Premiered August 22, 2003
The first hours of the flight were relatively uneventful, save for a short, very private conversation between Sisi and Dawn. It began with Sisi, in her characteristic no-holds-bared style. "I had been meaning to talk to you about something, but there's been so little time."
"Talk ahead," Dawn foolishly replied, figuring she could handle anything. She was wrong.
"While we were on the boat on Lake Titicaca, Alex and I made love." Dawn was clearly surprised at Sisi bringing up the subject, but Sisi misinterpreted her expression as being surprised at the act itself. "I hope you're not upset. It's not our first time."
"No, no. I'm not upset. I rather suspected as much." To herself, Dawn added, 'I heard and felt every heartbeat, every sigh, every groan of ecstasy... Geez!'
"Did you?" Sisi asked, as if there was a new subject on the table.
"Did I what?" Dawn replied.
"Did you and Alex make love while I was on watch?" Sisi made the question seem simple.
Dawn was still out of her realm. Shaking her head slightly, she answered evenly, "Alex and I are not lovers. We haven't quite gotten around to that."
"Would you like to be?" Sisi's bright and cheerful tone made it the next obvious question. "There's something so incredibly wonderful about being The Lovers. There's a harmonious integration of your conscious and subconscious minds, your very souls honest, balanced, and one. There is simply nothing better than the Sacred Orgasm!"
Dawn blinked several times, before saying, "I hadn't really thought about it." Then hastily, she added, "I mean with Alex. The rest I know about. I just hadn't thought of Alex as a lover."
"Oh right!" Sisi said, kiddingly and in the nicest possible way. "I'm sure it never once crossed your mind." Then, in a gesture of lending a helping hand, she offered, "I can ask Alex about it, if you like. I'm sure with a little encouragement..."
"No, no!" Dawn hurriedly interrupted, "I'm willing to let nature take its course."
Sisi then tilted her head seductively. "I rather think it might be nice for the three of us to get together sometime." When Dawn's expression made it clear she was out of her league, Sisi hastily added, "Don't misunderstand. I'd be making love to you as much as Alex! I know that Alex would be delighted."
Dawn swallowed hard. "I don't think I'm quite ready for that yet."
Sisi's enthusiasm suddenly seemed dashed. "Oh. I've shocked you."
Dawn smiled gallantly, as she managed, "A little."
"Well," Sisi replied. "Think about it. It's just making love."
"I'll think about it," Dawn replied. She assumed it was an innocent lie, but as it turned out, she did think about it. She came no closer to wanting to do it. But she couldn't quite avoid thinking about it! At the same time, Dawn rather thought, if she were to get her feet wet, it would be with Alex alone. And unaided by Sisi -- before, during or after!
Johannesburg was a whirlwind. The South African airline uncharacteristically arrived almost an hour late, putting all schedules that much behind. Because everyone had been sleeping during the last hours of the flight, there was no time for a leisurely good-bye with Sisi. She was quickly funneled by the authorities into customs, while Alex and Dawn, scheduled for a flight north to Nairobi, Kenya, were hustled off in the other direction. Besides, the Afrikaners, with their Germanic attention to efficiency and time schedules, were not into long good-byes -- even among lovers.
There was also the matter of making the connection to Kenya. Both Alex and Dawn ended up running for the airplane -- which more to tradition in the Johannesburg airport, departed on time. There was a minor wait on the flight line, but no one kept notes of that type of delay, and thus it was never officially recognized. For the record book, the flight was exactly on time! End of discussion! Das ist alles!
As they settled into the flight, Dawn and Alex found themselves wide awake, even if marginally exhausted. They had just crossed six times zones (not counting the one between Peru and Bolivia), and were about to lose another on the way to Nairobi. The only saving grace was they would be retracing one of those hours in going from Kenya and Ethiopia to Egypt -- but that was for later. In the meantime they were being thrown into the throes of jetis lagis extremis. Sleep patterns were crunched, and there was no sign of any immediate future opportunities to relax and recuperate.
There also seemed to be a distinct hint of discomfort in their relationship. After having drawn together in surviving their recent trials, Sisi had, through no fault of her own, reminded Dawn and Alex that they were still on very shaky ground when it came to an intimate relationship between just the two of them. For the first hour, neither broached into anything more profound than the trivial and mundane topics of conversation one might have exchanged with any total stranger on a long flight. Both were aware of the lull in the conversation, but only Dawn seemed determined to do something about it. Her first move was to take the arm rest between them and stow it between the seat backs. This symbolic move removed an invisible barrier and she turned to face him.
"What do you know about Sisi's next move?" Dawn asked.
