The highly anticipated final book in Jon Steele’s thrilling cosmic Angelus trilogy, The Way of Sorrows counts down the dwindling hours between humanity and the apocalypse. Steele again sets the stage for an epic battle, played out in Alaska, Russia, Switzerland, and ultimately Jerusalem, pitting the protectors of paradise—the eternal angels—against the “goons” of timeless evil. As the forces engage, we find the former escort Katherine Taylor having somehow survived the hideous scorched-earth attack on her Pacific Northwest home, but with no other signs of life in sight. Katherine soon realizes that her memory has been wiped clean, with few clues whether her toddler, Max, the child of prophecy who will guide creation through the next stage of evolution, has been killed or captured.
Meanwhile, Detective Jay Harper is once again at Lausanne Cathedral, where he is following a new directive from his immortal, heavenly central command: rescue both Katherine and Max before the goons eliminate all trace of goodness from the world at midnight. What unfolds is a thrill-packed, action-filled journey that spans the globe—and the heavens. Combining science, religion, and fantasy, The Way of Sorrows is a wildly imaginative, inventive, one-of-a-kind finale to Jon Steele’s monumental trilogy.
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JON STEELE is an award-winning journalist and author of The Watchers and Angel City. Born in Spokane, Washington, he traveled the world, working as a cameraman for Independent Television News. After a twenty-year career, Steele wrote the critically acclaimed War Junkie. He cowrote, codirected, and shot Baker Boys: Inside the Surge, a documentary about an American combat unit in Iraq. He lives in Switzerland.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The Essenes (so named in The Jewish Wars by the historian Josephus) were one of three sects of Judaism that included the Pharisees and Sadducees in the first century AD. Known for their settlement at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, the sect also established communes across ancient Israel. They lived an ascetic life, abstained from animal sacrifice in religious practices, and performed good works on behalf of the afflicted. One community was encamped outside Jerusalem’s walls near the “Essene Gate” (now sealed) at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. After AD 73, the Essenes vanished from history.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre marks the traditional site of Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where Jesus was crucified and buried. Modern archaeologists and historians agree the church was erected over the ground where Romans crucified seditionists and criminals, and that most probably Jesus was crucified somewhere within the walls of the church in AD 36. However, there is no credible archaeological or historical evidence that Jesus was buried there.
The Dome of the Rock (built in AD 691) is the Islamic shrine that stands atop Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is built over the site of the Second Temple of ancient Israel (destroyed by Rome in AD 70). Together with Al-Aqsa Mosque, also atop Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock marks the third holiest site in Islam. It stands over what is known as the “Foundation Stone.” This stone is sacred to all three of the Abrahamic faiths. Jews believe it to be the place where Abraham nearly slaughtered his son Isaac in a test of faith as commanded by God. Christians revere the stone as a place where Jesus prayed in the time of the Second Temple. Muslims believe the stone to be the place from where Mohammed ascended to heaven.
The Third Temple (to be built in the time of the Messiah) was prophesied in the Book of Ezekiel and has yet to be built. Jews believe the Third Temple will provide a dwelling place for God to return and live among His people again. Messianic Christians believe the building of the Third Temple marks the “end of days,” when Jesus will return to officiate the Final Judgment. Construction of the Third Temple would require the destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
The exact year and circumstances of Yeshua ben Yosef’s death are not clearly known. For the sake of this story, the author has drawn on archaeological and historical evidence as presented by Dr. Shimon Gibson in his work The Final Days of Jesus. Also, the author has chosen to denote historical dates as BC and AD instead of BCE and CE.
In the name of the Pure G-d.
These words are written many years after the destruction of Jerusalem, which came on the ninth day of Av, 3830. Know that I am a son of the light who served the teacher of righteousness at Qumran near the Salt Sea. Our settlement stood three parsa’ot in distance from Jericho, which is also now destroyed. The destruction of Qumran came on the twenty-fifth day of Sivan, three years after the fall of Jerusalem. It came at the hands of the Tenth Legion Fretensis of Rome, who marched along the Salt Sea to conquer the Zealots at Masada and so end the Jewish revolt.
This is how it happened.
