Chapter One"The earth was not always as you see it today, Shoshannah-child.
Before the Great Destruction, the heavens glowed pink as an endless
sunrise. The mountains were low and rounded, and the trees were
enormous-beautiful and fruitful. And the flowers-they were so
sweet that we sometimes ate them; But even more wonderful, little one,
were the animals in the world of that time. They didn't fear people as
predators or stalk them as prey; they lived around us-often seeking
our presence. Yet the earth before was so filled with violence and death
that the Most High mourned. To save His cherished creation, He allowed
the earth to be swept beneath the waters. But first He warned our
Ancient One, Noakh, to build this pen"
Half dreaming of the earth as it must have been,
Shoshannah followed I'ma-Annah through the immense,
dusty, dark vessel she called "the pen." Cautiously touching
a web-swathed reed cage, Shoshannah murmured,
"You truly lived here for more than a year, surrounded by
"It seems impossible, doesn't it?" I'ma-Annah paused at
the base of the pen's central ramp and sighed. Her lovely
features saddened as she shook her sleek black hair,
bound with gold talismans. "I sometimes despair that the
children of my children can't imagine the Great Destruction.
But it truly happened."
Grieved by I'ma-Annah's sorrow, Shoshannah leaned
forward. "I believe you, I'ma-Annah. I do. How I wish I
could have seen the world of that time! It sounds so beautiful.
This world must appear desolate by comparison."
I'ma-Annah stared at her, surprised. "Yes . that's how
I felt when I first stepped out onto this mountain. Oh,
little one, I cried; it was terrible! But being surrounded by
loved ones-like you-eases everything." She hugged
Shoshannah, fondly smoothing her wild brown curls.
"And I must stop calling you 'little one.' Soon you'll be
taller than I am; you're growing up to be just like your
Pleased, Shoshannah asked, "Do I really look so much
like my I'ma?"
"Yes, except that your eyes are a bit darker gray, and
you have dimples like your father's. But come now. I'll
show you the upper level; then we'll join the others before
They were just nearing the top of the ramp when a
large, fur-covered shape bounded out of the shadows
above them, bellowing, "Raa-a-aww!"
Shoshannah screamed, clutching the resin-coated
railing as I'ma-Annah leapt backward, landing on
Shoshannah's toes. But before they could run, the
seething shape stood big and tall, dropping its fur cover.
A young man laughed down at them, his clear green-brown
eyes sparkling in his tawny, lively face.
"Kal!" Shoshannah swatted at him, furious. "We could
have fallen down the ramp!"
"Forgive me," Kaleb said, contrite. But his remorse instantly
vanished, replaced by his usual life-loving grin. "I
found this shabby old hide and couldn't resist teasing
you. I was sure you'd hear me scuffling around up here.
I'ma-Annah, I saw where you must have kept the birds-those
nets are huge! How long did it take to feed them? I
wish I could have been here then-I feel like I missedeverything."
He held I'ma-Annah's arm protectively, guiding her up
the ramp, talking the whole time. "Not that I want to see
the earth destroyed again," he assured her earnestly, "but I
wish the Most High would grant me such an adventure."
Shoshannah followed them, frustrated, wishing Kal
would leave her out of his adventures. Her toes were
smarting, and he had stolen her precious time alone with
I'ma-Annah. And he was still talking and making I'ma-Annah
When they finally emerged from the vast pen and
walked down the huge, dark, summer-warmed ramp,
Kaleb helped I'ma-Annah down, then turned to Shoshannah,
Annoyed, she said quietly, "You have a pimple on your
He touched his nose briefly, bewildered. "I do? Well,
you've got one on your chin."
"Oh!" Shoshannah pressed a hand to her chin, glared
at him, and marched away.
Kaleb followed her, calling in a need-to-know voice,
"But does it really matter?"
Kal, she threatened silently, I'm going to repay you someday.
She rejoined I'ma-Annah, who said, "Forgive me,
child, for stepping on your foot earlier when I was frightened.
Your Kaleb is a rascal-but a wonderful young
My Kaleb? Shoshannah stared at I'ma-Annah, dumb-founded,
then glanced back at Kal. He raised his eyebrows
at her, clearly delighted by I'ma-Annah's verdict.
Still speechless, Shoshannah followed I'ma-Annah
down the rocky hillside, toward the tented encampment
where their families were preparing the evening meal.
* * *
"You are going to marry Kal," said Mithqah, round
cheeked and full of youthful wisdom, as she helped
Shoshannah scrub their dishes outside the women's tent.
"He adores you, and your parents love him as if he's their
firstborn son. Look how he's working with your father."