"She's heading north to some Safari camp. It's a tourist thing where you can go and see the wild animals of Africa. She's supposed to meet the guy there. That's about all I know."
"Why South Africa though?" Dawn was gently insistent. "What's this guy to you?"
Alex shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know David's connection to him or how it started. I do know the man is well aware of the situation with the..." Alex suddenly decided not to use the term, 'precious metals'. "...with the ORME materials. He’s someone on the inside of the... relevant organizations, but doesn't seem to have a vested interest. He's also an expert on ancient mines."
"Ancient mines?" Dawn asked. "What are you talking about?"
"There are gold mines in Africa that go back fifty thousand or more years. They’re almost certainly evidence of the Anunnaki mines, first dug before man even came on the scene."
"I thought they were from Mesopotamia." Quickly, she added, "And Lake Titicaca."
Alex stopped a moment, pursing his lips. "According to the Sumerian texts, when the Anunnaki first arrived, it was in Mesopotamia. The first base was Eridu, at what was at the time, the northern shore of the Persian Gulf. There, Enki began attempting to obtain gold from sea water. After a long time, when it became obvious this was not producing the amounts originally expected, Enki's father and king showed up along with the heir apparent, Enlil. This is when the Enki-Enlil rivalry really took off. Enlil was made the one in charge of the earth mission, but Enki was allowed certain concessions: He kept Africa and his home in Eridu. Meanwhile, the plan was then to go for the gold by mining in South Africa.
"The Sumerian records refer to the mines as the AB.ZU. Zecharia Sitchin figures they were the ancient mines in South Africa. Plus there's another South African connection. After the Anunnaki had mined the gold for thousands of years -- remember they're very long lived, or at least their personalities are -- they got fed up one day and mutinied. That was when Enki and Ninki created man by cross breeding Homo erectus with the Anunnaki and then using what they called 'birth goddesses' to carry the new species to term. The Sumerian texts go into a great amount of detail describing how Enki and Ninki pulled it off -- including enough scientific detail to be confirmed by modern scientific techniques. And as most paleontologists know, man first came out of Africa. So this is where it all began. It all ties together."
Dawn sighed. "I'm beginning to believe it." Then, she changed the subject rather abruptly, looking at him with a knowing clarity. "You really care for Sisi, don't you?"
Alex was momentarily thrown off stride himself. Then, making it sound like, 'yes, I do receive the newspaper', he answered, "Yeah, I do. She's rather special. Quite a work."
"I agree with you," Dawn answered. Then gently she asked, "Worried about her right now?"
"A little," Alex admitted. "But she's more than capable of taking care of herself -- probably in your league." Then he smiled. "Way above my ability, that's for sure."
"Thanks for the compliment," Dawn said. Then, "I suspect we could become friends."
Alex laughed. "I think you'll find Sisi to be the best kind of friend. She's extremely independent, totally non-possessive, and as full of life as anyone I've ever met. You can count on her on any imaginable situation, even if you can't exactly pin her down."
Dawn smiled to herself. She had meant the expectation of a friendship to be between Alex and herself, but clearly he had missed the point. Big surprise! But Dawn knew she wanted to make the effort with both, no matter where it might lead. And where it could possibly lead was simply not all that clear!
For the next several hours they experienced the early stages of an evolving relationship based on understanding who one was, where they had been, and what they had become -- instead of simply mutual support during the emergencies of the moment. For the next several hours, they talked about themselves, their lives, and their histories. Alex even managed to talk about his alcoholic father whom he had lost at the tender age of thirteen, the subsequent years of trying to survive financially with his mother on their small cattle ranch in Texas, and the following years as a commissioned officer in the U. S. Navy. The latter had come about as an expedient in getting his college education despite the shortage of family funds. It had been after the Navy years of obligatory service Alex had returned to school and received his Ph.D.
Then there was the long, slow climb up the professorial career letter, occurring simultaneously with the failing marriage -- the latter which had been doomed in the early years but which had not become officially dissolved until the children had grown up and left the nest. With the dissolving of the marriage, the university career had lost most of its luster as well, and Alex had begun the long search for a life's work with meaning -- a path with heart. It had been then he had met Gil and found the best part of his life.
In response, Dawn had described to Alex her early flashes of intuitive genius, her highly skeptical and obsessive father (whose degrees in engineering afforded him little understanding of his daughter's talents -- at least those outside of the logical and rational opinions of narrow minds). There was also her mother who simply had no imagination beyond her suburban home and small family.
From the moderately restrictive family scene, Dawn had graduated to the college of humanities where she had learned of her duties and responsibilities in the American Dream scenario. This was followed by two years of rebellion in the evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest, and then a brief career as a computer consultant (i.e. salesperson) in San Francisco.
