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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Great Nation Publishing (June 2011)
In addition to being an author and heading his own publishing company, Brian Thompson is a public speaker, licensed educator, and former professional journalist.
Visit the author's website.
Seers foretell the birth of a legendary king. His ascendance will spell the end to the centuries-old enslavement of his race. Knowing this, a head-of-state plots a mass genocide. Its failure drives him to forge an uneasy alliance with a rival possessing knowledge of the liberator’s only weakness. Meanwhile, the captive race loses all hope, until a man with unbreakable cones emerges from the wilderness.
List Price: $9.99
ISBN-10: ISBN: 978-0-615-44374-4
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Near the dawn of recorded time lived Mosi, the first king of the Uché people. Adored by his people, he ruled peaceably until committing an offense against EL, the god of the Uché. For this, EL divided Mosi’s kingdom into northern and southwestern portions and handed it to two invading enemies – thus, beginning the Uché captivity.
The former belonged to a brave military leader of the Sanguë: a race of mixed Uché and Otī blood hailing from the unexplored regions. He ordered footmen to kill only as a last resort. Mosi, his wives, children and eleven brothers were spared. Known as “the eleven,” these men were clerics: guardians of Uché history and liaisons between the people and EL. Kind but firm, the ruler of the north permitted his foreign captives relative freedom.
The latter territory fell to a political dilettante whose reign was marked by cruelty and bloodshed. He was of the Otī, a mountainous race originating from beyond the Great Mountain. Forceful and violent, the southwestern king sentenced dissidents to death. The Uché and Otī beneath him followed in fear, knowing the slightest wrongdoing or just a capricious whim may result in their death. Naturally, he and the northern ruler saw eye-to-eye on nothing, further defining the stark territorial division and raising the threat of conflict between the two.
After charming the royal courtiers to see his point-of-view, one night, under the auspices of consolidating the two kingdoms peaceably, the southwestern king assassinated his adversary and heirs as they slept. When dawn broke the next day, both the Sanguë and Uché populaces awoke to the bodies of the respected king and his bloodline paraded through the main streets.
Thereafter, the kingdoms united and their new ruler eliminated any natural successor to the throne – including his father, brothers, and own sons – to assume dictatorial control. He also destroyed Mosi and his family; all but the eleven. These men were masters of Njia – an invisible power that gifted its masters with unnatural abilities. Shortly after the coronation, these men used their powers to infiltrate the palace in broad daylight. After dismissing the royal guard, the eleven confronted the king, who threw himself down from a window rather than face condemnation.
The overthrow struck fear into the hearts of the Otī and Sanguë. If eleven men possessed enough power to rid themselves of the king, what could stop a fully empowered people? With no direct successor to the throne, a high-ranking official in the Otī royal court became king. He immediately issued a directive to raze EL’s temple and leave no cleric alive. The ensuing battle lasted nine days, ending with the building’s sack and burning. All that remained were the eleven. Severely weak from fighting, Mosi’s brothers endured atrocities before their execution.
Following his conquest, the new king discovered legislating for all three races was an overbearing task, so he appointed a regent over the Sanguë and relocated them across the District River. Still, the Uché presented a problem. Though he determined not to enslave them in the traditional sense, they could not be allowed certain freedoms – especially to follow Njia. Anticipating the move, Mosi’s relatives exiled themselves and renounced it. Prior to their demise, the eleven predicted a New Order that EL would establish through Mosi’s bloodline. In time, the Otī king hunted the Uché king’s living relatives and exterminated them all.
But Anisa, a secret Sanguë concubine of Mosi, bore a son, Ijara, whose descendants bore sons over 700 years down to Jahleel, whose wife bore him Kifimbo. Kifimbo was the father of Aitan, the husband of Mairi, Isoke, and Bimnono. . .
THE FIRST FULL MONTH OF HARVEST, 799 A.C.
“Mkombozi is soon to come.”
Those reciting the history – the men too old or weak to work the ground – concluded it with that mantra. Their fathers and grandfathers had done so, and so on. However, by the present time, eras past the captivity, the phrase became trite and assumed a customary status similar to that of the greeting: “Be well and I will see you, if the sun so chooses to wake.”
Only strict followers of EL gave Mkombozi much thought, except to superstitiously invoke his name during the flood season; for EL’s emotions showed in weather changes. Turbulent storms indicated testing, or his displeasure. During those times, the Uché quieted themselves and respected the heavenly work. Calm weather meant he neither laughed nor wept, so they engaged in normal business.
But a plentiful rainy season, during which the District River flooded, indicated a good harvest and divine pleasure. Thus, they reveled in it – especially when holy rain fell; golden, sweet smelling, heavy dropping precipitation. It had been foretold that the birth of Mkombozi would occur at such a time. A direct blood descendant of their great warrior king, Mkombozi would travel to the realm’s end to reestablish order.
Armed with the hope of birthing him, the unmarried, old or young exposed their bellies openly at suspect-looking precipitation. Unplanted and barren fields yielded significantly larger harvests than that of the fertilized areas after holy rain. Terminal and crippling diseases reversed themselves after holy rain. Its possibility encouraged the hopeless not to completely abandon belief in the metaphysical or Njia.
