Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Blank Slate Press
Paperback; 400 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Lift the veil of legend for the untold story of Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, and Bathsheba, wife and mother of Israel’s first kings. When Makeda, the slave-born daughter of the chieftain of Saba, comes of age, she wins her freedom and inherits her father's titles along with a crumbling earthwork dam that threatens her people's survival. When she learns of a great stone temple being built in a land far to the north, Makeda leads a caravan to the capital of Yisrael to learn how to build a permanent dam and secure her people's prosperity. On her arrival, Makeda discovers that her half-sister Bilkis (also known as Bathsheba) who was thought to have died in a long-ago flash flood, not only survived, but has become Queen of Yisrael. Not content with her own wealth, Bilkis intends to claim the riches of Saba for herself by forcing Makeda to marry her son. But Bilkis’s designs are threatened by the growing attraction between Makeda and Yetzer abi-Huram, master builder of Urusalim’s famed temple. Will Bilkis’s plan succeed or will Makeda and Yetzer outsmart her and find happiness far from her plots and intrigue?
Athtar, save me.
I’d meant to scream the words, but my breath refused to come. Even so, the god’s protective hand enfolded me. The waters swept around the boulder, but I remained untouched within its lee. For countless heartbeats the storm raged around me. Though the roar dulled my ears and mist stung my eyes, I sat in awe of this display of the gods’ power. Until this day, I had only seen tamed water, resting in a bowl or winking from the depths of a well. Never had I seen a flood so angry. Angrier even than Bilkis. Sorrow swept through my heart. Though Bilkis could be mean as a scorpion tending her brood, she’d never failed to protect me. Whether from our father’s wrath or the teasing of other girls who mocked my mixed blood, Bilkis reserved to herself alone the privilege of abusing me, right to the very last. A cold finger ran down my spine. I spun away from the boulder and looked up to see a stream of water spilling over its edge. The flood slowed and, as it did so, its waters invaded my little haven. At my feet, the trickles grew larger until the earth became as dark as my skin. The rising waters swept me off my feet and washed me along the wadi with the rest of the storm’s debris. I beat against the surface of the flood, but I might as well have tried to hold back the wind with a pitchfork. I gagged on dirty water and managed only a feeble gasp before my sodden robe dragged me beneath the surface.
I fought the wool’s grip. For once, I blessed the generous cut of the robe. I fumbled with the laces at the collar until its clutch loosened about my throat. I wriggled my shoulders through the neck opening, slithered through the cloth, then thrashed to the surface. Coughing and sputtering, I slid along with the stream. My ears were numb from the roar of the waters, but I thought I heard a shout and a splash. I again sank under the water before something tugged my hair and dragged me to the surface. A thick arm wrapped about my waist and towed me to the wadi’s edge. “Fear not, little one,” said the familiar, gruff voice of Yanuf, the city’s gatekeeper. As we reached the bank, my mother ran to us. She swathed me in the folds of her robe. I wrapped my arms about her neck and sobbed. When at last I caught my breath, I peeked over her shoulder. My father Karibil, Chieftain of Maryaba and Mukarrib of all Saba, scanned the river with a sharp eye. A dozen warriors formed a screen of spears between the wadi and the city’s gate, though the only sign of the raiders now was a cloud of dust on the horizon. “Where is Bilkis?” my father demanded. I looked at him, his brow heavy with anger, eyes lined with concern. I shied away from his stern gaze and again buried my face in my mother’s robe. “It’s all right, little one,” she cajoled me. “Where is your sister? Speak.” I raised my chin, looked first in Mother’s eyes, then to my father’s. I tried to speak, but the words came out as a mewling sound. Instead, I shifted in my mother’s arms, reached out a trembling hand and pointed toward the wadi, whose dark and sullen stream flowed silently toward the desert.
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