Finding the corporate life dismal at best, Dawn had eventually retreated to her parent's original intention for her; marrying a good provider, giving birth to two delightful children, and ending up in Seattle as part of the Boeing Corporation's large, extended family. But for Alex, it was Dawn's detailed description of her life following the loss of her family in an auto accident that most captured his attention. Losing children at such a young age seemed incomprehensible to him. Despite the fact that for Dawn, the tragedy now seemed to be a very, very long time ago.
By the time they landed in Nairobi, there had been a notable increase in the strength of their bonds, and Dawn felt much more comfortable with where they were now heading.
In Nairobi proper, Alex did himself proud. While Dawn acquired lodgings without having to use a passport, Alex found an English pilot named Scott, a gentleman of the old school who had long since been expelled for conduct unbecoming said gentleman. In short, the man was a maverick having come from a country with a very limited supply of mavericks. He had nevertheless managed to retain a sense of honor and daring, along with the Englishman's traditional quality of assuming England would always rule the world. And for good reason: No other country had the personal style appropriate to such an ambition.
The plan was set for the Englishman to ferry two eccentric Americans to Axum on the following morning. In the meantime, they would spend the remaining afternoon hours enjoying a good meal in Nairobi, and then retire early for a legitimate night's sleep. Dawn had arranged for two private rooms, separated by an adjoining bathroom. But as she drifted off to sleep, she decided that had been a mistake. Henceforth, she determined, they would be sleeping together, regardless of whether or not there was any sex involved. At least, she could enjoy the suspense and mystery that would naturally occur from being in the same room, if not in the same bed. Such is an aspect of life most prized: Not knowing what is about to happen next, and delighting in the unknowing. It was the best way of dealing with the world -- especially a world which seemingly had a mind of its own.
The Englishman's aircraft, which Alex had made a point to check out the day before, was a twin engine, jack-of-all-trades, recently customized (due to the lack of standard parts available), and amazingly dependable airplane -- and which went by the name of Heather (apparently no relation to feather). It had been used for everything from cargo to diamond smuggling to crop dusting. It had also been used to meet every tourist whim known to the travel industry. Flying north across the highlands of Ethiopia and west of the Horn of Africa, was going to be a piece of cake in comparison to some hired treks. One with frosting, Scott assured them.
There was the customary kissing of the lady's hand by the pilot prior to take off, a quick check to ensure the beverages and lights lunches were acceptable, and the traditional gesture of making sure the lady was secure in her seat and very comfortable. An added feature, occasioned by Scott upon first seeing Dawn refreshed and looking 'extraordinarily fetching' (to use his phrase), was that she would be accorded the honor of sitting in the co-pilot's seat. Alex would be allowed to use the seat just behind her, while the lunch and beverage container took the seat next to him. And of course, there would be no reason why Alex could not serve the two in the front, inasmuch as Scott had his hands full with Heather. And Dawn!
The first half hour of the flight was in clearing the immediate vicinity of Nairobi, heading west to confuse the local traffic controllers, and then turning north to fly over Lake Rudolf on the way to Axum. The conversation was light and inconsequential, as Scott pointed out various sights. It helped that they were flying low, inasmuch as everything was spectacular. New mountains, lakes, rivers and small forests kept constantly cropping up on the horizon. The low altitude also ensured the airplane was off the radar -- just in case anyone in authority cared. At the same time, Scott kept sufficient altitude to remove any possibility of an abrupt and very premature crash landing. Finally, as they approached the Ethiopian border, Scott became more direct. "Ever been to Axum, before?" he asked, nonchalantly.
"No," Alex answered. "First time for both of us."
"Looking for the Ark of the Covenant, I presume. Most Americans traveling to Axum are." Scott smiled showing his good intentions.
Dawn glanced back at Alex, who pretended innocence. Then she smiled. "Are we talking about the biblical Ark of the Covenant?"
"Of course!" Scott exclaimed. "You're familiar with the Ethiopian Book of Enoch, aren't you? The biblical book known as the Kebra Nagast."
Dawn laughed, saying congenially. "Not even vaguely."
Scott took the opening. "Would you like to hear about it?" he asked with as much enthusiasm as any Englishman has ever been accused of displaying in public.
Dawn smiled her most encouraging smile. "I'd love to hear about it!"
Scott was delighted at her response. Encouraged, he surged forth with all the dramatic license at his command. "You're probably familiar with the biblical story of the Ark of the Covenant. Moses had it constructed as the Jews left Egypt supposedly to house the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. But there is much more to it than that. The Ark was also instrumental in wiping out more than a few enemies of the Jews. It had all the attributes of a major weapon. A super charged one, as a matter of fact.
