Unholy empire chronicles.., p.15

Unholy Empire: Chronicles of the Host, Vol 2: Chronicles of the Host, Book 2, page 15

 

Unholy Empire: Chronicles of the Host, Vol 2: Chronicles of the Host, Book 2
 



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  CHAPTER 11

  “The plan is truly inspired.”

  Chronicles of the Host

  Ishmael

  Lucifer and his council awaited the delivery of the child whom they hoped would confound the plans of God, and Hagar, encouraged by her status of mother-to-the-heir, began to despise her mistress Sarai, causing bitter feelings between the two women and much grief for Abram. We angels observed such behavior and put it down as the folly of human nature. But neither the Host of Heaven nor the rebel angels could have anticipated what would follow with Sarai and Hagar…

  Abram sighed a deep sigh. He had grown weary of the constant complaining of his wife. How could he express to Sarai that she would always be the love of his life; that even though Hagar carried their future child, he and Sarai would raise him together as his mother and father; that she mustn’t allow Hagar’s proud demeanor to get to her?

  It had gotten to the point that he hated going back into the camp, preferring the company of livestock to that of squabbling females. Abram looked at the camp in the distance, the sun hanging low in the western sky near Hebron. He could almost hear Sarai’s voice now, starting in the moment he returned to their tent. Sometimes he wondered if they had made a mistake in bringing Hagar into this situation. Had they done the right thing?

  “O Lord Creator,” Abram said aloud. “You promised us a son and we have a child coming. Yet I have not heard or felt Your voice since Hagar conceived. I did this for my wife, O Lord, as she was so very distraught. If we acted in haste, forgive us. But don’t abandon us; don’t abandon Your promise…”

  The noise of the wind blowing through the grass and the sounds of animals nearby were all that he received in answer. He ordered Eliezer to call the servants in to camp. It was time to return…again.

  Berenius had made quite a study of human conflict. His observations led him to believe that Sarai would eventually have her fill of Hagar and would demote her to one of the lesser servants—after the child was born, of course. So his current assignment was to continue fanning the flames of jealousy and to keep a tense situation on edge. Ultimately it was necessary to remove Hagar from the situation completely to ensure that Sarai alone would raise the child.

  “Well Berenius,” came a voice, “is Hagar as forward as ever?”

  “Ah Kara,” responded Berenius, as he watched Kara gliding in from the east. “Yes, of course. She only now ordered that from now on she should be served in Abram’s tent. That was a little suggestion of mine,” he added with a smile.

  “Very good, Berenius,” said Kara. “You are certainly headed for greatness. But remember that the key is to keep the flame burning at a steadily increasing rate. She must have the child first—then what happens to her is of no consequence.”

  They watched as Sarai carried a bundle of material into her tent. Within seconds, she came storming out of the tent, calling for Hagar. From tent to tent she went, finally looking in Abram’s own tent. Her voice could be heard all over the camp.

  “How dare you take my rings?” she demanded. “And what are you doing in my husband’s tent? Get out of here at once! And never get into my things again!”

  Hagar came out of the tent, looking very upset, but taking her time about it. She glanced at some of the other women in the camp, who were snickering at the tongue-lashing she had just received. As she walked, Hagar passed Abram coming from the fields. She smiled and greeted him, then began to weep. He looked at her quizzically, then with growing understanding when he heard Sarai’s angry voice from within the tent. Abram stopped, and looking a bit embarrassed, walked into the tent to try to soothe his wife.

  “Another little suggestion,” Berenius said. “I proposed to Hagar that she begin to wear some of Sarai’s jewelry—you know—befitting the second most important woman in Abram’s household. She went for it completely and the results have been most gratifying!”

  “Yes,” agreed Kara. “But as I was saying, a slow and steady antagonism is called for here. Hagar must have the child while still a part of this household. Afterwards she can be driven off…or even murdered…”

  “Murdered?” said Berenius with interest. “Now that is news. By whose hand?”

