days that followed, Joseph privately cancelled the wedding. He used the excuse that he needed to go the Bethlehem with his father Jacob for the census. No one asked why. Then he moved Mary to the new place with Silas. After she gave birth, he would decide what next. Presumably, she could remain there indefinitely.

With everything ready for the quick trip to Bethlehem to appease the legate and Herod the vassal King. Joseph couldn’t focus. Something still bothered him. Each day as he finished his final set of orders something would nag him. So he checked on Mary secretly. He felt fine when he finished, yet the nagging remained.

As spring drifted into summer, the nagging increased. Sleep fled. Food tasted bland and life itself smelt empty. One afternoon as he finished his second to last commissioned piece, his father brought up the subject of Mary. As he paced back and forth, he shook his head. “You have to make a decision, son. She is carrying another man’s child.”

“I still love her regardless. I won’t order her death. I won’t.” He paused, intensity in his dark eyes. Deep furrows cut into his smooth flesh. He flexed his left hand in frustration. “I put her away privately so they didn’t see her shame.”

“Yet you still go visit her every day. You haven’t cut her off. No, people haven’t noticed. They see you agitated and wonder what is wrong. People jump to wrong conclusions,” Jacob said as he rubbed his graying beard. “The Warden of the East, Jether Cetus, commended about his marble shelf.”

“I am not marrying her. She did breach and that was handled. There is nothing else.” He rubbed his jet black bearded chin.

“It’s time to let go. I will order it done,” Jacob remarked.

“No! Regardless of what she has done. I cannot. Please do not. She remains mine still. Let it alone.”

“And watch you collapse under the load weighed upon you. Can you not see she never loved you? Yet you let her live in peace.” He held a pleading look.

“I will find out what is bothering me and handle it while we are in Bethlehem. Regardless, I will let her live. I owe her that much.” The hurt in his eyes threatened to overwhelm him but he held it as well as his composure.

“You owe her nothing!” Jacob shouted followed by a series of ragged coughs. When he composed himself, he stared at Joseph hard. “She acted as a common whore.”

“I love her and I cannot stop that,” Joseph sighed heavily.

“Even her friend covered for her. Strange that her friend shows now,” Jacob reminded him coughing again.

“She and Haggai were married 3 days after she returned. It is not unexpected. Haggai is a good man.”

Jacob waved his hand. “If you must then you must. We still need to go to Bethlehem. Our king,” he spat on the ground, “demands it.”

“Understood, I will be ready by the new moon in 3 days’ time. Then we can do projects for Jether while we await the feast and the new year.” Joseph had calmed himself down. He looked at his father remained agitated. “Father, are you alright?”

“I am fine. Prepare for the trip and go to your whore whom you love so much.” He coughed raggedly as he staggered out of the shop and over the bedchamber in the other building.

Joseph shook his head, furious. “I don’t do anything but ensure she is well. I haven’t even seen her in months. All I do is talk to Silas,” he mumbled to himself as he closed up for the night. The next morning his brother James discovered that their father passed. Handling that consumed the next months. In amongst the burial preparations, he summoned Silas to his shop rather than journey to him. Nevertheless the nagging remained. Only now no one worried anymore. They understood.

Finally as deep summer set in, Joseph knew that he had only two month remaining before the new year. If he wanted to get Jether’s request done we would have to make haste. So Joseph sent Jacob ahead. He would journey alone. Papers were signed, things were put in order. The cart loaded with tools All that remained; saying good bye to Mary.

As he thought about her, he remembered her beautiful skin, her deep, soulful eyes and her soft gentle voice. He realized that he missed her more than anything else. His heart ached for her. His eyes missed the way her deep brown hair flowed in the wind. “HaShem if there is a way out, I can’t see it. Show me what to do.”

He grabbed a quill, ink well and parchment to write down his thought. Only as he wrote, he fell asleep.

 

Suddenly, he stood in the main room of his carpentry shop. Sunlight poured in from the new skylight. The translucent glass bricks, a gift from a wealthy Syrian whom he had rebuilt a chair and got his cart wheels repaired as well. He looked around confused when suddenly a brilliant burst of light and a sudden rush of wind surrounded him. Before him was the Angel of Yhwh, lustrous in his countenance. He looked exactly the way Mary described Gabriel down to the wings and gauntlets. Only he frowned. Aloft, a massive broadsword consumed in blue flame before him.

