Iskender had to search the nearby towns and eventually was able to find a man who would be able to perform the ceremony for them. Upon hearing of the situation, the man readily agreed to come to the town that Iskender and Simay were staying in.
The ceremony was simple, just as Simay’s first wedding had been, but it brought great relief to her to know that she now had someone who could act as protector – and teacher – to both her and this child very soon to be born.
As if one sudden change was not enough, Simay’s estimate of the child’s arrival proved correct when, not quite two weeks after her marriage to Iskender, she gave birth to a healthy daughter.
Simay looked down at her second daughter, sleeping in her arms. As she gazed at the little girl, a sense of knowing swept through her happy heart. The Holy Spirit residing in her spoke – though not in words that any ear could have comprehended – and He told her that this little girl, and those who would follow after her, would be great. They might even have some great task set aside for them to accomplish. Perhaps they would, like the Christian teacher Paul, turn the world upside down in the days, years, centuries, or even the millennia to come.
“Now, if we could only get out of this town on the back-side of the desert.” Simay whispered to her newborn with a smile
The morning after the birth of her little girl, Simay sat in bed, again holding the nameless child, contemplating what her daughter’s name should be.
“Simay?” Iskender’s voice reached her through the curtain that her new husband had put up to cordon off a section of their small dwelling for her.
“You can come in.” she acknowledged.
Iskender parted the curtain and stepped into the makeshift room. He took a seat in the chair that rested at Simay’s bedside.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked.
“Her name, or rather, her lack of one.”
“You have not given her a name yet?”
“No…” Simay said. “I was thinking that my son was named for Malcus’s father who I do not know; my first daughter was named for the woman who was my best friend but betrayed me.” She looked at Iskender. “This girl – ” she brushed her finger along the baby’s cheek, “I don’t want to name her after someone who will die, or might disappoint me in some way. I want her to always be a reminder to me that God is the only One who I will always be able to depend on.”
Iskender nodded in understanding.
“I remember something that Malcus told me once, after coming home from the synagogue one Sabbath day. The man who had read from the Torah chose a portion of Scripture from the writings of Moses. There is one small portion of it that I clearly remember Malcus reciting to me. ‘I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.’*” Simay said, as a small tear escaped her eye and ran down her face at the memory.
“A prophecy of Messiah’s coming.” Said Iskender.
“I know that now.” She sighed. “A beautiful picture… one that I want to always remember when I look at her.” She looked down at the baby again and was surprised to see the little girl staring quietly back at her.
“So you have chosen a name for her.” Iskender smiled.
Simay nodded and wiped the wetness from her face before saying, “Her name will be Hadassah – after that mighty and beautiful Star, Messiah."
The patchwork family continued to live in the small Dead Sea town. Little Hadassah grew quickly, and all of their lives became more normal than they had ever been, until news of another terrible event reached the small town several months before Hadassah’s second birthday.
The impenetrable refuge had fallen. The Masada fortress – from which Iskender and Simay had fled two years ago – had just been raided by the Romans.
Upon hearing the news both Iskender and Simay remembered the old man who had come to them the morning of their departure. He had said that Masada would not be safe for much longer. If they had not listened – if they had waited for even a few months longer – it would have been difficult, perhaps even impossible, for them to leave Masada. God had pushed them out of the fortress at just the right time.
After much prayer, and in light of the fall of Masada, Iskender decided that he, Simay and young Hadassah must leave the city and seek refuge farther away from Jerusalem, perhaps somewhere farther northeast of the Dead Sea, closer to northern Arabia.
And so, Iskender took his two charges out of the borders of Israel and into the wilderness, away from the chaos and death that pervaded Israel.
Meanwhile – as Iskender, Simay and Hadassah left their temporary home – within war-torn Jerusalem, another scene was playing out that would affect Iskender’s band immensely in the coming years.
The nine year old heard the awful voice hissing in her ear.
“Ssseda, you will listen to me.”
The frightening voice came again from the mouth of the woman whom she had always known as her namesake – the woman she had come to loath as her captor.
“Y-yes.” The girl stammered in terror as the older woman began to circle her.
The black room in which she was kept seemed to emanate with evil. It was almost as if you could have reached out and grabbed handfuls of terror from the air, the atmosphere was so thick. Only one small light glowed in the room – a tiny candle nearing the end of its life.
Little Seda stared at the small flame, concentrating on it, clinging to one last ray of hope, that she might be set free from this awful place someday soon. For three horrifying years she had been secreted away here, being force-fed her namesake’s insane schemes for revenge and suffering nights filled with tormented dreams.
“Perhaps if I pretend to go along with her, she’ll finally let me leave.” The girl thought. “She doesn’t seem to listen to me when I tell her that I don’t want to do the things that she tells me I have to do – like talking to that – that thing she calls ‘Diana.’” She shivered at the thought of the venomous spirit.
“Ssseda, listen to me.” The voice came again, this time in a tone that was a bit less intimidating.
“I am listening.” The girl said.
“Good.” Said the woman. “Diana will speak to you now, Seda.”
The little girl swallowed the fear that always rose in her on occasions like this and mustered a strained, “Hello, spirit…”
“Hello, daughter.” The eerie voice said quietly. “Why do you still fear me? I do not come to frighten you, only to tell you the truth about yourself and about your mother who betrayed me.”
Little Seda had heard all of this before. “I know, spirit. That is what you told me last time you talked to me.”
“So I did.” Said the spirit. “But you were not truly listening, so I must repeat myself to make sure that you understand everything you need to know before…” the spirit let the end of the sentence drop off, playing on the sense of curiosity that the little girl still possessed.
“Before what, spirit?” Seda took the bait.
“Before you are allowed to leave here of course.”
