From Capri to Timbuktu the adventure picks up where The Ring leaves off. With the discovery of an ancient parchment. Buried for some two thousand years in some far away desolate land. The final words of a condemned man. Beseeching reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles. A Cardinal intent on returning it to the Church. And relic collectors intent of possessing it. Dogged by bandits and bull elephants. Not that Michael had anything to do with it. A train ride and the smell of freshly baked bread. A mysterious woman captures Phil’s heart. Telling him to follow the star in the east…
And it all begins with the discovery of a letter… From and to whom?
Saul of Tarsus
Saul paced anxiously back and forth the marble floor. Making Timothy anxious as he watched on.
“Master. What troubles you?” He asked.
The question goes unanswered. His master’s mind held captive by the darkening blood red sky fused with arid smoke. An orb of blinding light blazed behind the distant hills of Rome. Silhouetting the stone columns like giant sentries that protected Rome’s great wealth and lust for power. Elongated shadows crawled across the roof tops like dark fingers. Penetrating large open windows as though searching for him help captive within the grand manor. Shackled to Rome. Permitted to roam only as far as the manacles of goodwill allowed until the day of judgement arrived. Whenever that would be. It had already been two years since his arrival, and two years before that since he had left Caesarea.
And beginning to feel like he would never have his right to be heard before Caesar.
Raising arms like wings as though to be take flight and flee the prolonged incarceration, he imagined himself standing before Christ on that fateful day. To see his face again.
Michael picked at a green grape from a wooden bowl. To Him it was as though it were only yesterday. But then every day was yesterday to Michael. As would be tomorrow. Placing a hand on Saul’s shoulder to sooth his troubled thoughts. Saul felt the warmth of the last apparent sun rays penetrate his soul. Sensing a blinding loving light. Inhaling deeply he opened his eyes. Expecting to see the Lord standing before. As he had so many, many, many years ago.
But all he saw was darkness. The sunlight had long since faded. He pondered the warmth he had felt. And sighed disappointedly.
Closing eyes again hoping to recapture the feeling. But what returned were memories of the past thirty years. Every event of those years flashed before him simultaneously. And in the blink of an eye, he found himself in Tarsus, as a child. Running through wheat fields with the other children. Squealing with laughter. Arms spread like wings, tickled by prickly tops.
‘Ah, the endless summers of youth.’ He thought to himself.
When time felt eternal. Saul grins and sighs and dismisses the nostalgic childish thought.
The innocence of youth was soon to be put away by Gamaliel.
“Gamaliel.” Murmurs Saul, as though summoning the long dead ghost.
And a darkly vision of the Rabbi stands before him. A chill of goosebumps erupts over Saul’s skin.
“Fetch me my cloak, for I feel a chill… And is not the air that gnaws at my bones.” Instructed Saul, looking about for Gamaliel as though had materialized.
Timothy returns with a thick woolen blue cloak, stained with time and wine. And places it over his master’s shoulder.
“That’s better…” Saul inhaling deeply as though he were now protected. The reassuring aromas ease his anxiety, “… I swear God hath given me a thorn in my flesh… A cross that I should bare.”
“Are you okay master… Some water?” Fearing his Master were falling ill.
“I am good boy… Where were we? …” He asked having lost track of his thoughts.
“Gamaliel?” Responded Timothy timidly. Unsure who the man was.
“Ah yes… Gamaliel… If it were not for him… Hm…” Saul grumbles with disdain for the Rabbi.
Pulling the cloak tighter about his neck and shoulders, to shield him from the dark thoughts.
Or to hide himself from what he had done.
For he had sinned.
A sadness comes over him. A remorse. A heavy pang of guilt. How many had died because of him. How many had suffered? His fertile young mind radicalized by the Rabbi. Empowered by Sanhedrin authority, he had gone about persecuting followers of ‘The Way of Salvation’. Christians as they would become to be known, for crimes of blasphemy against the Jewish faith. For defiling the covenant between Abraham and God. Calling on many to be stoned. He felt the stones striking him. Piling upon him.
Heavier and heavier until he could take no more.
“Forgive me Lord!” He shouts out.
His hands reaching up to the unseen God.
“Sorry Master?” Timothy questioned watching on.
“Wine...” Requested Saul. His throat was parched.
“And pour one for yourself. It will do your stomach good. How fairs it?”
“It comes and goes… Wine seems to help.”
“Good. Good. But only in moderation… Understood.” He instructs his disciple.
“Yes Master.” Handing him a wooden goblet of dark red wine.
Nostril’s twitch, sniffing the bitter sweet aromas. Satisfied, Saul takes a mouthful and washes about his mouth as though to cleanse his pallet and swallows, feeling the arid solution burn to his stomach.
Then recalled the moment that had changed his life forever. As though it were an epiphany. Shredding Gamaliel’s chilling shadow from about him. And bathing him into a glorious warm light.