Ishmael Waits

220px-SetThe temple guards took Ishmael, bound in chains and manacles, and led him through the city in disgrace. Some people who saw this spectacle hurled insults, sundry pieces of trash, and rotten vegetables at Ishmael, saying things like, “hypocrite!” and “he saved others, let him save himself now!” and “exile for heretics and death to traitors!”.  

Once inside the temple, the guards took him down to the dungeon.

Ishmael could smell mold as he stood outside the dirty 3×5 hovel where he would await his trial.  It was a familiar smell to him as he had often made checks on the guards and prisoners inside the temple dungeon when he was Captain of the Guard.

Inside the cell, there was a tiny window that cast in a single ray of light when the sun hit is just right.  The walls were covered with graffiti and make-shift calendars scratched into the stone by past prisoners who were counting away the days until they could taste freedom again– one way or another.

“Welcome to your new quarters, Captain, we trust that they will be to your liking.” one of the guards said as the others chuckled, almost in unison.  Another guard removed Ishmael’s leg and wrist manacles, while another gathered the chains and threw them into a pile near the exit.

Ishmael’s cell was very near the exit to the dungeon, but once he was tried (i.e. if he was not executed on the spot) he would be a moved to a cell deeper in the bowels of Khemi’s dark and expansive, undercity labyrinth.

His chains having been removed, Ishmael was then shoved and kicked into the tiny cell. He didn’t have enough room inside to stretch out, but at least he had enough head space to sit on the floor cross-legged without knocking himself out.  The smell inside the tiny cell was unbearable until after a few hours when he no longer noticed it.

First days, and then weeks passed with barely any human contact. The guards came by three times a day to deliver prisoners with their rations of rice, but one could hardly call this human contact. The guards on duty would spend most of their time in the dungeon abusing and taunting the prisoners, sometimes throwing the rice right onto the floor at the feet of hungry, helpless prisoners.

The most severe abuse was always reserved for Ishmael while he was there.  Sometimes a certain guard, called Yuya-abrams, would take a special interest in abusing the former Captain and would beat him and then throw waste and other garbage into his cell, which Ishmael would have to live with until the temple slaves came through and washed the cells.

This was the dark time for Ish-mael of Khemi.

In the darkness, Ishmael the Wise sat in the middle of this almighty forlornness.  There he sat, naked and alone– he waited only for death.

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The Lover, the Snake, and the Thief

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These are the tales of Ishmael the Wise, former citizen, scholar, priest and soldier of Khemi.  His exploits were many and his downfall tragic.

I, Sasur-amen, of the Order of the Sacred Crocodile write down this tale.  It is worthy to note that Ishmael the Warrior-priest does not turn away the pleasures of the flesh as do the heathen under the cloud of Mitra.

And so it was that one evening Ishmael the Wise was in the tender embrace of his lover when a sneak-thief stole into the side window of the bedroom.  A Shemite thief had broken into the room meaning to rob Ishmael and murder him for a filthy ransom.

But Father Set had other plans in mind for this treacherous Shemite thief and murderer.  For when the Shemite came inside the bedroom he was immediately bitten by a watchful and patient, venomous temple Snake.

Upon seeing what had happened Ishmael and his lover marveled at how Set had protected them. Then Ishmael the Wise said: “Look at how Father Set protects those who serve him! I will build an altar here so that all will know of this wonder.”

Soon after the couple was back at their task. 

So says I, Sasur-amen, Chronicler of the Order of The Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant

Ish-mael and the Skeleton of Yog

These are the tales of Ishmael the Wise, former citizen, scholar, priest and soldier of Khemi.  His exploits were many and his downfall tragic.

I am Sasur-amen, the chronicler of many secrets concerning the exploits of the Champions of Set.  Champions such as Ish-mael of Khemi, who is known also as Ishmael the Wise of The Order of The Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant.

In the season of autumn, and around the time of Ctesphon III, as Ish-mael of Khemi was walking along a lonely path there appeared before him an animated, chattering skeleton.  The skeleton was armed with a pike made of iron and had on its head a Nordhiemer’s helmet.

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Upon seeing the skeleton Ishmael stood still in deep wonder and did not move at all.  Ishmael was not sure if the skeleton saw him with its eerie green glowing eyes until it raised its pike, pointed it at him and rounded to attack.

Still not moving, Ishmael heard the terrible sound of the skeleton as it laughed and said coldly: “Prepare thy body for the fodder of Yog, Setite!” And then just in the nick of time, Ishmael avoided being impaled by the foul creature’s pike with a quick dodge.

