Wednesday, December 21, 2011
“So, how many times can you make the stone skip Nike?” “I don’t know; at least 14 or 15 times.” “Show me then.” Nike gripped the flat stone, about the size of his palm, with his index finger wrapped around its curved edge, his thumb opposing, and his pointing finger supporting from below. He drew the object back cocking his arm behind him. With a whipping motion of his arm almost parallel with the water he fired the stone in the direction of the sea. It spun as it roped out over the calm waves and dropped flat side toward the water. Glancing the surface in an iteration of smaller and smaller jumps the stone gave up its energy to the sea and sank. “That was only nine hero; better try again.”
Nike, now 16 years old, and Betawee had been interested in each other for a few months by this time. Kimeril was not aware exactly how interesting their relationship had become. Betawee was a beautiful yet beguiling young woman. She was from Kimeril’s settlement and was Nike’s second cousin.
Nike turned in her direction tipping his head to one side and called on his best smirk to accept the challenge. He perused his vicinity of the cost more carefully this time and chose a near perfect specimen of a skipping stone. Completely flat on both sides its circular edge had been beveled smooth by 150 years of jostling with the other stones in the surf of the Sea of Ashkenaz. Nike then secured his footing at the proper distance. He bent deeply at the knees. With great concentration he whipped this stone as the other but with more force and a truer aim.
“How old are you Beta?” He said; hands on hips, grin on face. “You know I just turned seventeen.” She said laughing as she tossed her hair unable to hold back a look of adulation; for that is the number of skips made by Nike’s stone. “Come here then.” Betawee slid off the large rock where she had been perched. She brushed the sand from her legs and buttocks as she walked over to Nike. As was their customary embrace, she stood with her toes on his. He reached his hands in, palms turned out and backs sliding along her hips, and clutched her hands. Fingers locking he pulled her close by drawing her arms around him to his lower back. Fingers still locked the two tall frames seemed pasted together from lips to toes. I admit; it was cute, that is, if one did not look upon it for too long in one stretch of time.
“Again with the kissing!” Billaad was on his way back from the delta. “I thought you told me that jealousy was wicked Billaad?” Billaad stopped and looked tiredly at the smug Nike. “Not at all what I said boy. To covet is wicked. It is a decided action of the heart. It is akin to stealing but lacks the physical deed. I covet nothing of yours. Jealousy is emoted. Like all feelings it can influence for good or for evil. In any case, one can’t be held in account for what one feels. If I am jealous of you, then it is not how you think. Indeed you have much to boast of: strength, coning, beauty, position. But he that glories, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as pure to our God and Father. If you receive a different spirit which you have not received, then you may well put up with it for a time. Yet a day will come when you have no remedy. Even though I am untrained in speech, yet I am not in knowledge. But we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things. [2 Corinthians 11] And now, after a hard days work which you would do well to be jealous of, I am returning home to my loving wife and family. You would do well to be jealous of this also as it dwarfs any base pleasure derived from the casual and caviler. If you have any questions about what I have said, then I suggest you take it up with your father Kimeril.” Billaad resumed his steady pace back to the village. “Woe! Lighten up Billaad! I was only stirring your soup man.” Nike then turned face and full attention back to Betawee. In between kisses he shared with her. “That guy is way too serious.” “And a little weird; don’t you think; espoused to one husband, you, what is he talking about?” She replied.
As you can probably tell, over the years Billaad had developed a strong and consistent relationship with God the father. It did not necessarily come easy nor did it happen all at once. But the shock of Crill’s untimely death, the increasing vacuousness of his mother’s paintings, together with his own emptiness, caused Billaad to search, seek, and then find the Holy Spirit of God. Billaad called upon the name of the Lord and was saved. Hallelujah! Billaad was blessed of God. Although his earthly possessions were modest, his family, friends, and God’s faithfulness continually filled his heart with joy unspeakable. When trials and tribulations did come his memories of his boyhood friend and their times together were a buoy of hope in the storm; not a weighty stone of depression. He would even on occasion and for the rest of his days on earth visit the face stone to talk to his old friend.
Most often the topic of these discussions was Crill’s younger brother Nikelus. Nike was a baby when Crill died and so had no memory of him. His mother Philia and Kimeril both shared regularly with Nike about Crill but Nike was not all that interested. In fact he had grown tired and even a bit irritated at these accounts. He was especially short nerved when his parents would bring up the fact that Crill knew God personally, all be it a short time hear on earth, at the age of ten. Nike had no such knowledge. Further, Nike was not interested in such knowledge. Despite many one-on-one discussions with Kimeril, Philia, and even Billaad, Nike remained disinterested in and sometimes even annoyed with the idea of God.
Don’t be mistaken and think Nike some sort of malcontent. He was very well liked and a very pleasant fellow to all. He did his chores, he was polite, he was funny and kind. He was all the things Billaad had mentioned and more. He was not particularly industrious nor was he one to make long term commitments, but, his charm, his manors, and his wit were enough to make up for any of these minor short comings; at least from an earthly perspective. “What a good kid.” This would be one of the first things out of anyone’s mouth if asked to describe him.
