Chapter One: Leaving the Palace

It is maddening business, creeping through your own homeland like a thief in the night. But the comforters of my diamond-studded palace could not contain me no longer. I had slept in those silken sheets for too many nights. I had gorged on meaty delicacies for too many meals. And my throne! My throne! That tangled mess of tarnished gold—it had finally proved to be an inadequate seat to judge the world from. If ever there were an ill-made king, his crafted crown would have fit my head perfectly. My royal subjects knew me by made names…

Savior!

Immortal!

Messiah!

They only saw my divinity, never my humanity. So when I donned my old seamless white robe, I became unrecognizable to them. I circled around my bedchamber one final time. In the dying firelight I wondered if this was truly the right decision. The tiny orange flames sung out to me…

"For a Son of Man in your unique position, it is the only choice to make!"

Those flames were right. I could not disagree. I looked above the fireplace to the weapons at my disposal. So many swords I had to choose from to accompany me on my travels. There was the one by which King Saul had demolished the Amalekites but wrongly spared their King Agag. Then the one by which David had beheaded the giant Goliath after knocking him out with one stone. Then the ceremonial one that King Solomon hung off his belt, even though he lived in a time of peace.

I gripped each one and swung. Their were all grand, but far too heavy and sharp for my taste. None of these would be suitable for my adventure. There was only one word I needed, and it resided in the Holy Temple. As the King of Yisrael I had my own private passageway. I opened the stone door behind my bed and walked down the busty hall. There were no torches on the walls, but I knew every curve and dip perfectly. It was only a short walk to the end.

As I walked I thought about my reasons for abandoning my throne. Yisrael's enemies were all crucified long ago. For the past three hundred years Yisrael had enjoyed a state of unparalleled, unbroken peace. All that was left for this immortal soul to do was sit on my throne, judge of a few cases, participate in Temple worship, and eat fine food.

There are many words that might have described my pain, but I could think of none of them. Boredom was not be the right word. Boredom alludes to the idea of fearlessness and neutrality. I had plenty to be afraid of. Beyond the veil of my well-crafted dream, a harsh reality awaited me. So no, I was not bored.

Loneliness might be a bit more accurate, though loneliness did not play a major role in my decision. After ruling Yisrael for three hundred years, I had seen men rise and fall like wheat. Everyone I had known in my generation had died within the first fifty years of my reign. But I had kept most of these at arms' length, so their absence was not too much of a burden. There were a few I missed, but I knew the place where their souls dwelt. It was not a particularly pleasant place, but it was not an evil place either. They were not feeling any pain. In fact, they were hardly feeling anything at all.

Curiosity might be a strong choice of wording. I was an immortal soul in a mortal body, and I had plenty to wonder at. So places on earth I had not explored. So many ideas I had left unturned. There were so many journeys I had not yet taken. With, every hour I stayed on my throne, the greater chance I had of remaining there forever. My wretched throne would be cemented firmly cemented in reality. I did not know what would happen to me then, but I did not want to find out through experience.

I left no notice. No leave of absence. No official declaration of an heir. Trying any of these things would only result in public outcry and my people forcing me to stay. My royal guard would turn on me, making sure I did not escape. There would be no malice in any of this, of course. It would all be done in love and devotion. But the curse of being the most loved man in the world is that sometimes people can smother you to death while insisting that you remain their king.

My dear reader,

Please allow me to introduce myself.

I am the narrator of the book you are reading.

But you already knew that, didn't you?

I will not state my name at this moment because, if I do, I will be unloading all of the baggage that comes with it. I am not ready to give that to you yet. This is not to say that my name is not important. On the contrary! It is the most important name you will ever hear. But at this moment in the story, I do not wish for you to focus on it. Instead, focus on my situation. Empathize with it, if you can. You've never been in a situation like mine, I am sure of it. But surly at some point in your earthly existence you've felt emotions similar to the ones I'm describing. If you can make a connection, we can join hands, and move forward in this story together.

Even if there are parts you do not understand, I can promise you they will all make sense in due time. Please, trust me here. And try not to let your questions ruin your enjoyment.

I've worked hard writing this. Novel writing is not easy, even for me. I am sure you can understand that. But I did it for you. This is all for you.

Because I know your name.

And your age. And your sex. And your race.

I know your likes and dislikes. Your hopes and fears. Your dreams and goals. Even your personal quirk. I won't list them here. The number of pages in this book is limited and I must use them conservatively. I am sure you understand that too.