The Ark, for example, was always transported through the wilderness wrapped in thick cloths to protect its bearers from its unearthly powers. At one point, two of the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, were struck dead by a flame leaping out from the Ark and devouring them when they approached it. Years later, King Uzziah was smitten with Leprosy after approaching the Ark. Even Moses ended up with his face burnt and glowing as if he had been seriously radiated by a strong light or radioactive nuclear source. After placing the tablets of stone inside the ark, he had to wear a veil, his face was so burned.
"One particular event I find enormously fascinating was when some 250 of the Jewish men wanted to share in the leadership with Moses and Aaron. Moses would not hear of it! But when they insisted they be allowed to approach the Ark, Moses said okay. Then, when they were all before it, Moses and Aaron fell to the ground and the 250 were struck by an incredible lightening bolt, killing each and every one of them." Suddenly, Scott laughed. "Moses was apparently a bit of a control freak, and knew how to maintain his being in charge."
"I had no idea," Dawn replied. "I guess I haven't read a lot of the Bible."
"Fascinating document," Scott assured her. "Of course, a lot of the really interesting events come from other rabbinical sources, legends and traditions. Still, they all agree that the Ark of the Covenant was one astounding object. In fact, if you carefully study the subject, you realize this massive chunk of gold and other materials had the ability to lift itself off the ground -- along with its bearers and other objects -- it continually emitted an intense light, was always associated with a strange 'cloud' materializing 'between the cherubim', was inevitably afflicting people with every ailment from leprosy to tumors, and always killed those who accidentally touched or opened it!"
Dawn was suddenly intrigued. Leaning toward him, she asked, "It levitated itself?"
Scott was almost nonchalant. "Absolutely! There are several references to that fact."
Dawn looked back at Alex, who had the Cheshire Cat look of someone who already knew the answers and was enjoying another's surprise and amazement. Dawn gave Alex a quick frown of 'you should have told me' and then turned back to Scott. "This is fascinating."
"Now you know why the Bible makes it appear to be so important, spending chapters describing its design and construction, all the wondrous events it precipitated, and those first eventful decades, when it was wiping out the competition with its incredible powers. This was an extraordinary object!" Scott took a few moments to let it sink in with Dawn.
"Now," he began again, "You need to understand that Moses and the Ark began their journey sometime around 1430 B.C. There might be some disagreement about the date, but we're in the ball park. At this time the Ark was nigh-on invincible, helping Joshua in his campaigns in the Promised Land.
"But within a hundred and fifty years of Joshua's death -- who incidentally had been indoctrinated into the intricacies of the Ark by Moses -- the Ark was no longer routinely being carried into battle. Instead, it had been installed in a place known as Shiloh, where it remained for many years -- until one day when the Israelites had been roundly defeated in a battle with the Philistines, and the Israelites went back to pick up their favorite weapon. Whereupon they charged back into battle, and guess what? They were slaughtered by the Philistines again and the Philistines carted off the Ark!"
Scott laughed slightly, enjoying Dawn's rapt attention. "Of course, the Philistines couldn't handle the Ark either, and within seven months they sent it back to where it had come from. Good riddance, I imagine they concluded."
Scott paused for just a second, before continuing. "Of course, this wasn't necessarily good news for the Israelites. For according to Samuel, I think it's verse 6:19, the people who then came across and looked into the Ark, were 'smitten', some fifty thousand and seventy of them; slaughtered! Need-less-to-say, the survivors decided it was not safe to keep the Ark close by, and carted it off to a place called 'Kiriath-Jearim', where they installed it, isolated it, and guarded it for the next couple of centuries. It was King David, around 1000 B.C. who finally brought it back to Jerusalem, right after he had captured the city.
"Eventually, his son, Solomon, built a Temple to house the Ark, completing it around 955 B.C." Scott then glanced mischievously toward Dawn. "What is truly amazing that after playing such an important role in Jewish history, this most sacred relic of all rather slipped out of the minds of the people and vanished sometime between the tenth and sixth centuries, B.C."
Dawn smiled, equally mischievously. "And now I'll bet... You're going to tell me what happened to the Ark, and where it disappeared to?"
Scott was all gallantry, having learned how to gently handle a lady in his years of flying Heather. "The lady is too quick for me. I can't hope to compete." Then as Dawn gave him the look of 'try', Scott shrugged his shoulders and forged ahead. "It wasn't very long before King Solomon had a visitor, a queen of the south, appropriately identified as the Queen of Sheba. 'Sheba' actually means 'south'. And Egypt and Ethiopia are, of course, south of Israel.