Rinsing the last dish in her wooden tub, Shoshannah
glanced toward her father and Kaleb, who were covering
and tying the horses for the night. Her father, Zekaryah
-brown, neatly bearded, and dignified-was nodding as
Kaleb talked. He interrupted him now and then with a
word or gesture of instruction, which Kaleb swiftly
obeyed. They were indeed like father and son.
Years ago, Kaleb's own father, Regem-a shy man
who was baffled by his gregarious, daring, third-born
son-had asked the strict Zekaryah to train Kaleb to ride
horses and use weapons. In turn, Kaleb worked for
Zekaryah willingly. And he imitated Zekaryah's rugged
leather attire, even wearing his heavy black-brown hair in
a thick horseman's plait.
But Kaleb would never match her father's calm, silent
demeanor. Shoshannah pretended to be irritated.
"At least he's serious when he's helping my father.
Otherwise, I think he lives to torment me."
"You poor thing," Mithqah said, fluttering her black
bristly eyelashes exaggeratedly. "Admit it: you love him."
Unwilling to admit anything-even if it might be
true-Shoshannah flicked water at her friend's blue wool
tunic. Mithqah retaliated, slapping her hand through the
tub, splashing Shoshannah's leather tunic and leggings
before turning to run. Grabbing the tub, Shoshannah
chased her, both of them shrieking and laughing as
Shoshannah dashed the entire tub of water over
Mithqah's dark head.
Guiltily, Shoshannah faced her mother, Keren, who
had obviously heard the noise and emerged from the
women's tent. Tail, incomparable, brown curled and
brown skinned with remarkably pale gray eyes, Keren
scolded, "If you've ruined Mithqah's tunic, you're going to
make her another."
Mithqah wiped her tawny-red face with a quick hand.
"Thank you, I'ma-Keren, but I teased her fir-"
"And you're going to get more water and finish the
dishes." Ritspah-Mithqah's flushed and formidable
mother-joined them, her hands on her hips. "I hope you
haven't broken anything!"
"We haven't, I'ma-Ritspah," Shoshannah promised,
gripping the tub as she stepped closer to Mithqah. If they
were going to be punished, they'd suffer together, as always.
"We'll go for more water right now."
"You'd better," Ritspah threatened.
Keren nodded stiffly.
Shoshannah peeked at her mother, suspicious. Keren
was covering her mouth with her hand; Shoshannah almost
laughed with her. But her delight changed to self-consciousness
as she walked downhill with Mithqah to
the stream. Kai was watching. He flashed her a grin,
which Shoshannah reluctantly admired.
After speaking quietly to Zekaryah-evidently asking
his approval-Kaleb approached the girls. "Need some
help?" he asked.
"No." Shoshannah walked away, resisting Mithqah,
who tried to make her stop.
Kaleb followed her. "Shoshannah, listen. I'm sorry I
upset you this afternoon. Please accept my apology-your
father is Watching us."
She paused and looked. Her father was indeed watching
them closely-as always. He would expect her to accept
"I forgive you," she said. Almost. She would plan her revenge
later. "But, as you say, Father is watching; he might
thrash you if we talk too long."
As Kaleb glanced over his shoulder at Zekaryah,
Shoshannah hurried Mithqah toward the stream, smiling.
Kai wouldn't dare to follow.
* * *
"Confess, Ritspah," Keren said as they stepped inside
the women's tent. "Their water fight looked like fun; we
should have joined them."
"I would have won," Ritspah informed her.
"Perhaps not," I'ma-Annah teased, settling onto a
fleece mat, the gold hair talismans fluttering against her
neck. "Sometimes even an old woman like me can best a
child like you, Ritspah."
They laughed together, then sobered as Ritspah said,
"I can't believe how tall our girls have grown. It's frightening.
In a few years we'll have to find husbands for them.
Do you think you'll ask Shoshannah to consider Kaleb?"
"Perhaps. But I don't want her to marry for quite a
while-and Zekaryah talks as if he'd never allow her to
marry at all."
"He's too protective." Ritspah leaned down to peer at
Keren's toddler-daughter, Rinnah, who was napping,
thumb in mouth, on a nearby mat. "I think we should send
our daughters to visit their cousins in the Tribe of Metiyl.
We've refused their invitations twice, but it would be fun
for them to have a little freedom before they marry and
settle in their own households."
"I suppose you're right," Keren agreed reluctantly. "But
I keep thinking of what might happen ."
I'ma-Annah eyed Keren severely. "You still haven't
told Shoshannah of the past, have you?"
"Only that I lived in the Great City and hated it."
"Let her hear the truth from you before one of your
enemies finds her, child."
