A.D. 33

By: Ted Dekker

Even so, the fullness of my shame was once far greater than being born a woman.

Through no will of my own, I was also an illegitimate child, the seed of a dishonorable union   between my father, Rami, mighty sheikh of Dumah, and a woman of the lowest tribe in the desert, the Banu Abysm, scavengers who crushed and consumed the bones of dead animals to survive in the wastelands.

Through no will of my own, my mother perished in childbirth.

Through no will of my own, my father sent me to Egypt in secret so that his shame could not be known, for it is said that a shame unrevealed is two-thirds forgiven.

Through no will of my own, I was made a slave in that far land.

Through no will of my own, I was returned to my father’s house when I gave birth to a son without a suitable husband. There, under his reluctant protection in the majestic oasis of Dumah, I once again found myself in exile.

Through no will of my own, my father was betrayed by my half brother, Maliku, and crushed by the warring Thamud tribe in the great battle of Dumah.

Through no will of my own, Kahil, the prince of the Thamud, threw my infant son from the high window of the palace Marid onto the stones below, where his head was crushed. And with it, my heart.

Filled with shame and dread, I obeyed my father’s command that I go to Herod in Galilee and beg for audience with Rome, which had great ambition to conquer Arabia for its spice trade. I crossed the Nafud desert with Saba, the mighty warrior who could not be broken, and Judah, the Bedouin Jew whom I came to know as my lion. Our task seemed beyond reason and our trials unbearable, fraught with fear and betrayal at the hands of kings.

We did not find audience with Rome. Instead, at Judah’s zealous insistence, we found audience with one far more powerful.

His name was Yeshua.

Some said that he was a prophet from their God. Some said that he was a mystic who spoke in riddles meant to infuriate the mind and quicken the heart, that he worked wonders to make his power evident. Some said he was a Gnostic, though they were wrong. Some said he was the Messiah who came to set his people free. Still others, that he was a fanatical Zealot, a heretic, a man who’d seen too many deaths and too much suffering to remain sane.

But I came to know him as the anointed Son of the Father from whom all life comes, a teacher of the Way into a realm unseen—a kingdom that flows with far more power than all the armies of all the kingdoms upon the earth joined as one.

One look into his eyes would surely bend the knee of the strongest warrior or exalt the heart of the lowest outcast. One whisper from his lips might hush the cries of a thousand men or dry the tears of a thousand women.

It was Yeshua who showed me how fear and judgment darkened my world; how shame deceived me, causing me to stumble in a stupor. It was Yeshua who told me that I was the daughter of his Father and that I too could find peace in the storms that rose to threaten me with their lies.

It was Yeshua who gave me the sight to see the sovereign realm when I was blind, and the mind to become as a child, in perfect peace through faith. It was Yeshua who gave me the power to prevail in the arena at Petra before King Aretas, an audience of many thousands who sought my demise, and his wife, Shaquilath, who had sent Judah, the man I loved, into captivity among the Thamud.

It was because of Yeshua that I was set free into Arabia with Saba at my side to gather any who might pay heed, and to liberate Judah and restore the livelihood of all those oppressed by the Thamud.

For two years I traveled from clan to clan with Saba at my side, offering the presence of Yeshua and a message of hope in the face of Kahil’s sword.

At first they cried out against me because I was a woman, suited for bearing children, not for leading men.

But I returned their anger with a gentle, unyielding spirit. One by one, they began to spread word of my strength and compassion.

One by one, they joined me.

But I dared not approach the stronghold in Dumah until we were as many as the sands in the tallest dune.

Now, over two years later, that day had come. And now, following in the Way of Yeshua, I would save my lion from his dungeon.

For Yeshua came to set the captives free.

Chapter One

THEY STOOD deep in the bowels of the palace Marid, the two most powerful warlords in all of Arabia, and if not, certainly the most brutal.

Maliku son of Rami, called the betrayer, because he had deceived his father, Rami, ruler of the mighty Kalb tribe, and led their enemy into the gates.

Kahil son of Saman, benefactor of that betrayal, whose sword had led the Thamud tribe’s butchery of Dumah, and of untold thousands throughout the desert.

A single torch cast amber light through the dungeon, revealing a third occupant who slumped in the corner of the expansive chamber. Rami, Maliku’s father, once the powerful sheikh of Dumah, now a mere skeleton dressed only in sagging flesh.

Wielding bloodied swords, the Thamud army had forced all resistant sheikhs to their knees, and yet one now rose from the sands to bring them to their knees willingly.

She was not a sheikh, nor did she bear a sword.

She was a queen and she would threaten them with peace.

“There is only one way to defeat her,” Maliku said, watching Kahil pace. “We cannot use force, unprovoked, or our honor will be stained for all of eternity.”

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