The sands were bathed in blood when Daunai first drew breath. In the land of Judah he was born, the third son of a simple shepherd family. In the hills, they were mostly untouched by the wars of Syria and Sumar, Babylon nothing more than a distant myth of wealth and comfort.
Daunai grew as most Judean children, circumcised at birth and taught the books of Moses. He was taught of the creation of the world, of God forming Adam in the paradise of Eden, and how Eve, the mother of all, disobeyed the Lord. From his father's tongue he learned of the Great Flood and the people thereafter. He memorized the tales of Joseph, Isaac, and Jacob. He learned of the enslavement under Egypt and their liberation and wanderings under Moses and Jeremiah. He learned of the kings and the great miracles performed by the One True God.
At age twelve, the dark haired boy was taken into the town, in which the Rabbi resided. His dark eyes and strong frame built from years of shepherding beamed with pride as he waited for the teacher to come forth. Father, mother, and his siblings all waited outside of the tent as he entered.
The rabbi was an elder man of great wisdom, surrounded by papyrus scrolled with the Torah. The floor was swept clean, and only a bench of stone stood thence. Daunai approached and stood adjacent the teacher, and waited. "You may begin," said the rabbi in a deep and melodious voice. And so it was that Daunai recited his Genealogy, from Adam to his father. Various other recitations were given, and in the end, the rabbi was satisfied with his knowledge. Having proven his loyalty and knowledge, Daunai returned to his family a full member of Judah, the rites firmly in his head.
It was not until his 18th year that Daunai met the Rabbi again. For a long time Daunai had admired the daughter of a tin merchant. She was a dark beauty and of proper upbringing, but her father did not approve of the union. When Daunai approached the man to court his daughter, he was answered with threats and curses, but Daunai did not give up.
Every day he would find a reason to be in town, if not speaking with the girl Hezara, he would admire her from the well. When Hezara's father found out, he was furious, and called an assembly before the elders. The rabbi and eleven other teachers of the area gathered and sat in council. For three days, both Daunai and Hezara's father presented their cases, Daunai for the courtship, and Hezara's father for punishment.
At first, the debate was simple, but as time drew on, Hezara's father grew more and more desperate to bring grievances to Daunai. He accused him of adultery against his daughter, of coveting her body. He accused him of thieving her possessions, and of worshipping her form.
In short, it became apparent that Hezara's father was merely possessive, but before the charges could be debated, he brought his sons before the elders. They told of great wrongs committed by Daunai, witnessing many of their father's claims. For many days the elders questioned the witnesses, and in the end, they bore judgment.
"By the law of Moses," the rabbi presented on the new moon's eve, "we have determined the guilt of Daunai, son of Daniel. He is innocent of all accusations from the house of Ezikel. However, in the course of the trials we were presented with many witnesses. These have all been disproved, and under the command 'though shalt not bear false witness', therefore, the witnesses of Ezekiel and Ezekiel himself are banished from the tribe of Judah, his daughters, wife, and innocents shall fall to the responsibility of the house of Daniel. In the name of Holy God, Amen."
So it was that Hezara was adopted with her sisters into Daunai's family, and within the year, Daunai took Hezara for his wife.
Sadly, this happy reunion was not to last, for the bloodlust of Assyria would not be quenched. In the second year of their marriage, as Daunai was preparing to take over his father's sheep, the call to war sounded. Assyria was coming, attacking and enslaving all whom they came across, and Judah was next on the path.
Daunai joined the army under King Malachi, and marched with hundreds of other Judean people to the city of Jerusalem. There, he was given to a battalion on the eastern wall, an archer. There was little time to train, for within the month, the dust of the advancing armies could be seen.
Soon, the black mass of enemies could be seen crossing the plain to Jerusalem, their feet so numerous as to shake the ground. Many of the clan of Judah despaired at the sight; Assyria was unbeatable, unstoppable, they were all doomed. But Daunai remembered the teachings of Moses, and he knew the Lord would provide. Like Job, when the suffering ended, he would be rewarded.
It was the evening of the Passover that the armies clashed for the first time. Marching straight up to the great stone walls of Jerusalem, the Assyrians pushed forth great machines of war. Towers on large wheels were pulled by massive oxen, and with bone shattering grating, the siege towers struck the western wall of Jerusalem.
