It's 167 BCE and the Jewish faith has been outlawed in Jerusalem by the Hellenic overlords the Seleucids. Hoping to protect his aspiring Rabbi son, Jacob, Moshe makes a most unusual purchase at the slave market - a female Scythian warrior. Saka Ishkuzi has known nothing but deprivation, battle and harsh extremes of ice mountains and sand dunes.
She was forged into the perfect weapon: women were not seen as threats by the Seleucids. But her biggest battle wouldn't be protecting Jacob's life but her heart from his gentle touch.
Return in time to the first Hanukkah to witness miracles of faith and love.
Walking into the harsh midday sun, Jacob blinked back the troubling memory as well as the glare. To his left, his teacher gasped. From the angle Jacob couldn’t tell if it was in shock or awe.
Striding forward, the Rabbi approached a hooded figure standing next to a stout, unusually hairy pony.
Can you tell me your name?” There was no reply. The aged man then tried a number of other languages: that of the Hellenes, the Syrians, and another language Jacob didn’t recognize. He made a mental note to ask what tongue the older man spoke – foreign languages fascinated him, when the bony hand of his teacher latched onto his elbow, dragging him near.
Standing close, he saw a woman hidden under the tall point of the bulky, fur-trimmed hood and garishly ornate robe. She had the most amazing eyes, the color of the sky on a cold winter’s day. Her body was deeply tanned and lithe, corded with muscles under the brilliantly beaded vest and shocking pants, and her hair had an odd assortment of braids ending in small animal fetishes made of bone, gold and silver accented with the occasional feather.
He even found himself marveling at the short boots she wore, also trimmed in fur. She had to be uncommonly hot but no emotion, let alone discomfort, crossed her remarkable face. High cheekbones, an uncompromising mouth, a softly rounded chin, and the cat-tilted eyes of the people of the Far Eastern lands…but her eye color was her treasure, setting her apart from any other woman. He found her compelling, his body stirred in a painful manner, but also vaguely repugnant. The creature stank.
“You speak the Thracian tongue, Jacob. Try asking this woman her name.”
He had no idea why his mentor was so excited, he had a wife and children and grandchildren. To what end could the Rabbi have for a female servant let alone one so malodorous? Looking at the odd equine and the woman’s startling eyes, he felt smacked by an incredible realization, as if he were falling within himself. She couldn’t be, could she?
“What do you call yourself?” The dialect of the northern steppe-dwellers, called the Kimmeroi by the Hellenes, was that of race he’d studied in scrolls but he’d never practiced their language with another living person. The tribes of the region above the Black Sea, by the Dneiper, were dangerous even in times of peace.
* * *
Saka startled, she had been watching and appraising the wiry male, appreciating his lean musculature. He would make a good archer, she decided as the others gibbered in unfamiliar tongues. Then he spoke. While the way he formed the words was awkward, she understood his question. Looking to the heavens, she made a salute of thanks to the sky, the god that ruled the horse clan, before replying.
“I am called Saka Ishkuzi,” she replied. Sweeping off the hooded cloak with a coldly calculated bow, her eyes never left his until she offered the back of her neck in submission. It had been her shame to have fallen in battle, branded like cattle by the Syrian, then sold to these odd people who bathed too much to be healthy. Every night on the drive, they stopped and poured bowls to wash in, lamenting all the while it wasn’t enough.
If she was to be given to this male, it would be in her interest to never take her eyes off of him, notably since his body bespoke the potential to rival her in battle skill. Frowning, he returned to the others, speaking gibberish again.
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