  “Daron specializes in presenting humans with a choice of self-destruction that is very attractive,” said Kara. “Hopefully she will die by her own hand.”

  “I understand,” said Berenius. “But why must she die? I enjoy playing my little game with her.”

  “Because, Berenius, we want this child to be completely freed from his birth mother,” explained Kara. “This is why it is of utmost importance that she remain with Abram until the child is born. He must be born in the house of Abram.”

  They walked through the camp as Kara spoke. At one point a large dog, sensing their presence, began barking and growling in their direction. A servant kicked the dog, which yelped and looked at the demons once more before lying down.

  “The plan is truly inspired,” said Kara. “And an honor for you that you are a part of it. Once the child is born, Hagar is in some way removed to ensure that Sarai never feels threatened by the real mother’s presence. This will help Sarai’s long-suppressed nurturing feelings for the child to take over completely. She will raise the child as her very own—with no threat from Hagar. This also will legally bar the claims of any other child of Abram—even if it should come from Sarai’s tired womb.”

  “Brilliant,” said Berenius, imagining the plan’s progression.

  “You see? Even if Abram and Sarai do manage to create a child of their own, Sarai can never let the second child replace the one who came to her in her grief. Hagar’s child will always remain the firstborn and legitimate heir.” Kara snorted and added, “Even if the Lord Himself were to conceive a child in her womb, the legal right would belong to the issue of Hagar!”

  “But will Abram honor that?” asked Berenius. “I mean, the promised child must obviously come from Sarai’s womb.”

  “The promised child will be the firstborn of the house of Abram,” said Kara. “It is the custom of these people that the firstborn is the heir. This is irrevocable.”

  He smiled. “No, dear Berenius, I don’t see how it can be overturned. Do you see the brilliance of the plan?”

  “Very subtle indeed,” came the voice of Michael.

  The archangel stood nearby with Serus. They walked over to Kara and Berenius, who smugly greeted them.

  “So that’s the game,” said Michael. “Rather than stop the prophecy you’ll simply provide a poor substitute…a fraud.”

  Kara gave a mock look of concern.

  “Is that any way to talk about a baby?” he asked sarcastically. He then added, “Besides, the decision belongs to the humans. It always is their choice!”

  “And should they choose to create a surrogate through Hagar, so be it,” added Berenius. “After all, a child has been prophesied. What matter who the parents are?”

  “Yes,” said Kara in a surly tone. “And with a simple-minded father who waits for an empty promise, and an insanely jealous wife whose ability to bear children slipped away years ago, we are doing them a favor.” He gave Michael a puzzled expression. “You should be thanking us, Michael, rather than opposing us.”

  Michael looked at Kara with searing eyes. Serus moved forward as if to take some sort of action against Kara and Berenius. They burst out laughing at him.

  “Come now, Serus,” said Kara. “I have never seen the warrior side of you. Is this what comes of angels who associate with archangels?”

  “Better than what becomes of angels who associate with traitors,” said Serus.

  Kara smirked.

  “Still bitter after all this time, I see,” Kara said.

  As they spoke, several fallen angels began closing in on the area, chattering like crows in trees. They were hoping for a contest between Michael and Kara, looking for an opportunity to avenge their defeat at Michael’s hands during the ill-fated rebellion. Michael noticed the demons closin
g in but never flinched. Serus looked about and prepared himself for a possible fight.

  “You can’t possibly thwart the plans of the Most High, Kara,” said Michael calmly. “The prophecy will hold in spite of what you do.”

  “Mark me, archangel,” said Kara, his anger rising a bit. “You forget you are dealing with humans. Humans! The very creatures who overthrew the Most High in the garden! One can never predict human behavior—you would do well to remember that.”

  He laughed aloud, joined in by catcalls and jeering of the now several hundred devils who had joined the mob. Some of them taunted Serus, calling him a traitor for having abandoned Lucifer, and daring him to try something bold with them. Berenius joined in at Serus’s expense. He hated Serus with a passion. Serus—his onetime co-conspirator—now apprenticed to Michael, the greatest angel in Heaven.