“Leave?! I can leave?!” she said excitedly.
“Only if you listen to me.” The spirit said with a voice dripping with sweetness, but secretly laced with poison.
Seda thought about this for a few moments, weighing her options. If she listened to what this thing had to say, then she could leave. Just listening didn’t seem to be so bad. Why hadn’t the spirit mentioned this before now? She would have gotten this over with a long time ago.
“Alright.” Seda said. “I will listen to what you have to say.” Then quickly added, “But you promise that I can leave if I listen to you?”
“I promise,” said the spirit that called itself Diana. “Now, shall we begin?”
“Yes.” Seda nodded
All through that day and into the next Diana told young Seda about her mother, Simay’s, treachery in listening to the lies that the Ephesian man Sojourner had told Malcus, her father. Then the spirit related to Seda how important it was that she take up the mantle that her mother had so callously tossed aside when she had forgotten Diana.
The spirit’s words were gentle and insistent, not at all how she remembered them sounding before. Maybe she had been imagining the hard edge that she had always heard in the spirit’s voice. Maybe because she had not wanted to listen she had invented a reason not to like Diana. She was beginning to think that her previous judgments of the spirit had been unfounded.
“Your mother has joined the side of the Enemy since you were brought here three years ago by my faithful servant, your namesake.” Said Diana. “The man Sojourner convinced your mother to believe the same lies that he told your father. We must stop her from spreading those dangerous tales anymore than she already has.”
Seda, now convinced that what Diana was telling her was true, nodded in agreement, “Those poor people need to know what the real truth is.”
“Precisely, Seda.” Said the spirit enthusiastically, “You are wise to see this. Your mother saw it once, before she lost sight of it and took up the cause of the Enemy.”
“Then I have to take her place.” Said Seda, playing right into the spirit’s hands, “I have to be the one who keeps your memory alive so that everyone will know that the lies that that man and my mother are spreading cannot be believed.”
“Yes!” The spirit said, elated at this new turn of events in its master’s favor.
“I will renew the promise that my grandmother made to you, the one you told me about. If I have a daughter someday then she will worship you and spread the truth about those terrible lies.” The little girl put on her best grown-up face as she said this.
The demon laughed within itself. This little human had absolutely no idea what it had just promised to do – just like its mother and grandmother had not understood what they had promised either. Hopefully this one would not be lost to the Enemy as the other two had been.
“You are a brave girl, Seda.” Said the demon Diana. “I accept your renewal of the promise. From this time onward you will be my servant, and you will help me to spread truth and wisdom throughout the world.”
The little girl smiled happily, utterly deceived.
“Now, in order for you to serve me as you need to, you must let me come into your mind.” Said the spirit. “That way, we can think as one instead of me having to take the time to tell you every time I need you to do something for me.”
“Alright.” The little girl quickly agreed. “You can come now if you want.”
Those were the words that the demon had been waiting to hear for three years. The girl had just invited it to possess her. That one small fact would come in handy much later, the spirit was quite sure – especially dealing with those exorcise-happy followers of the Enemy. If it was in possession of a willing host, the Enemy would not throw the demon out – not with His petty persistence on allowing these human creatures to have a free-will.
The little girl stood smiling, waiting for Diana to come into her mind. The moment the spirit possessed her, that innocent smile disappeared
A week later in a town just East of Israel and just North of Arabia, Iskender, Simay and Hadassah found a small house that they could renovate easily enough. Iskender and Simay cleared out the dust and dirt – with occasional “help” from Hadassah.
The chore of preparing the dwelling was soon complete and the three prepared to stay for as long as necessary, still fully intending to return to Jerusalem when the chaos had lifted and it was relatively safe to go back.
Seven years flew by this way. During that time Iskender faithfully taught Malcus and Simay’s daughter about the God he and Simay served. His teaching took root in Hadassah’s young mind and she came to believe in and love Jesus just as her mother Simay and protector Iskender did.
During those seven years Hadassah also learned of her true parentage and the story behind her father’s death. Even though Hadassah had never known her father her child’s heart came to love him anyway. When asked by other adults who her parents were she would always give three names, Iskender, Simay and Malcus of Jerusalem. Because she was a child, no one bothered to try to correct the perceived lack of understanding. Hadassah was always thankful for that oversight. Children were glossed over in a lot of ways, but Hadassah learned that sometimes, that was an advantage. And it was because of her mere nine years that the girl overheard a certain conversation at the market one day:
Hadassah tired quickly of sorting through piles of produce and meat slabs, so today, like most days, she asked if she could go look at some of the wares being offered a few stalls down from the ones her mother frequented.
“Just be careful.” Simay said hesitantly, as she always did. “I don’t want you to disappear on me.”
“I won’t, mama. I’ll stay right there until you come for me, just like every other day.” Hadassah assured.
“Go on then, my little Star. I’ll be there soon.”
Hadassah perused the few stalls that separated her from the one that she really wanted to rummage through – the leather goods. The vendor usually had a stack of beautiful wares to look through and he sometimes gave Hadassah small pieces of scrap leather that he couldn’t use.
Today though, just before she got to the tanner’s stall she happened to catch a few words of a conversation that piqued her interest.
“Did you hear about the Consul’s daughter?” said a merchant to one of his regular customers.
“Porcia?” the customer asked.
“No, Juliana, the younger one.”
“No, what about her?” the customer queried.
“Rumor has it that she’s to be married within the month – and to a no-name Jewish boy. He’s supposedly from Jerusalem.” The merchant said in a bit quieter voice.
“A Roman marrying a Jew? Unheard of!”
“And you know what’s even stranger about it?” the merchant asked even more quietly. “They say that he doesn’t even know who his family is. The family that raised him found him wandering alone outside Jerusalem almost ten years ago.”