Daunai watched in horror from the other side of the city, as his country men were slain. For every ten arrows the Judeans released, a thousand came from beyond the wall, and for every Jew there were twenty Assyrians. Praying to God for strength and swift victory, Daunai watched the fighting, and kept his eyes open. Sentry was Daunai's job now, and though he ached to shed the blood of his enemies, he had to watch for flanking Assyrians.
As the sun settled and the air chilled, the fighting slowed. Against all odds, the children of God held the invaders at bay, and when darkness fell, both sides retreated having no more ground than in the morning.
That night, Daunai prayed to God. "Oh heavenly father, thank you for your victory this day. Thank you for the honor you have brought to Israel, and for the provisions given to your children. I come before you lord, humbled, to ask for your further protection from our enemies. Deliver us from the heathen bloodlusts of the enemy oh Father, and grant us victory for your name's sake…" all through the dark period he prayed, crying out to the creator, for protection and strength. He cried out for deliverance, and he was not alone.
For six days the siege engines were bashed against the walls, and for six days the sons of Israel battled the Assyrians. By the providence of God they survived, and by the seventh today, the final tower crumbled, leaving the Judeans with only one hundred and fifty dead. The Assyrians had lost nearly six hundred, and the borders of Jerusalem were littered with their bodies. Daunai was never called to the front line, rather stayed and protected the flanks, and for this, he was grateful.
By the eighth day Jerusalem was under siege, and by the second week, the Assyrians were restless. Little did they know the wisdom of the past king Hezekiah, who, under a similar siege, had built aqueducts under the city. By the first full moon, it was clear that the Israelites would not be starved out. So, the leader of the Assyrians army ordered the men to move on, and the Judeans rejoiced.
However, the battle was not completed. A force of thirty Assyrians remained behind, hidden in a cave near the great city. As the Israelites celebrated their deliverance on the second night, they emerged. Under the cover of night they scaled the city walls to the north and in little time were within Jerusalem itself.
They killed any sentries they could find, for most had returned to the temple for feasting. It was not until midnight that their presence was discovered by none other than Daunai. He saw the raiders in the dim moon light, reflecting from a drawn blade. Shouting to his fellows, he charged the force, sword withdrawn.
In little time the Assyrians were outnumbered, and the group of Judean soldiers began to round them up. It was then that disaster struck, for more of the enemy was waiting for them. From adjacent rooftops arrows reigned down, the red feathers of Assyria killing nearly all who stood opposed. Slaughtered and wounded, the soldiers who remained alive were dragged by the Assyrians to the wall. Shoved into burlap sacks, they were tossed casually into the air, falling down to splash into a pool below. The Assyrians followed, and so it was that Daunai left the tribe of Judah.
He woke to the rumble of marching feet, and the first thing he noticed was a smell. Daunai was inclined in a cart, surrounded by fellow Israelites, and all he could smell was manure, so intense as to offend even his Sheppard's nostrils. Next he realized the pain, an ache that permeated every part of his body. From what he could squirm to see, he was bandaged in many places by red stained rags, and the tension on his wrists he assumed was a rope binding.
For many days he was tied in the back of the cart, rotting skins stretched loosely over the wooden frame overhead. Though he could not see out, he could feel the chill and somehow sense the altitude; they were no longer in the land of Judah. This idea was confirmed when he was jerked, as with his living companions, out of the wooden bin.
Thrown to their knees under a harsh noon sun, their eyes clenched shut in pain after so much time spent in darkness; they were surprised to feel their bindings undone. After adjusting to the brilliance, they looked around in awe at the massive stone structures all around. A massive wall stretched to the end of sight in all directions before them, and within the dark blue painted stone was a mass of people greater even than the Assyrian army.
Daunai was pushed by armored men into a line, and they were forced to march into the great space. As they approached the great wall, Daunai could make out men and woman of many nations within the press, and artwork of said nations scrawled across the blue stones. As they passed through a heavy stone archway, Daunai spotted a name written in Hebrew. It was Nebuchadnezzar, and the name gave him a cold shiver. This was the city of Babylon, of that, there was no doubt.
They were paraded through seemingly endless streets and alleys, eventually coming to another open space. The courtyard was an acre wide at least, thought Daunai saw little of it before being shackled to his peers, and shoved face first into a wooden board. He gasped as icy water was dumped over their forms, twice, and he was spun around and rinsed again.