Coming to his senses all at once Ishmael took hold of his khopesh and struck the skeleton with it as he moved to the side to avoid the pike a second time.  The skeleton was jarred by the blow of the khopesh and was knocked back.  This gave Ishmael time to pull his shield off his back and ready it.   *BAM!* *CLANG* the pike slammed into the shield just as it was coming into the ready position.

Now having readied his weapon and shield, Ishmael faced off the skeleton again, this time with renewed confidence; and after a few blows, the skeleton’s bones could be seen laying on the ground, and its green eyes glowed no more.

Afterward Ishmael the Wise said to himself, “Now Yog’s skeleton is no more, I will build an altar here where this foul creature said it’s a curse upon a servant of Set.”

Thus the altar, called dubit muqalab, was built and stands until this day along the road from Khemi to the village of Akhmim.

So say I, Sasur-amen, Librarian. 

 

 

The Arrest of Ishmael of the Wise

220px-Set.pngIshmael stared down at his small cup of tea.

It had just been stirred and as the tea spun, and began to come to stillness, he thought:

“What will I see before I die?”  

He downed the hallucinogenic mixture and his life began to flash before his eyes.

He saw himself in the robes of a Setite Acolyte at the temple of Khemi.  He loved his years as a student and was successful.

“But it was never enough for me, I always I wanted more, and still I want more! Even as I wait here in this tavern for my undoing, I want more!! What a wretch I am!” he thought.

“But aren’t we all?” he asked out loud as he scoffed and siped more tea; grinning as if to say: “everyone in the world knows that all people are scoundrels”.  No one saw the grin.

As the drug began to fully set in Ishmael perceived the small Khemi tavern as beginning to swirl and gyrate.  The flickering candlelight added to the sensory confusion and Ishmael experienced himself giving way to the altered reality that can only be seen by those who dare taste the lotus flower.

There then, was Ishmael the Wise in the miasma of the lotus and what he saw was the flashing before him of his years in the temple guard.  His birth provided him an easy commission and equally easy duty, but he worked long hours, honing his skills as a military leader, a diplomat, and a fanatically devout Setite priest.

“If I had only just been satisfied with what I had,” he thought as his emotions began to surface in response to the lotus and his fleeting memories.

Ishmael wept.

“It won’t be long now before they come. Perhaps another tea will calm me?”  His hands began to shake and with sweat pouring down his face he could hear the loud pounding of his own heart.  It was a menacing sound that he was sure everyone else in the small tavern could hear!

“One indiscretion and now I will be executed! What madness! I am mad. The crown has twenty concubines– no one talks about it! No one is executed!”.  He rambled in his mind and began to think in colorful waves of paranoid, fleeting pictures. “Why is my heart pounding so hard? Can others hear the sound of my heart?!”  He stood up quickly and his chair crashed to the floor.

Startled tavern patrons looked up and saw the troubled cleric shaking, sweating and mumbling to himself.  It was not a sight the tavern regulars had seen before from a man so well respected as Ishmael, Captain of the Setite temple guards.

And the sight did not match the tale that Sasur-amen, a patron that evening and a regular who often sat at a table covered with paper and writing materials, brought into his own memory as he spotted Ishmael and gave away his senses to the lotus flower.

Sasur-amen was the librarian of the order of the Sacred Crocodile at that time and knew many hidden stories of the exploits of men such as Ishmael the Wise.

So as his memory took shape, Sasur-amen wrote:

These are the tales of Ishmael the Wise, former citizen, scholar, priest and soldier of Khemi.  His exploits were many and his downfall tragic.  I am the chronicler of the exploits of those bound to the order of The Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant. I write this now to catalog the deeds of the one we call “The Wise”.

It was a hot, dirty summer when Ishmael was sent to the desert to complete his final trial.  There he camped upon a barren waste as prescribed by his mentor Ua-khons, who served in the Order for 49 years before he was slain in battle.

During his trial, Ishmael was visited by many wild beasts. He slew them one by one and used their flesh for food and their skins for armor.  Strong as he was, he thrived during his trial and determined to himself to win greater favor with the Temple at Khemi by bringing home a grand trophy of his strength and devotion to Set.

Therefore on the 28th day of his trial, Ishmael the Wise embarked on a 2-mile journey to the cavern where he had spotted two adult tigers and four small tiger cubs. 