On the twenty-first day of Sivan, Roman outriders reached the summit of the mountain that separated us from Jericho’s ruins. In doing this they discovered our commune on the plateau below them. The outriders observed us through the afternoon and left before sunset. In those hours they learned we had no fortifications or weapons of any kind. Four days had passed when a great cloud of dust rose from the desert and there was the clamor of boots and drums. Then appeared the vanguard of the Tenth Legion leading more than five thousand soldiers onto the Masada Road. Their helmets and lances caught the dawn and their shields bore the color of blood. By this sign we knew our sacrifice was at hand, as it had been prophesied to us by seven angels of the Pure G-d. And so it was that upon reaching the trail that climbed the plateau to our commune, the main body of the legion continued south while the fifth cohort of infantry and archers broke away to attack Qumran.
· · ·
As this prophecy came to pass, and being the youngest of my order, I was instructed by the teacher of righteousness to take refuge in the cavern of solitude, which is set apart from the commune. It was a scriptorium for transcriptions of the holiest scrolls as judged by the teacher. Here, one of the chosen scribes would live alone for many days in proper meditation before writing the holy name of the Pure G-d.
I was young and had yet to be selected for this duty, though I longed to assume it. So it was with sadness that my ascension to the cavern was not as one of the chosen scribes but to bear witness to the annihilation of my order, and then live a life of isolation to the end of my days. Within the cavern were a bed, a table and stool, lamps, and sacred oil to burn for light. There were quills and ink-making tools and sheets of fine vellum. There were food stocks in jars and a cistern outside the cavern’s entrance that gathered rain as it flowed from the mountains.
This duty was commanded of me by the teacher of righteousness so that one of our number might survive and continue to watch for the man of signs and wonders, who would come to reclaim the things entrusted to us by the seven angels of the Pure G-d. For the seven did know this man and guarded his tomb for a period of thirty-four years; from the time of the man’s death until his tomb was abandoned when Jerusalem was destroyed. And upon abandoning the man’s tomb the seven angels appeared to us to reveal the truth of the man’s death, entreating us to aid them in their sacred purpose. Now knowing the cousin of this man, who was called the Baptist, and upon hearing the voices of the seven angels of the Pure G-d, the teacher of righteousness identified them as the forces of light named in the War Scroll of our order. We pledged our souls to them and agreed to watch over the way of the man’s return. We pledged in full knowledge that the forces of darkness, who sought to wipe all memory of the man from the world, would one day destroy us as they had destroyed Jerusalem.
The cavern of solitude was located in the canyon above Qumran and hid from the world by an outcrop of rock at the entrance. There were narrow fissures in the stone allowing me to see down onto the commune and witness the slaughter of my order. All my brethren, including the teacher of righteousness, suffered greatly before giving up their souls to death; but all kept their vow to not reveal any knowledge of the man of signs and wonders, though this knowledge was cruelly demanded of them.
The cohort then raided our stores of food and wine. Becoming drunk they ransacked the scriptorium for plunder. Finding nothing to please them, they took up battering rams and demolished the commune to rubble. But this destruction did not sate them, and they were overcome with savagery. They pounded their chest armor with fists; their curses filled the canyon with wickedness. Some drew swords and hacked apart the bodies of the dead, others built great fires; then was my brethren’s flesh roasted and eaten. This unholy feast lasted into the night until a stupor came over the soldiers and they lay on the ground to sleep. Black clouds concealed the moon and stars that night, and when the fires ended there was no light of any kind; as if all the world had gone into hiding from the evil befallen us. At dawn, and hearing no sound, I went to the entrance of the cavern. There was no sign of the fifth cohort but for the slaughter they had committed.
· · ·
I had been commanded by the teacher of righteousness to not leave the cavern for forty days. In obeying his command I did not bury my brethren according to Jewish law. In so doing I watched the remains of my order devoured by the beasts of the desert. Many of my brethren’s bones were carried away, though some remained that I might not be devoured by the beast of loneliness. But I did not touch the bones or bury them; I only watched them turn to dust. This had been commanded of me so I would not be detected by any forces of darkness who might pass; nor those foul spirits who feed on human souls; nor their progeny who were possessed of the same hunger and roamed the world in the forms of men.