“Joseph, son of Jacob, fear not to take Mary as your wife. She broke not her vow, for that child within her, Ruach HaKodesh conceived. She will birth a son. His name: Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins. Before you, a fulfillment of the word of Adonai as spoken by Isaiah. ‘Therefore, the Adonai himself gives you this sign. Behold, a virgin conceives. She bears a son, called Immanuel; Adonai with us.’ Do this now. Do not delay.” Gabriel spoke, tapping the sword’s tip on his chest him before departing.

Joseph awoke with a start. Walking into the main room, he looked around. It was night now. Seeing nothing, he departed, shaking his head. A breeze fluttered by him and with it dove feathers. Returning to his writing desk, he wrote up the decree to restore Mary to him, absolving her of any wrong doing. I wonder where I can get a priest who will keep this quiet. It suddenly came to him. Zachariah, Elizabeth’s husband would do it. Then the nagging vanished. Total peace filled him for the first time in months. She told the truth all this time. I am such a fool. She will be so excited. He smiled to himself, pleased.

When the morning came, he made haste to her place. Silas was up already making breakfast.

“Silas?!” He said from without the door. “Yes, my lord,” he bowed as he walked out

“Is she awake?” He asked, trying to rein in his excitement.

“She is. Do you wish for me to send her out?” He said it flatly.

“Please. And prepare for a journey back to Zachariah’s. We are getting married.”

Silas smiled. He nodded and left. Moments later, Mary came out. Her face remained downcast. A profound sadness beset her. Beside that he could see she remained radiant with child.

Holding in his tears of joy for a moment longer, he asked softly. “How much more time?”

“I believe three months.” She said nothing else and didn’t look up. She began to weep.

It was too much for him. “Do you know I still love you?”

She looked away and then bolted. She stopped exhausted 200 feet away. In shock, he ran to her, took her in his arms, held her head to his chest and said, “Mary do you know I still love you?” Tears poured down his face. “I know you didn’t breach. Gabriel told me. I missed you so much.” He looked at her, but she still looked away. Finally, he cradled her chin. She stared at him, lost and confused.

“I do. Oh, I do.” She crumpled to her knees. Sobbing fell from her as she knelt there.

“I am so sorry, I put you through this. I didn’t know.” He bent down and slowly lifted her back up. “You are my one love. It’s time we finish the ceremony.” That’s when he saw it. She hadn’t took off her betrothal ring. He beamed, tears of joy.

“I will give you one far better than this. It’s with me now.” He said as he held her hand up. Finally she looked up at him again. “I’m not dreaming. You are really saying this.”

“Yes, Mary. I am really saying this. As soon as Silas comes out, we will go to your cousin Elizabeth to finish the ceremony.” He grinned at her, wiping the tears away with his sleeve. She grinned at him and hugged him tightly.

“Never let me go,” She said into his chest.

“Never again.” He said aloud as he saw Silas come out with two satchels and plate of sandwiches.

“It’s for the road. It will be a long ride to the next stop.”

“Indeed, it will.” Joseph agreed.

 

All told, the journey took two weeks to get to Hebron. Once there, Zechariah preformed a simple ceremony under a chuppah held up by servants. It wasn’t ideal nor was it lavish. But it did get them married. After that, he invited them to stay a week and check up on business. Joseph agreed. Yet one week became two and by the time they left to Bethlehem, it was two weeks. Mary was now in her eighth month.

Hebron however was only a three day journey away. So with ample provisions, Joseph and Mary set out to Bethlehem to fulfill the requirements that Quininrus set out and Herod the Great bullied people to fulfill.

“Silas, I am sorry but how is it you became a eunuch?” Joseph asked as they journeyed on horseback for the cart was damaged when they arrived.

“My father protested Roman rule. He and the rest of my family were killed while fighting them. I escaped because I was out seeking provisions. He specifically moved to Sepphoris to be crucified.” He frowned. “I found them and a final soldier, got in a lucky blow and was stabbed in the groin.”