  “You’re right, Kara,” said Michael. “If we must depend on humans to win this war, we have lost already.”

  Before Kara could answer, a great disturbance broke out in the camp. All of the angels turned to see what was the matter. Kara broke off from Michael and hurried to the scene where Hagar, with a small bundle of clothing in her arms, was being run out of the camp by the women. Sarai was standing at her tent looking defiant and egging the hostile women on. They had endured all of Hagar that they could, and Sarai had insisted that Abram put her out.

  Hagar was weeping bitterly, crying that she carried Abram’s child, but it was to no avail. The many devils that had gathered were swooping in and out of the crowd, agitating them even further in an attempt to have them kill the woman rather than let her get away. Some of the women even stooped to pick up stones but were stopped by the men. Kara was stupefied as Hagar brushed past him.

  “What is the meaning of this?” Kara demanded to nobody in particular. “They cannot force her out…not yet!”

  Berenius scurried about trying to redeem the situation, but it was out of the control of the angels: human will had forced a decision that was unstoppable by mere angelic suggestion. He was completely bewildered. He even tried to approach Abram, who was already in prayer for Hagar and therefore untouchable by the rebels. A large contingent of warrior angels had surrounded Abram, and Berenius had to content himself with watching Lucifer’s thoughtful plan unravel.

  As the noise of the camp subsided and the women danced and laughed in a victory celebration, Michael strolled over to where a shocked Kara stood, incredulous as to what had just occurred.

  “How could this have happened?” Kara said, mumbling to himself as he rehearsed in his mind his report to Lucifer on the turn of events. “Only moments ago we had control of this situation. How could…”

  Only now did Kara see Michael standing nearby. Quickly regaining his composure, he ordered the demons who were still flying about to come to order. He then looked at Michael smugly.

  “Like you said, Kara,” beamed Michael, “one can never predict human behavior.” With that, he vanished.

  Serus looked at Berenius and repeated Kara’s previous rejoinder: “You would do well to remember that!”

  Following the archangel’s lead, he vanished also.

  Hagar had wandered several miles from Abram’s community. She could neither return to his camp nor go into Hebron even to beg for help, as she was marked for disgrace. The only hope for her lay in Egypt, and so she made for the road to Shur. The darkness of the night made travel difficult, and, finding herself by a spring, she settled there until morning began to break.

  Daron, the angel of whom Kara had spoken, had been stalking her along the way. His ability to seduce desperate humans into self-destruction was renowned in the invisible world of spirits. He tracked the poor woman like a predator after wounded prey.

  Tonight, however, he was on a very different mission—a mission not to destroy life but to preserve it—by encouraging Hagar’s return to the camp so that the hope of a false heir might be realized. As he looked upon the exhausted woman, the words of Kara rang sharply in his mind. “Find her, Daron, find Hagar and bring her back to the camp. She must not return to Egypt.”

  A quickly convened council of the seven had reasoned that should Hagar manage to escape and live, the child would grow up with a vengeful heart, seeking to bring honor to his disgraced mother and claim the heritage of his father. And while the future civil conflict within Abram’s house would be amusing, it could also prove unpredictable as to its outcome. Such strife might prove even a greater disaster than if the child were raised in Abram’s tents. At least with Abram the child could be managed properly, and the prophecy might diminish in significance with each passing generation.

  How to do it? That was the issue at hand. Daron decided that perhaps if he appeared to her as an angel of light—one who was very friendly—he could persuade her to return. Humans were always looking for signs. Such a visitation would surely get her back.

  Or perhaps he should appear as Hagar’s own mother, who had died in Egypt. That would do nicely—a mother pleading in anguish for the safe delivery of her daughter’s child. Yes, that would do.

  Suddenly a light shone all around the rocky area, creating a bluish-white world in which Hagar’s silhouette was barely discernible in the intense brightness. Daron had felt this Presence before and immediately fell to the ground prostrate. It was the Lord Most High in the guise of the Angel of the Lord.