It is now time for us to return to the story. We will take it slow. And I will check back with you later.I entered the Temple. There were no torches here either, but I knew it better than my own palace. It had an ancient spirit I was kindred to. The Temple was used for one purpose: Sacrifice. Its inner courtyard was a wide-open space bereft of image and icon. The Levite priests were all gone, leaving the air of total silence. As I walked to the back chamber, I could not help but to notice how skillfully the floors had been scrubbed. There was no trace of the blood and entrails that had covered it earlier that day. An ignorant pagan could have been fooled into thinking it was a ballroom floor if it were not for the smell. There were Jars of incense hung on the walls and columns, feebly battling that bloody stench. It was a smell I was well used to, but the untrained nose could make its wearer lose consciousness if it whiffed too deeply.

Behind the veil was a smaller chamber. Long ago the very presence of God had dwelt here. But now all that was left was one object glistening in the darkness: A ornate chest fashioned under the direction of the prophet Moses thousands of years ago. Made of wood plated entirely with gold, it was It was fifty-two inches in length, thirty-one in breadth, and thirty-one in height. The golden cover was adorned with cherubim who facing each other. Their wings towered over their heads like sparring war banners. War banners that had once obliterated entire armies by their mere existence. On each side were gold rings to keep in place the slaves of wood that were used to carry it. And yet, the Ark of the Covenant was rarely carried. It moved at its accord, and was unafraid to strike down any man who stuck his hand out to stop it.

I could fill this whole book with facts about this holy treasure chest. It was physical representation of God's covenant with Israel. Just as a man gives a ring to the woman to be his lifelong companion, God gave the Ark to Israel—His eternal bride.

For forty days Moses had communed with God on Mount Sinai. He was shown the furnishings of the Ark, along with the pattern of the Tabernacle—its first dwelling place. From there it moved forward ahead the Israelites. For thousands of years it resided in the first Temple—built by King Solomon himself. But as punishment for unrighteousness, God allowed Israel to be conquered by Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed both Yerushalayim and the Temple, and the Ark of the Covenant was lost.

I was born into an Ark-less Israel. A divided Israel. An occupied Israel. After I liberated the motherland and crucified our conquers, I went to work searching for the lost Ark. It did not take me long to find. It sprang out to me, like an old soul to its mate. I, the only living mortal who could lay hands on the Ark. Feel the intricate designs of the Ark. Look inside the Ark. Supernatural death blows aside, it would have taken many men to lift the cover, but I did it easily. Easily, but not carelessly. I set the glittering cover aside with the upmost prudence.

There were five objects inside, each dating back to the forty years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert. The first two were tablets hewn off the side of Mount Sinai. Carved on them were the first ten commandments given to the Israelites. This was the second set of tablets. The first set had been broken by Moses when he witnessed Israel fall into idolatry through the worship of a calf made of Egyptian gold. After punishing Israel, God permitted Moses to carve the tablets out again.

The third object was the staff of Aaron, Moses' brother and the first High Priest of Israel. It had miraculous powers, even outside of Aaron's possession. The fourth object of a jar of manna—the flakey cakelike substance that God provided Israel with as they wandered in the desert. It fell from the sky in the morning and tasted like wafers made in honey.

And the fifth object… Oh, the fifth object! So much beauty was wrapped up in it. So much history. The history of God's convent with Abraham, and a great many more things than that! It was physically given to Israel thousands of years ago, but in truth it predated all of them. It was created by the Word of God before anything else in this universe was made.

It was the only sword I would ever need.

As magnificent as it was, it was old and feeble. A lesser man would have crumbled it with his mere touch, but I knew how to handle it just right. With delicate, spiritually sensitive hands I lifted it from the Ark. I held it with both hands and felt a jolt of energy rush through my body. I called out its name and it called out mine. Now I was ready to being my journey.

But I could not take my greatest treasure with me without it having a covering. Lifting it high above my head, a sack appeared fell over it. A burlap sack, or so it seemed. It looked rough out the outside, but was tender and lush within. The treasure was neatly snuggled inside with no danger of being harmed. Two straps appeared on the sack. I put my arms through them and walked out of the Temple with my backside covered.

The orange harvest moon shone violently above my kingdom this night, as if it knew I was leaving it could not make up its mind how it felt about it. I did not focus on it, but marched forward steadily. The cool air harshly clawed at my face and face. I had bothered with gloves or scarf. These things would only weigh me down and I could withstand the discomfort during the few hours of the night.

All of Yisrael was asleep. This was grand. It gave me a head start. I expected all manor of noise as soon as morning came. Search parties and extra security. There was no need to try to formulate an excuse in case I was found. There were no words in Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, or even Greek to properly share my soul with them. I needed to make it to the border before they captured me.