Joseph nodded. Mary frowned and winced as they hit the mountainous hills. Silas looked distant. “I was bandaged, but it had to be removed because it got nearly sliced off. So I am. I am not bitter anymore.”

As he finished, dusk settled. The lights of Bethlehem twinkled before them. So they made haste to enter the city before nightfall. Yet once they did, Joseph and Silas discovered that it overflowed with those here for the Feast of Trumpets. They went to inn after inn. Everything stood full. The city swelled twice its size with all those there. Finally as the stars began to sparkle, they approached the last inn named ‘Feriae’.

Joseph walked in exhausted. A portly man approached him a white cloth over his shoulder. “I am sorry but we are full.”

Joseph looked at him, closed his eyes and shook his head. “You don’t have anything at all. We can stay in a store room. My wife is with child and will need to see the midwife soon.”

He shook his head. Then another man, apparently a regular, approached him and whispered into the innkeeper’s ear. Joseph, almost out the door, turned when the innkeeper shouted for him.

“There is an stable…” the innkeeper pointed out. “For the shepherds to stow their horses but it will work in an emergency. It’s not much. A room hewn in the side of the hill overlooking the sheep fields yet…”

“It is acceptable.”

So Joseph followed the man to the hand hewn horse stable overlooking the sheep pasture. The shepherds were collecting their sheep. Kemmon, the man who owned the field, introduced him to the shepherds as they arrived and departed. They greeted him, discussing the journey and business. Finally before departing as well, Kemmon allowed them to stay for the entire 15 days of the festivals if need be. Joseph thanked him. Two days remained before the feast began, he had arrived. Everything was done.

In the morning, he registered at the tax collectors and paid. Herod’s publicans showed no interest in him, sent him on his way. They looked for royalty. He smirked at that, knowing they bothered not to read the rolls. He stood of the line of David Ben Jesse of the tribe of Judah. Not being aware cheered him. The following day, they made the journey to Jerusalem for the Feast of trumpets. There they spent much of the day in the Temple hearing the reading of the machzor and eating apples dipped in honey. Another check of the local inns showed no vacancies so they returned to the stable.

It was late the next day when he found a midwife for Mary. When he approached the field, Silas came to meet them.

“She is in labor my lord.” He said with as much calm as he could muster.

They ran to her. As the midwife entered, she exclaimed a word he didn’t understand. “We are almost out of time. I will need both of your help.”

So they helped. Joseph got her undressed and she began the procedure.

 

Several hundred light-years away, a star went nova. That light appeared in the east pointing the way the night Joseph married Mary. So the shepherds paid no attention to the light that now seemed fixed directly overhead.

Night settled and the shepherds rose to gather the sheep to pen for the night. A breeze gripped it, a warm breeze that filed them with a joy light no other. Then one of the shepherds noticed motion in the sky. The three of them came together and looked up when Gabriel appeared before them. The glory of Adonai shone around them, engendering great fear. One even passed out.

“Fear not! Behold, I bring you good news of the greatest joy of all. This joy goes out to all people. For born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the anointed one, Immanuel. Behold the sign. You will find an infant bound in linen, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly beside the angel, a full legion of the heavenly host, glowing like the sun, praising Yhwh, blowing trumpets and singing. ”Glory to Yhwh in the highest. On earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Sounds of instruments echoed in to the night. Choruses rang out. It overwhelmed them. For everyone in the entire city, night vanished for about fifteen minutes. Among those there, people dropped what they were doing. They went outside and looked up at the sky. The star beckoned them, yet they remained.

The shepherds immediately went to the stable. There they found Mary exhausted, holding her son.

“Welcome. He is to be called Yeshua.” The shepherds fell on their face.

On the eighth day, Joseph and Mary journeyed to the Temple in the midst of the days of Awe to have the bris done by the mohel, a pious, observant rabbi educated in the law and in proper techniques. There in from of him and the others at the temple that Joseph said formally that his name is Yeshua.