"What should I say? 'Daughter, you have enemies because
I tried to kill the Great King, but our First Father
Shem struck him down an instant before.' Forgive me,
I'ma-Annah, but I dread it."
"Do you want me to tell her?" I'ma-Annah offered
The First Father Shem was Annah's own beloved husband.
And the Great-King Nimr-Rada's manner of death
still saddened her, even after twenty years.
"No, I'ma-Annah, thank you. I'll tell her." Someday.
As Keren thought this, baby Rinnah stirred and
stretched, her chubby nut-brown face irritable as she
whimpered herself awake. Grateful to escape this unwelcome
conversation, Keren settled down to nurse her
youngest and soothe her into a better mood.
"Well," Ritspah sighed, retrieving a carved wooden
spindle and a puffy heap of combed dark wool, "I hope
our other children are behaving better than their elder
"I'm sure they are." Keren absently caressed Rinnah's
short wispy black ringlets, thinking of her other cherished
daughters, Qetuwrah and Adah, and her sons,
Ahyit and Sithriy, who were visiting the Ancient Ones
with her brother Eliyshama and his family.
I'll have to tell them everything . She hated the thought.
They shouldn't have to deal with her enemies. Time will be
enough of an enemy for them.
She had to stop thinking. She had to fight this bitterness
against her enemies. And, sadly, against the Most
HIDING HIS IRRITATION, Master Ra-Anan, the
bald, smooth-shaven leader of the priests, knelt in his
place of honor in a formal, tree-shaded courtyard. The
cause of his irritation, the Lady Sharah-his own sister
and supposed ruler of the Great City-was emerging
from her private residence.
Her golden sandals clicked softly, and her linen robes
and pale curls fluttered as Sharah glided into the courtyard
and stepped onto a fleece-draped dais. Arranging
herself decorously on her fleece-padded bench, Sharah
allowed a nervous attendant to check her face paints,
then waved her off, nodding to her guardsmen to open
the gates. Donning warmth and courtesy like a robe,
Sharah now assumed her persona of the City's gracious,
As Sharah received petitions from bowing, worshipful
citizens, Ra-Anan studied her critically, distastefully. In a
few years her gorging, tantrums, and drinking into the
night would destroy her pale, dazzling, paint-garnished
beauty. Then she would be left with nothing but this
sham dignity that vanished as soon as her citizens were
locked outside her courtyard gates.
I doubt your deluded citizens will call you Queen of the Heavens
much longer, Ra-Anan warned Sharah in his thoughts. Even
your son will hate you, if he doesn't already. Where is that boy?
Adoniyram, I have too much to do this afternoon without waiting on
The blaring notes of rams' horns echoed outside, making
Ra-Anan glance toward the gate. Adoniyram did not
appear. Instead Kuwsh, father of the deeply mourned, now
legendary Great-King Nimr-Rada, entered Sharah's courtyard.
Striking in his habitual gold ornaments and leopard-skin
robe, Kuwsh half bowed to Sharah. She nodded, icily
proud in the summer heat. Finished with courtesies, and
ignoring the citizens bowing around him, Kuwsh sat beside
Ra-Anan, an uneasy ally in their political schemes.
His obsidian black eyes glittering in his dusky
face, Kuwsh muttered, "Where's our Son of Heaven,
Ra-Anan concealed a smile. "Probably planning a
"He should be flailed."
"So should his mother," Ra-Anan whispered in agreement,
"when it's safe for us."
"I await the day. Usurpers! I should never have allowed
you to convince me that they should live, much
less have power."
"They are mere ornaments to please our people; you
know that, my lord."
"Hah! By the way, I want to speak to you later."
What now? Ra-Anan wondered, smiling calmly, inwardly
seething. "Of course."
Their furtive conversation ceased; Sharah had waved a
troublesome petitioner toward them, saying sweetly, "We
must be advised, for your sake, by our Priests of Shemesh."
Kuwsh stiffly deferred to Ra-Anan, who studied the
rustic petitioner's thin, jutting, bearded features.
"What's your name?" Ra-Anan asked.
"Dayag," the man snapped, glaring.
Ra-Anan chose to ignore his lack of manners-the
man was a nobody.
"Present yourself at the tower steps this evening. We
will consult then."
"As you say, Master." The man bowed to Ra-Anan, distinctively
Ra-Anan frowned, watching him move toward the
gates. If the man caused trouble, he would be punished.
Now raucous shouts, whistles, and laughter rose just
outside the courtyard walls. Adoniyram.
Ra-Anan peered through the open gates. The hostile
petitioner dropped to his knees and bowed, outwardly
humble, but deliberately blocking Adoniyram's progress.