“Now I will capture one of these cub tigers for Ua-khons and all will see that I am strong and that Set is my strength!” said Ishmael as he laid himself down upon the ridge over the cavern and looked to where the tigers prowled beside their cubs.

Long did the young warrior-priest look down into the cavern and watch the pacing beasts until at last the female left the den to hunt.  But the male tiger was a great beast of enormous strength and Ishmael the Wise knew that his task would not be easy.

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Ishmael stood and began to creep down the side of the cavern towards the spot where the tiger cubs were playing. Their father was pacing 10 and 20 feet away from them, keeping a close and watchful eye.

“Perhaps the cub can be stolen while the great beast is turned away?” thought Ishmael as he snuck up closer and closer to the cubs.  It was at that moment he heard the deafening roar of the tiger which startled and shook him. 

Never before had Ishmael faced such a great beast under such circumstances.  The great tiger pounced quickly and knocked him to the ground.   It was now on top of him, ripping into his flesh with its mighty claws and trying to bite his face as the warrior-priest held open the mouth of the great beast with his bare hands. 

In a desperate move to survive Ishmael managed to use his legs to push the tiger up and off of him. With this, it tumbled away for a brief moment– just enough time to draw the short sword that he had been given by the Order for his trial! 

The tiger pounced again but this time the dumb animal impaled itself on the short sword.  Ishmael, called the Wise, had quickly and cleverly positioned the blade so that it would penetrate the heart of the beast. The blade did its work and the beast collapsed on Ishmael, who had to push the carcass off his face in order to breath. 

Knowing then that Set had provided him a victory and liberation from certain death, Ishmael the Wise established an altar upon the spot where the great tiger had died. 

Sasur-amen wrote these words as armed men from the central temple came into the tavern, bound Ishmael, and took him away.

 

Where will I go when I have no home?

In March of 2004 I was on my way home from Iraq.

My unit and I were in Kuwait to be precise, and we were there to clean up our vehicles after a long year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Our vehicles were hungry for a wash by the time we got to the what I imagine was a Nestle’s Industrial Truck Wash since it was a truck wash and there was a big Nestle’s sign hanging over the left side of it.

While the washing was going on our unit was bunked in a nearby warehouse with all the other spare parts. We slept on army cots as per normal for service in Iraq at the time.  I spent my days either at the wash racks talking to soldiers or intensively studying a textbook entitled Patterns of Infidelity and Their Treatment, I still have the book in my library.

The long year in Iraq had taught me all I ever wanted to know about infidelity, but I still needed to know more.  I needed to know more because it was my job to help some of my fellow soldiers deal with the fact that their relationships at home had come to an end.

One day I was walking across the rock yard in our camp, called “Fire Base Steel” after the fact that we were the 3-18 Field Artillery “Steel Professionals”, when suddenly my best friend Mike (Big Mike), who was also commander of Alpha “Gator” battery, came running up to me and said, “Chaplain, I need you to come over here right away, my driver is in trouble”.

So I ran over to Mike’s HUMVEE and I spotted his driver sitting behind his seat in the back.  He had his SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon M249) in his hands and the barrel was pointing at his face.

One novelty of the SAW that makes it a better combat light machinegun than it’s predecessor the M60 is that it can be belt fed or it can be magazine fed.  Mike’s driver had a magazine in the reciever and had charged the bolt.

For a moment I only saw the private and the SAW, as if I was in a dream.  I knew the man I was looking at well, and I knew his young wife.  The couple was around a decade younger than my 36 years, and they had an infant.

Big Mike, my best friend at the time, escaped the scene quickly and jogged back over to the TOC (Tactical Operations Center): I imagine to update his supervisor, the Battalion Commander, with a SITREP.

So I got in on the passenger’s side, in the back, and spent the next 4 hours talking to my new “battle buddy” until he was ready to go to the hospital.

We got him to the hospital, we kept him safe, and I then I started meeting with him weekly for around 6 months, until we finally left Iraq.

But back to Kuwait, the wash racks, the dirty vehicles, the warehouses, that is where I started after all…

I remember reading that textbook while lying on my cot, crying at times, and feeling about the soldiers affected by the patterns identified in the textbook.

I felt deeply then as I feel deeply now,  I cannot help myself.

I wondered where the soldiers whose spouses had let them down would go once they got settled again at “home”.  I wondered if they could even feel a sense of returning “home” under the conditions that they found themselves in. And I wondered if my marriage could survive Iraq; I wondered where I would go if she wasn’t there when I got “home”.