The following day Joseph alone went to Temple to purchase a live fowl, and being it was the morning before Yom Kippur, went into the Temple. He waved it over his head, reciting a prayer asking that the fowl be considered atonement for sins. The fowl was then slaughtered and given to the poor. He also attended the Yom Kippur readings and fasted alone for Mary was unclean for 33 days.

Once Sukkot was finished, rooms at the inn opened. However, Kemmon allowed them to stay at his much closer place in Bethlehem. Joseph accepted knowing that would have to remain until everything was complete. He had the nagging again. So he waited. Something magnificent would happen. So they went again to the Temple for the dedication. Silas went with them for he possessed the training as a scribe as well. Joseph felt something happening around him and wanted him to record it. So purchases were made and graphite sticks and turtledoves returned.

When they entered the temple to seek a priest to perform the sacrifice, he was approached by an elderly priest with delight in his eyes.

“We have come to do for Him according to the custom of the law,” Joseph said loudly to overcome the din of the temple proper.

“You have come. Follow me.” He took them as far as the stairway up to the Nicanor gate where Mary handed the child to Joseph for she couldn’t pass through. However the doors remained open so, she could see the altar of sacrifice in the distance. Silas followed after them, his sticks and parchment at the ready.

As they approached the altar Joseph passed the child to Simeon. He took the child into his arms and held him. “Bless Adonai, creator of Heaven and earth. Adonai, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace. According to Your word, my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples. A revealing light to the Gentiles. The glory of Your people Israel.”

Joseph marveled at this statement as Simeon sacrificed the turtledoves. Mary did the same when Silas read the words back to her. As Silas finished, Simeon came back down with the child. He presented him to her. “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Mary staggered at the words, believing them unsure as their meaning.

Joseph looked at Simeon who bid farewell and left with no more explanation. So they made their exit. Yet as they traveled through the court of the women, an elderly woman known to all as Anna approached and blessed them as well. She spoke of the child as the coming redeemer, giving thanks to HaShem the entire time.

While they were in the temple, a caravan had arrived from the southwest. It had paused in Petra to makes sales, to retrieve goods and to pay homage to King Aretas IV, who as king of all Arabia, remained friend to the Persians as well as those who dwelled in the sea. He despised Herod the Great.

Among the caravan of Hundreds were a small separate party of magi. They had journeyed on horseback for grueling weeks across the dangerously unstable and unpredictable rocky terrain of the main trade routes. These routes led from Persian onward to China west and as the Alexandra east. So when King Aretas of Nabataea greeted them he was curious as to their journeys.

The aged leader of the magi, Balthazar, an tall ebony man which tight curly silver ringlets and distant graying eyes lead the party. He rode erect and regal. Behind him rode Gaspar, an alabaster toned short man with straight dark hair and pronounced chin. He was thick as he was short and bore refined features that spoke of his youth. Beside him rode Melchior, an older, bald man with tawny skin and a thick salt and pepper beard. Thin and lithe, he leaned as he rode.

Upon entry into his throne room, the King greeted them with joy having expected them. “Greeting, you spoke of a new king in the east that you journey to.”

“Yes, we seek the newly born King of the Judea. He is called Immanuel,” Balthazar replied with rubbing a hand forged fish shape that hung from his left wrist.

“He is the king. Belteshazzar spoke of him in his writings,” Melchior added.

“Yes, I know of him. The Judeans know him as Daniel. You seek him?”

“We do.”

“Then I have gifts as well to present to him.” He clapped his hands and brought forth four objects on Han purple pillows. “The first I give as a gift to you for taking these items to the infant king. It is a cacao pods. They are said to be extremely rare. They arrived recently with a Xan from the far west. He claimed to journey from even farther west to retrieve these and plant them. There is a grove now there. The pods contain seeds that can be ground to make an energy powder unlike any I have tasted. It is mightily bitter though.”

The burlap sack and the pillow were placed at the feet of the magi’s servants,

“The second is the golden bowls filled with different incense. Cassia, Spikenard, Saffron, Costus, Cascarilla Bark, Cinnamon, Clove, Galbanum and Balsam.” Those were set before Melchior.