For many hours he stood in the courtyard, people shouting at the Assyrians watching them in odd languages. In short, Daunai guessed that he was being sold as a slave. The thought made his throat clench, and he began to strain against the rope bindings. It was in vain however, being silenced by a fist slamming into his nose. Daunai spit blood as he collapsed, only to be held up by the same ropes that stopped his escape. His eyes were watering and his feet were aching, and by midday, thirst filled every thought of Daunai.
Nearly every thought anyway; in his mind's eye, he could see Hezara, alone in the tent. She was crying from the news of his apparent death, and Daunai cried internally with rage at the thought of her marrying another in his absence. As panic began to rise, he looked up into the fading sky. "Why?" he whispered, "Oh Great Father, why am I suffering so? Deliver us!"
And God heard the prayer of Daunai, for even as he began to despair, a voice in the crowd called out in Hebrew. A tall man heavily robed in purple came forth from the crowd, and all of those around him knelt in reverence. The man spoke to the Assyrian traders, "I offer 300 shekel for the fourth from the left." No one challenged the man's bid, and Daunai was untied and given over to a servant of the man in purple. As he followed them with dragging steps through the city, he glanced back, and saw his brethren sold to men who beat them even as they were taken from the market.
The man in purple was a governor of the city state of Nineveh, a city south of Babylon. Daunai spent the boat trip on the deck, tied only by one hand to his seat, and spoke with others tied down. From those who spoke Hebrew, he gleaned that they were now under the service of a keeper of code from Nineveh, whose name was Hammurakai. Of the man himself, Daunai saw little, but he met and conversed with his servants and children, who often passed through the deck with food and water. In all, Daunai was surprised with the kindness they displayed, and thanked God for this provision, though grudgingly.
Service in the governor's Ziggurat was equally peaceful. Though he did work that caused his gorge to rise, he was not beaten, nor was he spoken to cruelly. They treated him as a servant, and Daunai knew he was incredibly fortunate for this. From the Torah and personal accounts from other slaves, he learned that many were treated as sub-human under other masters.
For nearly seven months Daunai cleaned latrines in the temple, carried water, and tended cattle. He sorely missed his home and family, and longed at all times for his wife, but he did find a measure of peace in his new life, and prayed to the Father always with gratitude for his mercy.
At the end of his sixth month of servitude, Daunai was assigned to carry a number of scrolls to Hammurakai himself, and to speak to no one on the way. Through the stone and marble corridors he walked briskly, satchel feeling uncharacteristically heavy with the stares of noble men. It was not often that slaves were seen in this part of the temple, and Daunai did not wish to draw excess attention to himself.
He arrived at Hammurakai's chambers in little time, knocking lightly on the large oaken door. With a squeal it was opened from within, and Daunai inclined his head to the servant who did so. "I have a number of scrolls for the Governor Hammurakai, from priest Mankanai." The servant nodded, and Daunai struggled to place his face. He had seen the man before, possibly met him, but he could not place it.
The servant led Daunai through another door adjacent the first, and Daunai was stunned by the beauty he saw. The inner chamber was expansive and heavily decorated, silks and fabrics of brilliant color draped of marble of every shade imaginable. Golden goblets and bowls littered the spotless floor and wooden tables, filled with exotic fruits and drinks.
"Where is the Governor, friend? I was commanded to deliver these to none other." "That would be me," the servant said in clear Hebrew, and at once Daunai recognized him as Hammurakai. "My lord, forgive, I thought you to be a servant."
Hammurakai smiled compassionately, "I do not seek for my status to elevate me beyond my brothers, and God created us all." Daunai inclined his head in quick agreement, and held out the satchel. "Thank you, you may return." Hammurakai began flicking through the parchment as Daunai turned to leave, but something stopped him.
"My lord?" "Yes?" Hammurakai looked through his thick grey brows and waited for Daunai to continue. "How is it you speak Hebrew?" "Ah, there it is at last. I was the son of a Jewish slave, freed by my father to be married. I have learnt the Torah through the years, and I study the writings of my forefathers." Daunai nodded again, amazed at the providence of God to have placed him under such one's care.