"King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba did right well with one another, and she promptly got pregnant. She returned to her own land, where she gave birth to a son she named Menelik." Scott smiled suddenly, clearly up to mischief. "Guess who the Queen of Sheba really was."
"Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt," Alex promptly replied. When Dawn, obviously surprised, looked at him, he rephrased the name, "Hat-cheap-suit."
Dawn smiled and said, "You have the strangest ways of remembering names."
Alex smiled, while Scott checked him out in a rear view mirror. "Hatshepsut! Absolutely correct," the Englishman said. "You've read Velikovsky!"
Alex was nonchalant. "It's the only way the histories correlate."
"I agree wholeheartedly, even if there are a few scholars I respect who don't think so," Scott responded. Then, turning back to Dawn, he added, "Of course it wasn't long, about twenty years I suppose, before Menelik took a fortnight off and came to Israel to call on dear old Dad, King Solomon.
"The King was pleased enough to find himself with a fully grown young son, but the priests of the Temple were anything but! What with their fanaticism toward racial purity, they simply could not tolerate the idea of a half-breed, illegitimate Egyptian brat hanging around King Solomon's court. So they told the King he had to send the young man away. The King was less than pleased, but then he retaliated in a way only Solomon could. Inasmuch as Menelik was the King's son, he demanded the priests also send one of their sons away as well. In fact, these sons of the priests were to accompany Menelik as his entourage! Is that Solomonic wisdom or what?"
Dawn was completely agreeable. "Seems fair to me."
Scott verified his own opinion with a gesture. Then he said, "But it was these same sons of the priests who had been raised in the priesthood specifically to take care of the Ark of the Covenant. So guess what? Menelik and the priest sons took the Ark of the Covenant with them when they left!"
Scott gestured with one hand, as if recognizing the obvious solution. Then he added, with less intensity, "Some say, Menelik stole the Ark. Of course, if he had, you would have thought the priests would have made some sort of commotion about the most incredible religious relic in history being suddenly stolen!" Scott shook his head. "No, I suspect it was very clear Menelik and company were leaving with it. And considering how often the Ark had killed innocent people, the priests might have decided losing the Ark was just as well."
"Maybe they thought they'd get the Ark back once it had killed Menelik," Dawn suggested.
"That's a distinct possibility," Scott replied. "But I rather suspect that they knew beforehand. They just couldn't acknowledge the fact publicly. So, Menelik took the Ark to an island along the Nile, near Aswan. The island was shaped something like an elephant, and was thus called Elephantine. It was there Menelik and his followers settled, and there they built a temple with the same measurements and roofed in the same manner with cedarwood as was Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem."
"A second Temple?" Dawn asked.
"Yes," the pilot replied, "in what turned out later to be a Moslem country. Is that irony, or what? In any case, it was finished sometime during the eighth or seventh century B.C.
"It is worth mentioning that when King Josiah, who lived roughly 640-609 B.C., banned the traditional animal sacrifices in anywhere but Jerusalem, the Jewish settlement on Elephantine continued the practice. Perhaps they thought they had some sort of special dispensation what with having the Ark and all. In any case, the Ark remained at Elephantine until about 525 B.C. when Cambyses and the expansionist Persian Empire that had been founded by his father Cyrus the Great, came to Egypt and knocked down all the temples of the gods of Egypt. However! Cambyses did not damage the Jewish Temple on Elephantine! The Persians, in fact, got along famously with the Jews there.
"But then, toward the beginning of the fifth century B.C., when the Persian protection was effectively removed and the newly empowered Egyptians were looking with disdain at the Jewish settlement, the Jews took their Ark and headed south to the island of Tana Kirkos in Ethiopia. Eventually, the Ark found its way to Axum, where it was installed in a Christian church. The descendants of those ancient Jews became known as Falashas. The Falashas are interesting because they continued to practice until the present day what can only be described as archaic Judaism, animal sacrifices and the like. This is easy to understand, in that in the outback of Ethiopia they were effectively cut off from Jerusalem and the various reforms instituted over the millennia. It was only in recent years that they were repatriated to Israel."
Dawn shook her head in amazement. "The Ark was carried off by the son of King Solomon and Queen Hatshepsut, and ended up in Axum, Ethiopia! Phenomenal!"
Scott, his lecture meeting with rave reviews, replied, "Yes. This is where the Knights Templar came at the invitation of a later-day King Menelik of Ethiopia, to act as mercenaries, and for a time act as the guardians of the Ark. The Ark may in fact explain the Templars' ability to acquire the incredible wealth they were known to have amassed over the years. Of course, the Templars arrived around 1200 A.D.