“The third is 50 hand blown glass vials of frankincense.” Those were set before Gaspar who was surprised to see them, having never seen blown glass before.

“The final gift for the infant king is an alabaster box of Myrrh.” This was sat before Balthazar.

“Finally I have a gift for the father of the infant king.” He smiled rubbing his beard. “I give these symbols of my kingdom in the hope of a future treaty.”

“My King, the king of the Judeans is not that type of king,” Gaspar spoke quickly.

“Then what kind is he? Oh it matters not.” He clapped his hands again and a soldier appeared with hand crafted tools. “These are our best. We have master the same process that Damascus possesses for steel making. Give these to him. A dagger, a sword, an awl and a saw. Each are stronger than even the Roman swords. May they bring him much protection. Thank you.” King Aretas dismissed them.

From just beyond the throne, Jether stepped into the light. “O King live forever, I attest that indeed Balthazar leads the Assembly as I do. His House is Apzu.”

“So even the raja of the sea seek out the infant king. Who is he and what did Melchior mean?” Curiosity peaked as the king stroked his pointed beard.

“He is the eternal king for his father is the Yahweh, the self-existent one.”

Surprise gripped Aretas face. “He has titles?”

“Son of man, Light of the world, the Rock, the cornerstone, Prince of peace, the aleph and tav, the bright and morning star. There remain many more.”

“So when will he take his throne?” Aretas asked, delight shining on his face. “I wish to make entreaties. Especially if he is a demigod.”

Jether blinked, pursing his lips. Licking them, he caught a glimpse of a servant stroking a brazier. Golden fire danced as he poked the coals within.

“His ministry begins on the thirtieth year of his life. When he completes that and the Restorer of the Breach awakens the dormant, he will take his throne. This remains the sum of my knowledge.”

Aretas snorted, waving out everyone remaining in the throne room. Rising from the throne, he approached Jether. “The member of the Assembly you believe restores your people is tied to him?”

“No. The restorer is tied to him. He will pay the blood debt the world owes Yahweh. Once that happens, those who seek him can be restored. Those who do not cannot.” Jether held out the necklace with the bullhorns upon it. “My sister keeps you well appraised of Assembly business.”

“Indeed, Hulda speaks of the prophecy now. She convinced me to give the magi that oblation. Yet you seem distant. Why?”

“Being you are bonded to her, any of your six children, could be it. Nevertheless none save Hagera and Obodas seek it.” Jether beheld the servant again now standing just beyond sound tending another fire.

“They spend plenty enough time transitioning the water gate. Servants saw Obodas while his tail still shown. So don’t speak as if none seek the path. Aire of two thrones, there remains plenty.” Aretas sat down on his throne

“Then we wait the time. Remember, he must pay the blood debt and be restored himself first, my king.” Jether reminded.

“May that time come swiftly.”

 

That conversation ended a month ago. When they arrived in Jerusalem to seek an audience with King Herod, he received them. So when Balthazar asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Judeans? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” Herod was greatly troubled. He was the King of the Judeans, even if that meant he was a vassal of Rome. So he sent them away and called his chief priests. With fury he asked about this king.

After much angst and bloodshed, one responded from the scrolls of Micah the prophet. “Bethlehem of Judea, for it is written by the prophet: You Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are not the least among the rulers of Judah. For out of you shall come a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the magi back, determined from them what time the star appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go search carefully for the young child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When they heard the king, they departed. However, Herod seemed interested in more than the child’s location. That didn’t set well with them so when they left his presence, they followed the star to a small stone house just inside Bethlehem. Joseph came outside when he heard the commotion. He stared at them, stunned yet unafraid.

“Where is he who is Immanuel; King of the Judeans?” Balthazar spoke as he approached. Gaspar and Melchior halted beside him. “Otherwise known as Yeshua.”

Joseph composed himself. He then grinned in delight. “He is inside with his mother. Come in and behold him.”

Balthazar ducked as he stepped inside. Breast feeding, Mary covered herself quickly as they approached. Joseph stood and watched as finally twenty people squeezed inside. Several bore purple pillows with gifts that made him gasp, covering his face with his hand.