This strange behavior intrigued Kgosi. By contrast, the Otī and Sanguë believed in whatever they deemed meant them good at the time; a system of exchange he respected and followed. Regardless, he tolerated the foreigners’ devotion because it kept them docile. His father once did the same for a similar reason. But one unknown detail persisted in troubling his sense of reason: What benefit do they receive for their worship? He must know it, as logic did not drive this confusing culture’s devotion.
One day, to gain this understanding, he ordered the lone member of the clerical order to immediately enter into his presence.
According to tradition, to become a cleric, one must be of blood relation to Mosi. Since the purge hundreds of years ago, none stepped forward to accept the mantle, as doing so marked them for death. But Auni, hailing from a different lineage, claimed a divine call from EL to join the order – a request to which the king did not object.
Since then, he had constructed a makeshift temple and lived a hermetic existence inside of it, subsisting on animal and produce remaining from burnt sacrifice, as well as insects during poor harvests. His duties included service for up to half a flood season in the temple’s inner sanctum, where the Uché believed that he communicated face-to-face with EL. That time now approached.
Therefore, when Kgosi called, Auni ceased preparations, grudgingly sent for one skilled in the Otī tongue and headed toward the palace. Upon his arrival at the throne room’s entrance, a pair of massive hands gripped his shoulders and that of his translator, pushing them downward underneath the gold-inlaid doorframe. Both Auni and his translator locked their knees and refused to show respect to the king, whom the Otī believed to be a god fit to be worshipped on bended knee. According to the Uché, bowing before anyone but EL equated idolatry.
“Kneel.” The chief royal guardsman, a rebel Uché renamed Kabal, muttered through gritted teeth in Auni’s language, “or I will cut off your feet so you have no choice.”
“Then I will hobble on stumps,” Auni retorted. “But I will not bow.”
Kgosi extended a heavily-jeweled scepter toward the trio, clearing them to come forward. “Let him be. A modicum of pride is all they have. Permit them that.”
“But my king, if we let this one get away with it, there will be others later.”
“I have spoken for you to leave him be,” he hissed. “Come forth, prophet.”
The turncoat Uché released Auni, who walked the royal purple carpet, streaked a dark rust color and crusted with the clotted blood of slain dissenters. Though the translator looked down, Auni faced the ruler eye-to-eye. It was another protocol misstep. Lower social classes could not engage in direct eye contact with royalty.
“I will forgive your ignorance. . .this time only. Speak.”
“Gracious king, you ask that I explain Njia. If it pleases you, I will answer.”
The translator repeated the phrases verbatim, minus Auni’s irreverent vocal inflection on “gracious.”
“Speak then, of this religion.”
“We are an imperial people not of this place, and. . .”
Kgosi interrupted. “You do not originate from this region?”
“EL is not of this realm and neither are we. We were created by the holy rain.”
The court erupted with raucous laughter. Kgosi finally regained composure himself after the others stifled themselves. “That explains much, for now. I know you and your entire race to be strange looking and crazed. Created by rain, you say?”
“Njia is not a religion, but a belief in another realm, where EL is in absolute power and we, as his local regents, rule in authority. In believing this, we are able to manipulate the natural and achieve the impossible.”
Kgosi stroked his beard, as the translation rolled forth. “Impossible abilities?”
“Moving objects with a thought,” Kabal interjected. “Perceiving the thoughts of others. Some are believed to alter the composition of liquids and solids. Others increase the potential of an object until it is forced to replicate itself.”
“Our prophets knew these things and more,” said Auni, “but Mkombozi, the final cleric, is yet to come. A holy rain will arrive during the flood season. At that time, a woman vessel will be selected to bear him. He, the Son of Mosi, shall possess unbreakable bones, enter the Revelation Gate and usher us into a new order. All will be restored and we shall reign here in this realm with Mkombozi as our king. None of this can you prevent.”
“And where, or what, is this Revelation Gate? Tell me, so that I may see it.”
“No one knows, Master,” Kabal interjected. “It’s a myth. No one knows what it is for certain. It is the subject of a tale they tell their young at night. Someday, our hero will enter the Revelation Gate, establish a new kingdom and soar the skies like a bird.” He flapped his arms like wings in scorn, drawing snickers. “Perhaps it is that door over there? Or there? It is a door to nowhere!”
“It is a tale you once loved,” said Auni, drawing a scowl.
“This refuse is what your foreign god teaches you?” chuckled Kgosi to his magicians. “Madness is the only explanation. Why else deprive oneself of life’s pleasures to indulge in poverty and misery? EL is a compassionate being who shackles his people to be oppressed for a millennium. Nonsense!”
“He did not shackle us,” Auni shouted with indignation too quick for his translator to keep pace. “Neither did your father, whom you had murdered for the throne. Mosi’s desecration brought us under subjection. No Otī effort alone. . .”
“Then we are grateful to Mosi! If this theory of yours proves correct, hermit, I, a living god, will be overthrown. . .by a mythical being who is the descendant of a long dead king. Will Mosi rise and produce an heir from the dust in which he now lies?”