"Keep in mind also that the former King of Ethiopia, the modern day Haile Selassie who was deposed in 1974, claimed to be the 225th direct-line descendent of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. In addition, Axumite traditions attribute the powers of the Ark in the ancient's abilities to raise the stele of Axum, some standing 70 feet tall and weighing as much as 300 tons. One, which has fallen, actually weighed 500 tons, and stood more than 100 feet tall!"
"Then the Ark is still in Axum!" She turned to Alex. "That's why we've come here!"
Scott showed the first signs of embarrassment. "I feel obligated to point out the Ark is currently probably not at Axum. On the one hand, there is evidence that it was returned to Jerusalem and secreted below the remains of the Temple of Solomon. From there, of course, the Knights Templar may have secreted it away. Any reference to Axum, therefore, may have been a Templar fabrication to mislead the unwary.
"An alternative theory is that the Ark remained at Axum, until it was removed to Jerusalem several years ago when the Falashas were airlifted back to Israel, after having been removed from mainstream Judaism for nearly 3,000 years. I rather doubt the Ark is still at Axum. I'm sorry, if your trip is for nothing."
Dawn looked back at Alex, who shrugged his shoulders in reply. Then he said, "I'm aware of the theory of the Jewish Government having reacquired the Ark and then hidden it in Jerusalem. That's not why we're going to Axum." Alex didn't mention why they were going to Axum, in part because Scott didn't have a need to know, and in part because Alex had no idea of what to expect when they got there.
Scott showed immediate relief. "That's good," he replied.
Dawn looked back at Alex. "You knew all about this history before, didn't you?"
Alex flinched slightly. "I've heard most of it."
Dawn promptly gave him one of her best frowns. "Well, I don't think I'm going to believe you. You can hardly expect me to give you credit for knowing this fascinating story if you're not the one to tell me! If you had known, you should have told me a long time ago." Dawn was apparently very piqued.
Alex held up his hand in defense. "But I'm always telling you things. It just takes time to cover all the subjects. And there's so much to tell!"
Dawn gave him an audible 'harump!', and turned back to face forward. The men remained silent for several minutes, waiting to see what Dawn would do next. Then, as if nothing had happened, she turned to Scott and asked, "If the Ark is currently in Jerusalem, why would the Jewish Government keep the recovery of the Ark of the Covenant a secret? I would have thought they would be announcing the fact in the most grandiose fashion imaginable. This has to be incredible news!"
Scott smiled, shrugging slightly. "If they admit to having recovered the biblical Ark of the Covenant, then they would have to contend with the religious right, a sect very politically powerful in Israel, who would then be demanding the rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon in order to house the Ark. But the rebuilding of the Temple in the exact proportions and in the exact location of Solomon's original temple would necessitate the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, one of the Moslem's most holy mosques. For the Muslims, this would mean nothing less than Jihad against the infidels! The Ark is effectively a powder keg capable of starting the final Holy War!"
"Oh," Dawn replied, suddenly abashed.
"The concern," Scott conceded, "Is that the Jewish Government is biding its time, learning what it can from the Ark, perhaps delving into its secrets. There is the distinct possibility the Israelites will acknowledge its presence at some time in the near future. They will be expecting Holy War in that case, but they may think they're ready for it. They probably won't be, but they may think so. The problem is that in a true holy war, half of the population of the Muslim nations would readily become martyrs. It's a little scary."
'Very scary,' Dawn thought. While she pondered some of the implications, Scott became considerably more intense on flying his plane at ever lower altitudes, sneaking into Axum air space from the west. Noticing this fact, Dawn decided to remain quiet for the remainder of the flight.
Landing was something of an adventure in that the "airfield" was notably unofficial -- one commonly used for any number of unofficial landings and take offs, and therefore never officially recognized as an airport. The only official recognition of anything was the local Mafia-style governmental presence in the context of providing a recipient for the standard bribes -- the bribes being based on a sliding scale dependent upon the number of passengers. Alex had already used four of his gold coins for the flight, and was now obligated to pay one more for the landing. It was understood a second coin would be required for the take-off. For Alex, the gold was simply an example of the perennial statement: easy come, easy go.
Scott was left at the landing area, where he would be acquiring fuel from the local black market. Meanwhile, Dawn and Alex headed for the sanctuary of the Ark of the Covenant. As they walked through the dusty streets, Dawn asked the question that had been on her mind. "Do you think the modern day Jewish Government might actually be able to use the Ark as a weapon? Would they be willing to attempt a pre-emptive strike against a possible Holy War?"