This general high regard from all, as it turned out, was one of the biggest stumbling blocks to Nike’s coming to know the Lord. Of what need to him was this God, whoever He was? After all, Nike, son of the chief, envy of all those worldly, he had everything going for him. What sense could he make of Billaad’s ramble standing there on the breathtaking shores of the Sea of Ashkenaz, the beautiful Betawee in his arms and not a care in the world? True evil was but a myth to him carried on in the worn out stories of the menacing Gog. And don’t even mention God’s wrath as poured out on the wickedness of man in the great flood. There was certainly too much fun to be had in each and every day to waste time listening to those impossibilities. For him, turning a woman’s head or a glance of Betawee’s form as she moved was enough to disintegrate any care of eternity.
A short time later Nike and Betawee also returned to the village. They went to Nike’s house where Nike had some unfinished mending to the roof he needed to work on. As he fashioned the repairs, Betawee joined the women of his long house in the preparation of the evening meal. Betawee’s contribution was both welcomed and encouraged by her parents as well as Nike’s. You see both sets of parents approved of the potential marriage of the two. So any encouragement they could give in securing the union in a proper fashion was helpful to all.
Present among the group of women were: Philia, Palia, Lynda, Betawee, and Nike’s two older sisters (Helleen and Gildalee). When Betawee entered the kitchen area the work was already in full swing and the group was a buzz concerning the evening meal. Betawee caught on quickly that the men (Kimeril, Grip, Tiras, and Engain) had hunted down and killed a lesser dragon.
Yes, as it turns out the shapes that darted about so quickly in and out of the shadows so as not to be recognized on the fishing expedition were a variety of reptile slightly larger than a man. As the settlement expanded and their population grew, well, man and dragon began to ‘bump’ into each other. Scavengers mostly but when the presence of one close to the settlement became known, the men would hunt it down and kill it as a precautionary measure. One of the children might become too much of a temptation for the beasts. The hunting procedure was not too difficult. They simply killed one of the livestock. Took the carcass out into the woods. Camouflaged their position and waited. Sooner or later, the beast would come upon the dead animal to feed and the men would coordinate their attack. Fortunately for settlement, the meat of the dragons tasted very good. And so, it would be a fine feast this night for the family of Kimeril. Here is some of what the ladies had to say to each other:
Philia: Betawee, come on in darling and sit down here next to me. We will get you started on the salid.
Palia: Where is that handsome boo of yours?
Betawee: Oh, somewhere overhead I expect.
Gildalee: Please, don’t put the brat on too high a pedestal.
Helleen: Sister, now don’t you forget, Nike has been floating ten feet off the ground for the past two months over this one.
Gildalee: Yea, you would think he would learn after crashing to the ground over the last one.
Philia: Girls! That is no way to talk to Betawee. She is an honored guest in our home and you will treat her with the respect she deserves. Now apologize!
Helleen: I am sorry if what we said upset you Betawee. We meant no disrespect to you.
Gildalee: Yes Betawee, I am sorry also. We like you. We are just not so taken by Nike’s charm as so many others seem to be. Nike has not treated the girls he has seen in the past well at all. He smothers them with superficial platitudes for a short period of time only to become distracted by some other girl. His charm then becomes unfocused and the girl drops him like a stone. I am sorry mother but you know that it is all true. These remarks of ours are meant to caution Betawee not insult her.
There is an awkward silence as the women continue their work.
Lynda: Do we then not know where Nike is?
Philia: He is on the roof working to repair a leak.
The women all broke into a roll of subdued laughter that cut the tension.
Philia: Gildalee, your brother is not perfect. I think you question his intensions too harshly. Did any of us know what we were doing when first we excited the attentions of a man? Nike has, I will admit, been fumbling around in his relationships with girls. His individual faults are no more severe than were those of his father Kimeril when he was Nike’s age. Are they worse than your husband’s were Helleen? What about yours Gildalee? If Betawee is to be cautioned, then it is a general caution she should receive.
Betawee: I like Nike; faults and all.
There was more laughter from the group but this time it was less guarded.
Palia: That is plan enough for all to see.
Lynda: And don’t let any of us nags spoil it for you dear.
The women continued to work while tossing about some related banter among them to the effect that their husbands still had plenty of faults and a good dousing into Betawee’s wide eyed enthusiasm might help them through some spots here and there. And then came an interjection for the whole group:
Philia: I do hope and pray that one of Nike’s stumbling blocks would be removed and without haste.
Betawee: I know Philia. You would have him pay more attention to his family; especially his younger sisters. And I agree.
Philia: No Betawee. That is not what I am talking about. I pray to the Father daily that he would call on the name of the Lord and be saved.
Betawee: Yes, I have been meaning to ask. What is it exactly that you all mean by that?