"You ask because you are yourself a child of Israel yes?" Daunai nodded, "What is your name?" "I am Daunai, son of Daniel of Judah." Hammurakai smiled, "Well Daunai, I thank you for these, and for the presence of a fellow Jew. Perhaps we shall meet again, on better terms." With that, Daunai turned and left the Governor, a new sense of peace in his heart.
They did indeed meet again, Hammurakai and Daunai, though it was not under better circumstances. When Mankanai, his previous handler, died of sickness, a new supervisor was brought in from a nearby seasoning camp. Kaneneh was a stocky man of Egyptian decent, bald and darkly tanned. Kaneneh was also very cruel, and delighted in beating those under his command, and Daunai soon felt the pain that slavery begets.
Through those harsh months, he prayed desperately, and cried, but no deliverance appeared to be forthcoming. Now fluent in many dialects of his fellow slaves, Daunai was urged to curse God. How could it be, they said, that a god could treat a follower so cruelly? He was obviously not a worthy deity, they reasoned. But Daunai refused to listen, he refused to curse God. Remembering the lives of Job, Joseph, and others, he praised God in his destitution, and though he pined for deliverance, he did not despair. He knew, in his deepest heart, that the love of his Father was merciful; in the end, all would turn out well.
Things did not improve; in fact, they worsened, for within a fortnight of Kaneneh's cruelty, Daunai faced trouble. It took the form of Kaneneh's wife, a beautiful woman with great power over her husband by the name of Zebrakeh. She watched Daunai as he worked, and became infatuated with the vulnerable Hebrew slave. One day, when transporting grain, Daunai was stopped behind a storehouse.
The wheels, a wonderful invention by the way, were jammed with mud, and Daunai was cleaning them off when she approached. "Oh slave?" she called, "What are you transporting?" "Grain my lady," Daunai responded, not stopping in his work. It was not until she stood beside him that he looked up, and in doing so was captivated by the sheer clothes worn by his master's wife. She was appraising him quite obviously, and Daunai felt lust rise in his loins.
"Your name is Daunai isn't it? What a pretty name. Do you like my robe?" Daunai was hesitant to answer, and simply nodded. "Come now Daunai, do not be shy. I could give you great pleasure. Come and bed with me, in the back of your cart, and I will show you the pleasures that slaves are denied." Daunai was sorely tempted to nod again, but Hezara's sad face passed once more before his eyes, and he recalled the laws of Moses on Adultery. "No my lady, I am sorry that I cannot carry out your command on this matter." She frowned in confusion, "I could give you status of which you cannot imagine; wealth and pleasure…" "No, I do not need these things." With that, Daunai gripped the cart handles and walked away, leaving Zebrakeh staring after him with fury.
The next, a charge was laid against Daunai. He was accused by Zebrakeh of adultery and rape, and under the 129th law of Hammurabi, his sentence would most likely be death, or at the very least castration and life time servitude. Though falsely accused, Daunai was a slave, and therefore the fate rested in his master's hands, and he did not have any chance of defending himself.
Kaneneh of course wanted the harshest of punishments when his wife came to him seeking vengeance, but he did not have the status to judge. The decision fell on the shoulders of the governor; Hammurakai. It was midday when Daunai was called before the court of Hammurakai, and he squinted in pain at the sun light, having spent the last three days in an underground cell. He was led to a circle of chairs, upon which sat Hammurakai and other leaders of Nineveh. He was given a bowl of water, the first since the accusation, and he lapped up as much as he could before it was pulled away.
After a low ranking servant read the charges from a log piece of parchment, the council debated, though Daunai could tell that their minds were already set. He prepared for his death sentence, and prayed to the Great I Am for a swift death. However, he was surprised yet again, as Hammurakai said in a clear voice, "The sentence is to be the loss of one finger and an additional ten years of service under the merchant company." Stunned beyond comprehension, it escaped Daunai the seriousness of what was stated.
The very next day at sunrise, Daunai was brought back to the tent, and his hand was tied to a cinder block. He did not struggle, knowing that he would simply end up worse off. He prayed for strength, for dignity, and as always, for deliverance. He did not watch as the handler approached. He ignored the hot chisel placed on his left small finger. He prayed for deliverance and for strength even as the stone hammer came down; intense and heart stopping pain blossomed from his hand. In a daze of fear and regret, he struggled to continue his vigil with God, crying out in Hebrew as he was passed amongst handlers into a large cart, and the flap closed, leaving him to writhe in darkness.
