Mark Abel is an architect by trade but has dreamed of becoming an author over most of his life. Ephesus – A Tale of Two Kingdoms, is Mark’s debut novel.
PROLOGUE – City of Ephesus, 262 AD
THE JUDGMENT boulder missed the mark. Shaking the earth with a thundering boom, the concussion struck the crowd like a flat hand to the chest. Mud and water exploded into a mist that mingled with the fog like a floating shroud above the sprawled body. Except for the rattle of cascading pebbles, it was then quiet.
From below, the old man watched in stunned wonderment.
The push was from the height of a second-story window. Not sufficient to kill, but adequate to crush his rib cage. Two men then rolled him over. It was from that vantage point he watched the boulder tumbling end over end toward him. Seeming to move slowly at first, it accelerated in a flash to strike just an arm’s breadth from his torso. The men grabbed him. Each taking an ankle, they dragged his body toward the open area at the quarry’s center. His head bobbed as his limp body rose and fell in response to the altar of cut slabs and rubble, a kaleidoscope of rock and sky swirling before him.
The assembly was now making their way down from the outcrop, and the second stone would soon follow. The old man was aware of little, except that his hands were still clutching the writing case. I do not understand, Lord? My brothers, how can it be they do this…? It was because of the book, after all, the book within the case.
Through a raspy voice, he asked, “Will you stay with me?”
“Yes, I have your hand.” The angel knelt at his side, his piercing green eyes filled with tears of glass.
“But wh–what of the book…? I have failed.”
“No, my friend, you accomplished all that was asked.”
The old man gazed into the angel’s face—Raphael. A magnificent and powerful being with chiseled features and a chestnut mane framing his face. With no facial hair, his skin melded like burnished stone that liquefied as he spoke. He wanted to touch the angel’s face. Would it yield like flesh or be hard like stone? In this face, he saw a reflection of his own conflicted soul, utter despair and heart-wrenching sadness, yet also, peace eternal and love perfected. The combination of emotions pouring from the spiritual being washed over him.
“Can I go with you—will you take me?”
“My friend, you must travel alone, but I will meet you there.”
The next stone would come from the witness, a girl no older than seven or so years. Through his peripheral vision, he watched her stoop at one of the mounds. Picking it up, she held it for a few long moments, her eyes cast down. About the size of her fist, it had sharp edges.
The mob began to circle like a pack of wild dogs. He could feel them, reluctant yet hungry. Gasping through clenched teeth, he drove an elbow into his bed of rubble. Using the extremity as a lever, he managed to roll his head in her direction. Their eyes met. Her lower lip trembled as streams of silent tears washed clean two lines of innocence in her desperate face.
His eyes spoke the words as he struggled to nod. Be strong for me. It is not your fault.
The accuser broke the muffled silence. “The judgment boulder missed the mark. Therefore, it is the duty of the witness to throw the second stone.” Arms spread, he strode in front of the crowd, wielding a lanky walking staff. “This plague we face is this man’s doing…
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