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The Hour of My Discontent

Here it is 3:30 AM and I can’t sleep.

I woke up and the first thing on my mind is Discord.

But it’s not Discord, it’s the people, the community of people, behind screens who are using a communication application to play with one another, that’s what is really on mind: the people.

I am a part of a Discord community and on some days I feel connected to it.  But I just cannot help but feel a nagging, dissatisfaction.

I don’t know why I feel dissatisfied. Maybe I long for real connection, or maybe it’s just that I want more attention and praise for my fiction, or maybe it’s because I have abandonment issues. Whatever the reason, I am not satisfied.

My grown daughter and her partner came over last night for dinner and I described some of my experience with “friendshiping” on Discord. My son-in-law seemed to understand, from personal experience, exactly what I was talking about when I pointed out that relationships on Discord come and go fast and that I already miss people I just met.

I wish I understood more about what I am experiencing, perhaps advanced knowledge of all the implications and nuance of “digitalized community” would help me feel more connected, safe, and in control.

Maybe– but I just do not know.

Nevertheless, I continue to assume that what I am feeling is not completely unique to only myself.  Instead, I assume that what I am feeling is in some ways what we all feel.

-Zod the Magnificent

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Raynor the Feral, The White Tiger and the Shrine

Raynor the Nordhiemer is uncomfortable in the desert. He feels more at home in the snowy mountains of the north.

Nevertheless, there Raynor was abroad in the desert waste, standing at the bottom of a sandstone mountain bluff that must be climbed. “Baahhhh! By Ymir’s orange beard! I must climb up to light this fire ring as well!” said Raynor out loud as he started to remove his heavy armor for the climb.

“The climb to the top will be tricky,” thought Raynor, “but Alfhda requires that our shrines to Ymir stay lit.”

Once naked, Raynor removed a large sack from his pack and then placed his armor, his pack, his pipe, and a few other personal effects into the sack.  When everything was in the sack, and the bundle was secure, Raynor tied one end of a rope around the bundle and then tied the other end of the rope around his waist.

“If my memory serves me well, I know just how to grapple and climb these rocks”, thought Raynor as he looked for the right spot wherein to begin his climb upward, towards the dimming shrine.

It was just at that moment, when the sturdy old Nordhiemer was looking for grapple spots in the sandstone, when he saw the white tiger causally walking toward him.  Startled by the sight of the mighty tiger, Raynor ran toward the sack and took out his cudgel and throwing axe, which he had also placed inside it.

Now being naked and facing a white tiger in the middle of the desert was alarming to Raynor but there no time to worry or be thoughtful about it.

The tiger pounced on Raynor with a devastating growl and lunge.  Afterwards Raynor and the white tiger rolled around– fighting, clawing and biting for their lives, i.e. until Raynor got the upper hand and brought down his cudgel into the skull of the tiger with a an explosive crack.

For a moment the tiger stood stiff. Then it backed away, gave Raynor a curious look, and then fell to the ground dead. “By Ymir’s orange beard, what a mighty beast that was!” said Raynor as he placed his weapons back inside the sack and took out an aloe potion for his wounds. “It is a shame that he died here in the desert on this off chance,” he thought as he applied the aloe.

“Now for this filthy climb,” said Raynor as he went back to the business of climbing to the top of the sandstone bluff.

Raynor put his hands on the side of the great bluff and with inhuman strength pulled and climbed his way up. He didn’t seem to be bothered much by the 200 or so extra pounds of dangling armor, weapons, his pipe, and other things, which were securely bound, and dangling from the rope he had tied around his waist.

Once at the top, Raynor sat down and took out his pipe.   He then stood up and lit both the fire rings of the shrine and his pipe.

Thus, finished of his work, Raynor again sat down to rest, and as the smoke billowed around his head, he thought to himself, “Perhaps I will stay here, alone for a while, on this mountain, where I have a lovely view of things”.

“I cannot pretend that when I am on the ground the view satisfies me like it does when I am high and lifted as I am now,” continued Raynor, deep in thought.

Raynor then stood up and paced back and forth, smoking, thinking and smoking. Finally, he grunted and started climbing down.

And as he began climbing down off the mountain to the ground, he said to himself, “There is no sense in my hiding away for long, Queen Alfhda will require my assistance soon enough.”

When Raynor got the ground, he began the long jog back to Virding Hall, without a word or thought. 20190311210755_1