Chapter 1 – Birth

It was a dark and stormy night, with heavy cloud and bitter cold. Lightning blazed across the mountain; thunder roared round the ravines and crags; a violent wind drove rain against the house door. That night the child Amsiggel was born, and from the womb he came forth smiling!

“Poor poor thing!” cried Grandmother, “Born in a tempest on the darkest of nights.” “Oh what,” they asked, “will become of this child?” “Stormy will be his days,” she declared, “and tempestuous his life!” “No! no!” protested Grandfather, “See, he watches us as one who knows what is; he smiles at the world as one who knows what soon will be.” At that moment, they raised their eyes and saw a full moon riding the ragged clouds of night, and round the moon a ring of brilliant light. “Hear my words!” the old man said, “A storm brought us this child, but he’ll outlive the storm. Born in darkness, he’ll lead us into light; born amidst thunder and lightning, he’ll bring us peace from all that beats down on us.” Amazement seized them all. “We’ll call this child Amsiggel (One Who Seeks),” continued the old man, “for he’ll search out hidden things; he’ll discover what we’ve never known and show us the Way of Peace.”

Two years went by and a baby girl was born, a sister for Amsiggel. They called her Tazzwit (Little Bee). At midday she came, in springtime, with fruit trees in blossom, green tips of barley sprouting from the earth, and birds making merry in the fields and woods. The family were very happy, and all creation with them, thanking their Creator for the beauty of everything around them.

But the year moved on. No rain fell. The streams dried up and so did the wells; cruel hunger gripped the land. To a distant spring they went to fill their jars with drinking water. The children had only small turnips to eat. Their mother wept; they wept too. Father went to look for work in town. Grandfather just sat in the archway staring down the track. He overheard some neighbour women saying Grandmother had cast spells on him; in a rage he struck her and sent her away. A year of misery was that year!

Time went by and Amsiggel grew. He was a helpful boy and all the villagers liked him. He enjoyed going down to the river and watching it flow by. “Where does this water come from?” he asked himself, “And where does it go?” He climbed to the top of a hill and lay down on a large rock gazing up at the clouds in the sky, and he marvelled at all he saw. “Why is the sky blue?” he asked, “And why are the clouds white?” All day he spent there. “Why does the sun shine yellow at midday, he wondered, “but red in the evening?” Another time he stayed till sunset. “Where does it go at night?” he wondered, “Does it sink into the ground? Or is it extinguished in the sea?” And as the moon rose he asked, “Where does the moon come from? And what happens to it during the day? Does it get shy and hide when daylight comes? Or does it melt like snow in the warmth of the sun?” One day in the forest, he heard the sound of the wind in the trees. “Seek and you’ll find,” It seemed to say, “Seek and you’ll find!” Three times he heard these words and then no more. That day, he went home amazed at the world around him.

He himself was a mystery to the boys of his own age, for he did not behave like them. He didn’t want to tussle and squabble as they did. He wouldn’t play or sit with them. “Why can’t you be like us, Amsiggel?” they asked him one day. “Because you’re like nails in a bag,” he replied, “all sticking out in different directions!” Another time they asked him, “Why have we never heard the name of God pass your lips?” “Should I use silver for hammering iron?” he replied, “You only mention God’s name when you want to back up lies and stir up trouble.” Another day they reproached him. “The goat that doesn’t go with the flock gets eaten by the wolf!” they said. “The goat that doesn’t go with the flock,” he retorted, “may find fresh grass and lead them all to richer pastures.”

One of them was a tough boy called Igider (Eagle). One day he made fun of Amsiggel and, grabbing hold of him, pushed him hard. Amsiggel fell on the rocks cutting his leg and his head badly. When the boys saw the blood, they ran away and left him lying on the ground. Then Igider went to Amsiggel’s house and told lies about him. “Amsiggel threw rocks down the well,” he said, “Amsiggel peed on the shop door. Amsiggel kicked a hole in the water channel.” When Amsiggel got home, his Grandfather added to his other woes a good beating. Bitter resentment arose in Amsiggel’s heart that day; he would gladly have killed Igider.