Mary stared shocked as Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior bowed down. “We come to worship he who is Immanuel; King of the Judeans as told in the holy script. We also bear gifts.”

As they rose, they presented the gifts. First the golden bowls, then the alabaster boxes of frankincense and myrrh. “These are for the infant king as a sign of homage from King Aretas of Nabataea.” They placed out ingots of pure gold stamped some with a sideways ES and others with the pyramidal rectangle; seal of the Persian empire. “These are from us.”

Gaspar directed a servant to give the steel weapons to Joseph. “This was a gift from King Aretas as well. Use them well, he said. Also we have this,” it was a seamless tunic nearly transparent and very smooth. “We rejoice in you as well. Be well and blessed.”

Finally Melchior approached with a tall bronze bottle and two plain bronze goblets filled with dark liquor. “For the journey ahead. It will give you energy. It is called ground cacao. Extremely rare.”

Balthazar approached the child, knelt down and kissed his forehead. “We await your success.” He whispered. To Mary he handed a carved fish and a fish shaped pillow. “You are blessed, more highly favored. We will sing of this day for generations to come.”

With that they bid goodbye. Joseph stood at in the door for the longest time watching them leave. He marveled at what happened. Finally he laughed. Everyone wanted him to either stone her or cut her off. No one had a clue save Mary. Looking back at his beloved who was focused solely on the child, he smiled. Silas stood fast at the door, staring at the array of gifts. “What did I miss, my lord?”

“The reward of following HaShem,” he remarked with delight. “Here, drink this. It doesn’t appeal to me.”

Silas drank the cacao and scrunched his nose. “It’s bitter yet smooth. What is it?”

“Extremely rare cacao liquid. It is supposed to give energy.”

Silas nodded. “I will need that.”

He was in large, imposing structure surrounded by groves of palm and olive. Yet beyond the porticos, vast tracks of sand. The angel of Yhwh appeared to him again. “Arise, take the young Child and Mary, and flee to Alexandria, Egypt, There you will stay there until I bring you word. Herod seeks Yeshua to destroy Him.”

Joseph snapped awake. Immediately he ordered Silas to saddle up to find the fastest way to Alexandria. It was then that Kemmon arrived. “A caravan will be leaving within the day. Perhaps you can journey with them.”

So he sat to write to letter to Haggai explaining what was to be done in the interim.

Joseph paid him with the half of his gold and then the three of them prepared to journey to join the caravan. When they met them, they discovered it was the same caravan that that the Magi had journeyed with and were well acquainted with King Aretas. They would be perfectly willing to escort them to Alexandria.

When they discovered his carpentry, they even suggested a place. However when he described the location in their vision. They were stunned. “You describe our home. We will welcome you.” So they journeyed with them for several months until early spring they arrived on the sea coast of Alexandria. Joseph, smelling the sea air, gave thanks for the tools. His praise for everything he was given rose daily. A new life began, a new day and a new world and he felt it. Nothing would ever be the same again

Tom shook his head as the vision memory faded. The green room and its warm sea smells resurfaced, bringing back Lorelei and all the sadness she carried. Only his face shined. “Why do I have to coerce these things out of you?”

“You didn’t believe me to begin with.” I playfully punched his shoulder. He rubbed it and turned to catch the time on the clock beside the chair. An hour had passed. Christmas fell upon us. “That’s the chair Jether commissioned.”

“Yes, in a sense. Wood rots so there is nothing that Yeshua or Joseph made from it that remains. However, if you coat it a sealant it won’t. That’s what we did.” And after that tidbit he me angered me and made me think. “You know he told King Aretas about. It’s You.”

I glared at him, locked the case and drug him out. Once outside her door, I stormed away, shouting, “WE are not having that discussion.” When I turned back, he hadn’t moved. He stood his ground, shaking his head. His lithe muscular swimmers physique shrugging. Maybe he’s right. It make the road I travel that much harder. The Assembly, much like Mary’s peers and family, don’t want me as mermaid princess. I look too much like the surface depictions. They want someone more like them. Ebony and sleek, Thin, onyx hair falling like night.  Tom, well he’s my Joseph. Together, we will figure it out.

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