Alex shook his head. "No. I don't think so -- for a couple of reasons. First of all, I suspect they'll never figure out how to make a weapon out of it. And the reason for that comes from Exodus 24:12, where the Lord told Moses: 'I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.' The Lord did not say I will give you commandments written-on-stone! He said: 'tables of stone, and a law, and commandments...' I would also have to assume one would not write down commandments and then seal them away in a container, a container which regularly killed people for just getting too close. That doesn't strike me as an effective way to 'teach them.'
"Instead, consider the possibility the tables of stone were separate items, distinct from the law and the commandments. Think of the tables of stone as, perhaps, the 'philosopher's stone', the mono-atomic precious elements, superconducting, and quite capable of electrifying anyone who accidentally made the connection to ground. Rather like an electrical storm in a container. That's what the tables of stone in the Ark effectively represented. Small wonder it levitated, zapped anyone unfamiliar with how to handle it, and accomplished all of the miracles it represented! The Ark of the Covenant was the container for the ORME." Then he became even more precise. "But the container is not where the power is! It would be like a cannon without ammunition. I don't think the Jewish Government is going to find any of the 'tables of stone' left in the Ark. The Templars probably used up the last pieces, accumulating their yellow gold."
"But the Jewish Government might know about the ORME."
Alex smiled. "A distinct possibility. But that's when I fall back on an alternative theory proposed by Laurence Gardner. Basically, the Ark is nowhere near the Middle East. It was taken by the Templars and installed in Chartres Cathedral in France. And when I say installed, I mean in an alternate dimension, one associated with the famous Labyrinth at Chartres. Basically, the Ark of the Covenant has been taken out of the game -- at least temporarily and thus no longer subject to political whim."
"That's something of a relief, I suppose," Dawn replied. “But you seem to have two opposing theories. Doesn’t this seem to bother you?”
“The ability to deal with uncertainty is a pre-requisite for wisdom.” Alex looked very superior.
"And does that great wisdom tell you why we're here in Axum." Dawn’s smile was far gentler.
Alex shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. The Mother said one of the three clues was here. I really have no idea what to expect." He grimaced, as they continued their brisk walk through Axum, looking for the Sanctuary of the Ark of the Covenant.
The Guardian of the Ark, an Ethiopian monk with an engaging smile and a black beard spotted with gray, took his job seriously. After considerable discussion at the iron gates of the sanctuary, it was clear neither Alex nor Dawn was going to be allowed near the Ark. The appearance and demeanor of several of the local townspeople who happened to be in the area, suggested to Dawn and Alex that the Axumites were particularly protective of their guardian, and thus a frontal attack on gaining entry into the holy of holies was highly unlikely.
There was also the slight problem of the Ark being quite possibly capable of protecting itself from any but the most reverent supplicants. Finally, there was the language problem. Dawn was unable to follow most of the conversation, which periodically veered off in one of several dialects, most of which Alex had no command of at all -- and where he just smiled and nodded his head.
As they began walking away, Alex was muttering to himself. "I'm missing something here."
Dawn knew enough not to interrupt his thoughts. She also strongly suspected from her intuitive probing of the Guardian of the Ark, that the Ark was either long gone, or had not been approached in years. The latter make sense in that the relic was simply too sacred, too powerful, and too unpredictable. The former made sense if, in fact, the Ark was now in some very secret location in Jerusalem, or in another dimension in the environs of Chartres Cathedral.
At one point, Alex stopped walking and turned to Dawn. "What are you thinking?"
Dawn felt an immediate warm feeling. She liked the idea of Alex asking for her opinion, the subtle hint of his respect for her. Relishing the moment, she nevertheless focused on his question. "I basically agree with you. I don't think we're here to see the Ark. I have serious doubts it's here."
"I don't think it is," Alex replied. "But I figured by asking to see it, and talking about it, that something, some sign or hint, would crop up in the conversation. If it did, I didn't pick up on it."
"Maybe we'll have to let the clues arise when they're ready. I don't think we can force it."
Alex shook his head in agreement. "I rather suspect we've accomplished here all we can." He turned to her, honestly interested. "What about you?"
Dawn tapped into her intuitive guidance for several minutes, while Alex waited patiently. Then she turned back toward him. "I think you're right. It's time to go to Egypt."
Alex smiled. "I'll give the good word to Scott."
"Will he take us there?"
"Oh, I'm sure he will," Alex laughed. "For the contents of your bra." As Alex headed back to the airplane, Dawn gave him a 'you-male-chauvinist swine' look. But then she laughed, thinking it might in fact be a good idea to unload some of the gold she kept carrying around. Together they walked back to the landing place.