Daunai returned to himself in the cart at a much later time, his hand wrapped tightly in dirty linen. Three others were in the wooden box with him, a short man called Harkaneh, a cook named Abrew, and a thief called Ahmed. They talked little at first as the cart rode on, bouncing and shaking over unseen terrain. But as time wore on, they began to converse.
Harkaneh was much like Daunai, a slave who allegedly stole from his master, though he insisted it was a mistake. Abrew was a cook of a prince of Babylon, who attempted to poison his cruel master. He was sold out by a fellow slave however, and so was sentenced to life in service to the hazardous merchants. Ahmed, as earlier stated, was a thief, missing both ears from previous convictions; he had an odd profile, not at all pleasant.
The four built a loose friendship, though Daunai was wary of his seedy peers. They were offloaded at a dessert camp somewhere near Syria, for the land was dry and hot. For many months Daunai was forced to manual labor, with little rest and even less water. They were forced to drag loads of grain and stone alongside beasts, and they were beaten at the sign of any resistance.
As time passed, Daunai began to lose hope. Why did he suffer so? Why had the Father not intervened? Why? As he began to sink into despair, his companions encouraged him. Be bitter they said, hate He who ignored your cries. Pray to another, there are so many gods…
It was not until the second season of this slavery that Daunai's eyes were opened once more. It was a cool autumn afternoon in southern Babylon when Daunai felt the presence of God once more. His friends worked alongside him in the quarry, bronze chisels chipping limestone with sharp claps of sound. It was during this that a man walked by, and glanced into the pit. Daunai looked up and saw the eyes of his old master Hammurakai. The older man looked confused, and motioned for Daunai to be brought from the pit.
Daunai was led by a number of guards to a small tent surrounded by plants. Within the air was cool and moist, and Daunai relished in this comfort. Hammurakai however was not relaxing, he was pacing, agitated, on the other side of a small bed of blankets. Upon the sheep skins was a child, wrapped in linen. Its face was red and blood was visible at the corners of its mouth.
Hammurakai spoke first, "Oh Daunai, I am glad to have seen you, I am. I need a friend in this time." Daunai ignored the flattery of being considered higher than his status, instead asking, "What is it you need my lord?" "The child, my only son, he is dying." Hammurakai did not shed any tears, but his face held deep sorrow.
"What is it that I can do?" Daunai's heart was moved to pity, and despite his months of perpetual torture, he felt the light of God's peace once more, and knew he was where he was supposed to be. "Pray Daunai, you can pray. I heard you pray before your trial, I heard you pray every night as I walked the Ziggurat. And I can see that you are prosperous, your God provides, and though I was born an Israelite, I am afraid He shall not listen."
Daunai nodded and felt an enormous weight be lifted as he knelt beside the child's bed. His hands crossed in the fashion of his father's, and he began to pray. "Oh Father of Israel, hear my cry. Come to this place my Lord, fill us up. Before me is a child with such potential, and a man who could do such good for the Gentiles. I pray, Father, for your hand to be upon us. Guide our actions and protect this child, and give peace to us all." He prayed through the night as such, never moving once, mind never straying.
As light first peeped through the tent flap, Daunai was greeted with an astounding sight. Hammurakai's son was healed, skin clear and blood faded. His eyes were open, and their brown light filled Daunai's vision. He was vaguely aware of Hammurakai rushing past to hold the child, and the clapping of many highly impressed people. But Daunai ignored this all, for finally he understood why he had suffered so.
Hammurakai bought Daunai once more, and freed him. Together they travelled back to Jerusalem, to the very farm in which his family still lived, and there Daunai found his happiness. Hezara was waiting for him, as were his brothers and sisters and their wives. In his absence Hezara had born and raised his daughter, unbeknownst to him, and Daunai was filled with pure joy to see her glorious face.
From every town he passed Hammurakai collected those willing to travel, and amassed a force of many rabbi. To Nineveh he took them, and further, into the very heart of Babylon. And everywhere they went, the light of hope was lit, and the knowledge of God was spread in strength amongst the tribes of the Gentiles. Daunai did not suffer for punishment, or for spite. Daunai lived and survived for this purpose, to spread the Word of God, and he was duly rewarded for his trials and faith, in this world and the next.