"Do you like to hear a story? A story to make you tingle? A story that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end? It has been a long time since you heard a story like that, yes? It will be a long time before you hear a story like this again."
It all swirls around young Timkut, a 10-year-old Ethiopian boy who longs to be one of the African knights, the Luba warriors of ancient Axum. When his father, the great General Zara, marches off to save Jerusalem, Timkut tags along uninvited. In the holy city, he befriends a prophet and a princess, learns of a sinister plot and sees into the supernatural, but no one listens to him until the armies of Babylon besiege the city.
Will anyone survive? What will happen to the Ark of the Covenant? Can one small boy really make a difference? He can if he has Hoopoe for a friend. Hoopoe is Timkut's pet bird. But Hoopoe is no ordinary lapwing. Hoopoe hears the voice of God. In fact, it is Hoopoe who narrates the tale. And Hoopoe promises a story like nothing you have ever heard. But beware.
in the African night.
An EXCERPT from African Knights
A long, deep note-like the groan of a dying animal-sails across the sky. Everyone glances about nervously. Several short bleats follow, then another long one.
"What's that?" asks Timkut.
"Shofars," answers Nehushta, "sounding the alarm."
"Alarm? For what?" The boy turns and sees his father striding across the Great Court. He chases, but Nehushta's brother Malkijah orders her to remain behind. Timkut and Hoopoe catch up with General Zara on the steps that climb the Tower of Meah in back of the guardhouse. Up on the roof we find a sentry blowing into his long curved ram's horn. Watchmen blow shofars atop all the towers of the city. General Zara glances west and freezes. A cloud of dust that fills the horizon makes the setting sun glow as red as blood.
"What is it?" whispers Timkut.
"An army. A huge army," his father answers. "Coming this way."
"The Babylonians! Dad, what do we do?"
"I wish I knew." His father puts an arm around the boy and draws him close. "I only wish I knew."
As the cloud grows thicker and the sun sinks lower, the shofars bellow their mournful warning again. And again. And again.
Copyright © 2005 by Stephen Mark Spence