Philia: I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple: I was brought low, and He helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from failing. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, All men are liars. What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the daughter of thine handmaiden; thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
Just then there was a load cry from outside the building: “Oh my God; Oh my God!” The women all spring from their work and rushed out of the long house. Just as they were exiting, Nike leapt from the roof above and landed some 5 cubits to their right. The women all let out a shriek of surprise. Betawee, shouted, “Nike! What is the matter?” He paid the calls from the women no mind and dashed toward the stand of trees about 30 cubits from the house. Something high in one of the trees caught the women’s’ attention. It was a child; a young girl. She seemed to be dangling from a branch. The women, hands to their hearts and mouths, began to move quickly toward the seen.
Nike bulled through the small crowd at the base of the tree and sprang up the trunk foothold to foothold; branch to branch. In a flash, he and the rope slung over his shoulder, he had been using in his work on the roof, disappeared into the foliage of the great oak that stood at least 40 cubits high. About this time little Haran, eight years old, climbed down to the last branch, five cubits high, and plopped to the ground. Dusting himself off, he moved toward the crowed as they started at him. “What were the two of you thinking?” “Is there anyone else up their?” “If anything happens to her…” The boy belted out in a loud voice: “I told her not to come. I told her it was too dangerous to climb so high. She would not listen!” Just then Gildalee wrapped her son up in her arms and carried him some distance from the group as they both broke into a flood of tears. Some in the crowd continued to shout out interrogations in the boy’s direction. Philia called out for them: “STOP! Gildalee will find out what is what from the boy. We should all bow our heads in prayer for the child and for Nike who has gone to her rescue.” “Philia, it is Estrala.” Lynda informed her friend as gently as she could. “Yes, and we will pray for her now.” Replied Philia and she led the group in a short but direct prayer for her two children high above in the tree.
Nike had reached Estrala’s height. He was still close to the center of the tree and his sister was out on a small broken limb. There were no limbs close to her that could possibly hold him. She was positioned at a Y in the branch. Under her right arm pit went one limb of the Y. The other limb appeared to have been shoved between her dress and her back. The end of the branch was shooting out of the top of her dress at the neck; right behind her head. She was crying.
“Estrala.” “Yes? Nike, is that you?” “Yes, are you alright?” “Nike, I am so scared. Please help me. I am going to fall.” “Hold on sister. Will you hold on tight?” “Yes I will but you have to help me.” “I am. I will be right there. Just hold on.” “Ok.”
Nike noticed a thicker branch shooting of from the center of the tree in the direction of Estrala about five or six cubits above her. It was also a few cubits short of her position too. Nike squirreled his way up and out the thicker branch until he came to a spot he could secure the rope. The branch here was about as thick as his calf where it split into two branches each about as thick as his forearm. Nike positioned himself in the Y of this branch for a moment while he tied the rope around his chest just under his arms. He looped the rope through the Y and grabbed hold of the other side. This way he lowered himself down. As he changed the position of one hand on the opposite end of the rope, the slack slid through the Y and lowered the end tied around his chest.
In no time Nike was hanging about a cubit below his sister and three cubits from her toward the center of the tree. “Here I am Estrala.” The young girl of eight peered over her right shoulder and could see her brother. “Oh good, please hurry.” “I am on a rope and I am going to swing over to you.” “Ok.”
Down below the mood was tense. They could see that Nike was close but they could not determine his plan nor his exact progress. Most of the men from the adjacent long houses were all away from the vicinity at this time. Formill was present. He had injured his leg the week before and was recooperating at home. “Nike! How is it going?” Formill shouted up. “It goes well.” Nike responded. “Do you need anything?” “Yes, all my strength. So, I won’t be shouting down to you anymore.” Just then Betawee said something very softly. So softly in fact that nobody in the crowd around her heard. She said; “Please Lord, give Nike strength.” It was out of her mouth before she knew she was going to say it. A rush came over her whole body followed by an inexplicable calm. She did not know how she knew but then and there she knew Nike and Estrala would be safe.
Nike had wrapped the opposite side of the rope around his right forearm and held it in his right hand. He began to swing back and forth; back and forth until he gained the momentum that carried him to the stranded Estrala. At the apex of his swing he, all at once and with his left arm, reached under her left armpit and grasped the branch coming out from under her right armpit. He then kissed his sister on the left cheek. “Thank you Nike. I knew you could do it.” “Now let’s get you out of here.” “Yes.” The branch coming out of her dress that had been helping to keep her from falling was now an obstacle in her release. “Sorry girl. This might hurt a bit. Just hold fast to my arm.” Nike lifted his right foot up to where the branch went under her dress near her lower back. He planted it on top of the branch and pushed down with his foot.
The branch was only sticking out the top of the dress by a little more than a cubit and Nike easily pulled it down and through. At the same time he lifted the girl off of the branch with his left arm. She let out a cry as the branch scraped against the cuts and bruses she had sustained in her earlier fall. As the two swung free of her entanglement Nike asked; “Are you ok?” “Yes, I will be fine now.”Down below all of the swinging, cries of pain, and rustling of branches was almost too much for the crowd. But when they caught a view of Nike pulling the two of them up; Estrala wrapped tightly around his neck they let out a great cheer. It took many minutes more for Nike to bring the girl carefully down to the ground. Again they were met with a great swell of cheering excitement.