The desert was deep below us. Arrow, perhaps happy that he regained his strength, kept climbing up and up. The sun rays beat on my hair. I felt somewhat like Ikaros. I was pretty sure we cannot get close enough to the sun to burn us, but it was beginning to feel that way. Arrow flew south again. The desert sprung spots of dark green here and there. Then a flash of blue announced a major lake. Was it a lake? It was long and narrow and there were no boats on it. When we passed its northern edge, I saw dark shadows under the still water. They were regular and formed lines almost like streets. The only large volume of water in the Holy Land was held by the Dead Sea. If this were the Dead Sea, those shadows are the sunken cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. I shook my head. How long until Jerusalem? Not long.
Arrow, honoring his name, flew fast. A few hours later I saw an edge of a large town. The edge was formed by tall walls. Beyond it sparkled the golden dome of the Al-Aqsa mosque. We were almost there. I gave up all attempts to give Arrow directions. Now it was up to him. He made a slow circle over the ancient churches in the center. Golgotha stood out in the sun like it did 2,000 years ago. 1,600 years ago, I corrected myself. The town was small and did not look much enlarged beyond its walls from the times of Christ. The streets were busy and the cries of sellers rose all way to me. There were carts passing through the narrow streets and men. Only men, that is. I had a hard time trying to find a woman. We were after all in the Islam’s third most important city and this was the height of the Ottoman Empire. Kelly said his friend was a Rabbi, where were his people?
Arrow banked to the right and quickly descended toward a flat-roofed house in the center of the town. A flash of green announced there was a garden behind it – certainly a rare sight in this crowded place. The owner must have been rich. Arrow flew toward a window which sat in a little room that was built on the roof and settled on the windowsill. I could not see anything inside; my eyes, full of the brightness of the sun took some time to adjust. A hand reached toward Arrow from the room. I saw the wrinkles and hair on the large knuckles. Arrow hopped on the old man’s arm and let himself to be carried inside.
“Oy!” a gruff voice exclaimed in surprise. He must have seen me.
“Hello!” I said. “Good morning!” I corrected myself. That was probably not going to work either.
“”Assalamu aleikum,” I offered.
“Peace be with you too,” said someone. My eyes have gotten used to the darkness inside and I surveyed my host. He did the same on his part.
“A homunculus!” He exclaimed. “So Kelley spoke the truth!”
“What truth?” I asked while slowly releasing my belts. He looked friendly, but I stayed wary. Call it the effect of experience. He had a long white beard, a skull cap which as far as I could tell covered a bald head, a long red nose and friendly eyes, which watched me from a field of wrinkles. He was dressed in a long brown robe. The room itself looked very much like the Kelley’s study, but it had in a corner a long brass tube in a tripod. Its mouth cases the window and the sky. He had a telescope! In this day and age? Did Galileo invent it yet and my host heard of it or was he a middle east Galileo himself?
“What truth?” I asked cautiously.
“He always said he had a spell to make a homunculus,” Explained the old man. “Mind you, I always thought he is a braggart. Talented, yes, but always prone to stretch the truth and cut corners. Are not you a homunculus?”
”I am,” I conceded reluctantly.
“Did he make you out of clay?”
“No,” I said. “I accidentally discovered the spell and it threw me from my time to this century and shrank me on the way.”
“Really?” He said. He nervously and somewhat eagerly rubbed his hands.
“I cannot wait to hear about it. Can I offer you something?”
I slid off Arrow’s back onto the windowsill.
“Oh, how thoughtless of me! May I carry you over? You cannot just stay there.”
I shrugged. He flitted around and suddenly produced a little chair which he placed on a table.
“This is a toy of my granddaughter,” he said proudly. He picked me up gently and placed me into the chair. It WAS comfortable.
“I will feed your feathery friend and will be right here. He promised. He slipped out of the room and returned promptly with a dead rat.
“We have these in house from time to time,” he said apologetically. “The streets are full of them and sometimes they get in.”
He placed it on the windowsill and Arrow immediately began to feed himself. I turned away my eyes. His table manners left something to be desired.
“So tell me, my little friend, what is your name?” Said the Rabbi as he pulled a chair to the table. “Wait, I did not introduce myself I am Rabbi Loew? This is my house. My dear old wife lives with me. Alas,” he made a face, “My children have grown up and set up their own households. So I amuse myself by studying nature.” He spread his hands.