Scott required six gold coins for the flight to Egypt. The Egyptian air defense was considerably better than the relatively disorganized one of Ethiopia (due to all the continuing fighting and flexible battle grounds moving from one area to another). It was also better than Kenya's, the Kenyans being a lot more laid back about the idea of defending a border. From Scott's viewpoint, Egypt also implied legal complications: entry visas. Alex and Dawn were warned bribes might be considerable. And depending on their bad luck at possibly encountering an official who also happened to be a religious fundamentalist, bribes might not even be a possibility. When Alex pointed out they had visas (which had been included with their fake passports), Scott replied that he did not have an approved flight plan. They would likely have to trust to the old emergency landing routine.
Once in the air and approaching the Ethiopian/Sudanese frontier far to the east of Khartoum, Alex began to talk. "Scott," he said, "I'm trying to make some connections. Is there anything about Axum you know of that doesn't relate to the Ark of the Covenant?"
Scott thought for a moment. "Not really. There is a lot of what might be Templar influence in Ethiopia, some of the churches carved out of solid rock in the Croix patte design, for example. But I have to believe the Templars were in Ethiopia primarily for the Ark. Whether of not either of them stayed is another question"
After a brief pause, he added, "The Ark is clearly connected to the Jewish Temple on Elephantine, and Elephantine has some strange connections." Suddenly, Scott had an errant thought. "Wait a minute! The design of the Temple! Isaac Newton!" A quick smile flashed on his face, "He's one of my countrymen, you know. And he once made an intensive study of the design of the Temple of Solomon, even learning Hebrew in order to research the oldest texts. He said something to the effect that for him to know the temple design was for him to know 'the mind of God'. Newton was really into sacred geometry and ancient architecture. He was also quite an astrologer." Scott laughed. "Something the modern, mainstream physicists don't like to talk about! Their patron saint, an astrologer! Imagine!"
"Something about the architecture," Alex mused.
"What was that Old Boy," Scott asked, not quite hearing Alex's musings.
"The sacred geometry, the design of the temples," Alex answered.
"Oh yes," Scott quickly answered. "Architecture and architects were greatly honored in the ancient world. Imhotep the Builder, for example, the creative genius behind the Zoser complex, first dynasty pyramid, etceteras, was considered to be Sage, Sorcerer, Architect, High Priest, Astronomer, and Doctor. He was even considered to be the 'image and likeness of Thoth', or the 'successor to Thoth, after the deity had ascended to heaven'."
Scott suddenly had another smile. "Come to think of it, Moses was also compared to Thoth. There was a second century BC work by a Judaeo-Greek philosopher named Artapanus, who wrote an entire work on comparing Moses and Thoth." Scott abruptly laughed. "Maybe Thoth gave Moses the design for the Ark of the Covenant!"
"Weren't most all of the ancient kings and prophets also associated with some god?"
"For the most part," Scott answered. "Until before the time of Alexander the Great, virtually no major figure ever claimed credit for doing anything without referencing some god or goddess. The deities were quite ubiquitous in their open dealings with all the major events of mankind. It was after Alexander's death in 323 B.C. that the gods and goddesses appeared to have ceased their constant meddling in human affairs. So it's not surprising anything prior to Alexander would link every major human with some god. In fact, you can probably go back as far as 600 B.C. to find a notable lack of the so-called gods and/or goddesses directing traffic in the ancient world."
Dawn looked back at Alex. Seeing her questioning expression, he shook his head, his shoulders drooping slightly. "I'm still not getting it," he muttered.
Dawn turned back to face forward, her own intuitive sense probing the universe for an answer. The basic answer she received was something on the order of 'wait'. Not particularly comforting for the 'I-want-it-now' crowd, but okay for one comfortable with mystery. Dawn tried to smile. She rather preferred to think of herself in the latter category -- at least, in her better moments.
Her eyes still closed, she decided to meditate for a while. Maybe something would come through. Scott seemed to sense the conversations were over for the moment, and took the time to do a little navigating. His efforts were rewarded when a section of the Nile, between Adarama and Abu Hamad in the Sudan, came into view. 'It's always nice,' he thought, 'to have a landmark occasionally when one is flying over the Nubian Desert. Very comforting, in fact.' Scott could also now look forward to following the road from Abu Hamad to the Egyptian/Sudanese border, just across the Nile from Abu Simbel. The rest of the trip would be snap. Heather had done Scott proud yet once again.
Chapter Seventeen -- The Devil
Chapter Nineteen -- The Wheel of Fortune
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