  “Hagar!”

  Hagar could only make out a figure standing in the core of a brilliant light. At first she thought it might be one of the demons who had plagued her sleep recently. But there was something different about this Person—and she was not afraid.

  “Hagar, servant of Sarai. What are you doing out here? Where are you going?”

  At first Hagar could not speak. But something within told her that this was a good presence, and she felt strangely at peace. She answered.

  “I…I am running away from my mistress, Sarai.”

  “You must return to her,” said the Person. “You must go back and submit to her.”

  “But she hates me,” said Hagar. “And she hates the child within me. She said that she would never accept my child as her heir even though it was all her idea! I will have nothing for me or my son!”

  “But you shall, Hagar,” came the Voice. “You shall have a son and I will increase your descendants so that they shall be too numerous to even count. I will give you a great inheritance of your own! Hear me:

  You are now with child and you will have a son,

  You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your misery.

  He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone

  and everyone’s hand against him,

  and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers!”

  She bowed down and began to worship the Lord, realizing at last with whom she was speaking. “You are the Most High God, who sees me in my grief, who saves me in my distress. Blessed be the name of the Lord God—the God of my master Abram and my mistress Sarai!”

  As quickly as it appeared, the light disappeared. Hagar rubbed her eyes, which were burning from looking into the brightness of just a few seconds ago. She looked back toward Abram’s camp—the way she must now go. But she went with a new sense of purpose. She now understood that she didn’t have to prove her son to anyone. Whether or not she would ever be esteemed in Sarai’s eyes, she now knew that she was esteemed in the eyes of the Lord—and that was all that mattered.

  Daron recovered from the Lord’s visit, completely amazed at the turn of events. The Lord Himself had actually done what Daron had set out to do. But why? It made no sense. Hagar was returning to the camp to have her child! Yet the prophecy given to Hagar made it clear that this son—Ishmael—though he would become a great nation in his own right, would not be the son of promise.

  Hagar would no longer feel the need to advance her son in Abram’s eyes. Why? Because, the Lord, it seems, had bought Hagar and Ishmael off by giving them an inheritance of their own. Daro
n left immediately to report to the council, wondering why the Most High allowed Hagar to return to Abram.

  “Because the Most High has a sentimental weakness for human folly,” said Kara. “That is why Hagar has returned to Abram.”

  Kara’s pride had been stung by Hagar’s abrupt decision to bolt. It showed a critical flaw in his thinking about human behavior—the very thing he had admonished to Michael. He had vowed he would never again be caught by surprise. And so he spoke before the council, defending his plan and blaming the primitive natures of humans for his inability to anticipate what had happened.

  “I sometimes think the Lord is just as capricious as the humans He made in His image,” said Lenaes, who had risen to Kara’s defense. “Both God and man can be wildly unpredictable.”

  “Yes,” said Pellecus. “But by now you should realize that the Lord is fully committed to these creatures. He didn’t have to send Hagar back. He could have allowed her to die in the wilderness. After all, she does not carry the child of promise.” He looked sternly at Kara. “Not anymore, at any rate.”

  “Don’t lay the blame at my feet, my learned friend,” Kara shot back. “You and the wisdom of this council saw the possibility of substituting a fraudulent heir in the hope of capturing the prophecy.”

  “Enough of this,” said Lucifer, who seemed bored at the council. “It’s clear that we were mistaken. However, there is one bright spot to Abram’s folly. The Most High will create a nation out of Ishmael that will prove bothersome to his brothers. We can look forward to exploiting the bad blood that will exist between Ishmael and the true child of promise for years to come!”

  “So what do we do now, my prince?” asked Rugio.

  Lucifer smiled at his favorite warrior.

  “We wait, Rugio, we wait. Abram has proven that, though he is a man of faith he is also a man of folly,” said Lucifer. “He has been tested many times by the Lord and failed. Recall that when he was called out of Ur, he delayed arriving in Canaan for years.”

 
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