“My name is Alex Khyan,” I said. “I am a student too. I live in America. The Land of Amerigo, as you call it now, I understand. I live in the twenty first century. I lived there until I performed my little experiment and got pulled over.”
“You are from the future,” the Rabbi whispered. “You must tell me about it. Is everybody as small as that in America?”
“No,” I growled. “That spell did that.”
“This is not the right way to make a homunculus,” Rabbi sighed. “Now, I wonder why Edward sent you?”
“He wants me to bring him the Seal of Solomon. He will then send me back home,” I said.
Rabbi watched me for a moment in silence. “The Seal of Solomon? Why does he want that?”
“Demons are chasing him,” I said.
“Do they? I thought they may do so,” he smiled sadly. “So he thinks the Seal of Solomon will help him? How Edwardian. Of course, if he does not get it, he will keep you here as a slave, will not he?”
“Do you know how to send me back?” I asked hopefully. He shook his head. “Kelley has that special Emerald Tablet,” he said.
“Can you give me the Seal of Solomon then ?” I asked. He shook his head.
”I don’t have it, of course. I think Edward overestimates my humble powers.” My heart sank.
“Where could I get it then?”
“Do you know what is the Seal of Solomon?” He asked instead. It was my turn to say no.
“Do you know of King Solomon?” He asked doubtfully.
“Excellent. So his fame lasts. So what did King Solomon do?”
“He judged those two women who were arguing over a child,” I remembered. “He offered to cut it into two parts and…”
“Yes,” Rabbi lifted his hands. “People always remember that story. So let me ask you something else. What did he build?” OK, I was not that much into the bible. In fact, I read the story I brought up on the internet somewhere That said, this should be easy, since Kelley already told me.
“The Temple?” I offered.
“Exactly, young man,” Rabbi cried. “You know your history.” If he only knew the truth.
“He built the Temple,” Rabbi continued. “Not the Temple you see today or whatever is left of it, naturally. That was the Temple before that. It was a magnificent one. It was so great that he needed the help of Demons. He was a also great magician and had a Ring that controlled them. The Ring with the Seal of Solomon. Once the demon, Sakhr, stole the Ring and ruled in the place of Solomon for forty days, Solomon was thrown into poverty. Sakhr then threw the Ring into the sea, where it was swallowed by a fish. A fisherman caught it and the fish was served to Solomon, who thus retrieved the Ring.”
“And Kelley wants the Ring,” I finished. “So where is it? Did Solomon give it to someone?”
“No,” Rabbi shook his head.
“So it is in his grave?” I asked. Where is he buried?”
“So you would desecrate his grave?” Rabbi asked. I would, but I did not say anything.
“Someone already did,” Rabbi continued. “There was a group of knights, I am sure you never heard of them and they are long gone. They dug under the Temple and found the grave. Few people knew. They found a treasure, which made them rich. They did not find the Ring, though, as far as I know. Anyway, they are long gone.”
“Do you mean Templars?” He raised his eyebrows.
“You know about them? The things people remember.”
“Where is the Ring then?” I asked. Rabbi sighed.
“This is only a conjecture, of course. I thought about it for years and there could be only one place. Long after Solomon, the Jewish Nation was taken to the captivity. They took their treasures with them.”
“Babylon?” I asked.
“Babylon,” he nodded seriously.
“Can you take me to Babylon?” I asked.
“No,” he shook his head. “I am, as a leader of our community, under observation by our current rulers.” I snapped my fingers:
“Of course, it should be easy anyway. I will take Arrow.” Rabbi shook his head.
“He is a smart bird, but only a bird. He is trained to fly to Jerusalem and back to Kelley. He will not go somewhere else.”
“So what am I going to do then?” I asked.
“You will need to go yourself,” Rabbi said.
“How can I ?” I said. “In this body?”
“The small size can be an advantage,” Rabbi said seriously. “You can hide. I will hide you with a friend, but I will not show you even to him. His caravan is going to Baghdad tomorrow. I will send you as a package. At the right moment, you will get out. They will be passing Babylon fairly close, although not that close. People are afraid of the place. They say it is haunted.”
“Is it?” I asked. Rabbi spread his hands.
“I don’t know. People always imagine things. I will give you something to help. Kelley has one Emerald Tablet, but I have others.”