“Await and you shall find out.”
Horrified for his life, Auni’s translator bit his tongue. After translating Auni’s threat to the king, Kabal stepped from his place at the throne and drew his blade. “Say the word.”
Kgosi’s eyes bulged wide with fury. “Why bother? Take these fools from my presence.” The guards grabbed the two Uché at the elbows. “And let them worship and believe whomever or whatever they want. EL is no threat to me!”
A time later, in his quarters, Kgosi pondered the strange encounter with the hermit and his mention of the holy rain. Two years ago, the Uché territory, called Nozi experienced only what could be described as a phenomenon. He witnessed this. A small cloud settled in Nozi and pelted the entire area with drops the shade of his golden crown. Moments later, the cloud and its yield dissipated into thin air. During the following harvest, a massive increase in crop production occurred and next planting season, a cursory census revealed the male slave infant population surged 40 percent over the previous year. Perhaps the holy rain means something after all?
A concubine, the one with the unnaturally short menstrual periods, appeared at his bedroom doors. He indicated that she should come forth.
Baring her breasts, she sidled up to Kgosi on the bed. The 25-year-old Uché girl named Penda gave him the most pleasure of all his young brides and bedmates. But inside, he wondered if she had secretly gone to his young son, Kgosi II, who had long been sneaking licentious looks at the petite woman. A prince sleeping with the king’s concubine would be a false claim to the throne. As she kissed Kgosi, the thought distracted him.
“Something wrong, my love?” Penda continued to peck a trail of kisses along the front of his shoulder until he seized her by the arms.
“Have you gone in to my son?”
Startled, Penda stuttered. “N. . .no. Not on my life, my lord!”
“If your witness is false, I will have your head before the sun rises!”
The conviction in his accusation frightened the girl. Though she grew to care for him like a legal wife, the king’s paranoia flourished since he added Penda to the royal harem. He knew Kgosi II, a few years her senior, had cast glances her way and even whispered what he believed he could do to her that his father could not. But, unlike Kgosi, nothing about the devious prince remotely attracted her. “I have not slept with him, I swear it!”
“Then swear it by his name.” If she did so, Kgosi knew that she did not lie.
Sweat formed at Penda‘s brow. “I swear it,” she said, her voice quavering. “By Gamba.”
Kgosi loosened his grasp and she began to relax. “Two years ago, do you remember the holy rain?”
“Before you brought me here,” she gasped. “My brother was born then.”
Kgosi’s face shifted from curious to pensive.
“If you have a question, ask me, my lord. Let me reveal my heart.”
“Your brother is Mkombozi then.”
“Mkombozi is a legend conjured by the prophets and those hopeful that the spear and sword spared one in Mosi’s line. Your guardsman Kabal is Uché also, is he not? Surely, he must have told you this before.”
I thought so, Kgosi mused, but how can I be sure? “Your people believe in him?”
“Many trust in the possibility of him,” she whispered close to his ear. “And others use the name to describe their optimism. Do whatever it takes to ease your mind with this. But be warned, my love. . .others are looking to the acts of your hands. Your predecessors possessed the foresight to erase hope by eliminating the eleven. Any sign of unsteadiness may now inspire a widespread lack of confidence in your rule.”
“Indeed! You have spoken well.” Kgosi clapped his hands loudly twice. Two men opened the royal chamber’s doors.
“Assemble the wisemen, magicians and scribes and prepare wax for my seal,” he instructed. “And close the doors behind you.”
“Yes, my lord.” The men about-faced and obeyed.
Kgosi turned to his concubine, who lay back and waited.
Later that evening in the throne room, Kgosi consulted with his sycophants. They affirmed the theory that the Uché population be under stricter control measures – particularly the male infants – to eliminate the possibility of a man-savior. He agreed without argument and floated the possibility of mass male castration; but its consequences would be widespread and devastating.
“According to their prophecy,” the king thought aloud, “this future king is all but invincible.”
One of the magicians asked for permission to speak, which Kgosi granted. “Oh great king, live forever! The prophet said his life must begin during a holy rain, and the flooding will not occur for another three moons.”
“The last holy rain fell two years ago. What is to say this savior does not live?”
“There is no possibility, your highness,” Kabal claimed. “Do not let that girl influence you. May I suggest that we dispose of her? I have a suspicion that she. . .”
“My favorite concubine? No. Like you, she betrays her own too often to be a spy, but if she proves different, I will allow you to do whatever you see fit with her.”
He grinned. “Your counsel is wise.”
“Let it be written. . .execute male Uché children two years in age or younger. Search the home of Penda’s father. Spare no male Uché found to be close to that age. Each centurion must follow these orders exactly. Any showing signs of invulnerability should be turned over to me.”
The men furiously inscribed the words across the papyrus. After reading it to indicate his satisfaction or displeasure, the king tore it into pieces. Horrified, the men dropped to their knees, pleading for forgiveness from whatever offense they had perpetrated.
“Let the law be changed,” Kgosi said. “Spare no young Uché child, male or female. Kill them all.”