In the month of Elul my forty days of hiding had ended. To replenish the cavern’s food stocks I grew grains and vegetables on a nearby plot of irrigated land. This plot was long used by my order and not seen from the desert lowlands or the surrounding mountains. One parsa from this place were colonies of bees that did not abandon their hives, and I tended them for honey. Near Jericho’s ruins, abandoned groves of date palm and pomegranate and olive trees, once belonging to Egypt’s queen, continued to bear fruit, and I harvested them.
I was commanded also to lay aside the white robes of the order and take the appearance of a madman. For there are things to be seen in this desert that will deliver a man into madness if regarded too long and without enlightenment, and such woeful men are common along the Salt Sea. I sealed my robes and sandals in an empty jar to protect them from corruption. I ceased to perform the water purification rituals of my order. In summer I wore only a loincloth and walked the desert in bare feet; in winter I wore coarse animal skins for warmth. My hair and beard became long and matted; my flesh darkened and leathered. In doing all these things I would not be regarded as a son of the light.
I walked the hills and mountains above Qumran to watch over the caves in which were hid the holy scrolls of the Jewish people. Also hid were the scrolls of our order, including the Book of Community Rule and the War Scroll. And in a remote cave, five parsa’ot in distance from Qumran’s ruins, were the things for the man of signs and wonders as entrusted to us by the seven angels of the Pure G-d. This place was named the cavern of secrets by the teacher of righteousness.
Through innumerable seasons I watched people travel across the Jordan Valley, wondering if one of them would reveal himself to me as the man foretold to us. There were merchant caravans from the east, Syrians and Phoenicians from the north, tribes of nomads from the south. Some of these travelers camped within sight of Qumran. They grazed their animals at the mouth of the Jordan River where it flows into the Salt Sea. Some travelers, chasing after their wandering flocks, climbed the trail to the ruins of our commune. Finding Roman coins or arrow points or other things of use, and not knowing the history of the place, most were satisfied and left. Those more curious of the place dared to approach the caves.
I hurried through the cliffs by unseen trails and jumped out before all invaders. I threw stones and called to Baal and proclaimed this ground as my divinely given kingdom. I chanted in tongues, rolled my eyes, and spittle formed on my lips. I became a creature of such dread that the invaders feared the curse of desert madness would claim them, too, and they retreated.
· · ·
I lost count of the days long ago.
I do not know the number of years I have lived since the destruction of Qumran. In this season of summer I became much weakened. It became difficult for me to walk the trails or gather food. Then did questions come to me. In the war between the forces of light and the darkness, as written in the War Scroll of our order, had the man of signs and wonders been vanquished? Was all hope of his return lost? If so, what had been the purpose of my terrible isolation? Why was I not sacrificed with the members of my order? But these questions were without answer and sorrow weighed heavily on my soul; the last soul belonging to a son of the light.
Then did a tempest come up from the land of the Edomites, and the sky became thick with dust and the sun yellowed as if diseased. I could not see the lowlands or the Salt Sea for the blowing sand. As night fell the winds increased tenfold; then came the wails of the world’s unburied and forgotten dead. Included in their number were the members of my order who had sacrificed their souls to forever death. By these signs I knew forces of darkness were passing the ruins of Qumran in search of the cavern of secrets.
I grew fearful, with only the flame of an oil lamp for consolation. I cried out to the Pure G-d and begged Him to give me succor. But the tempest mocked me for my cries, and the ground shook and the outcrop of rock at the cavern’s entrance fell away. A suffocating dust, foul with putrefaction, rushed in to extinguish the lamp and I was blinded. I heard the screams of the world’s unburied and forgotten dead approach; I felt their tormented souls reach from the dust and claw at my flesh, wanting to drag me down to the woeful place where they were imprisoned by the forces of darkness. And they begged me to save them by revealing the way to the cavern of secrets. So torn between my oath and the pitiful souls about me that I was overcome with despair, I crawled to the entrance of the cavern to throw myself from the cliffs and so end my own torment. I reached the edge of the cliff, rose to my feet, and stepped toward the abyss. Then came the roar of a thousand wings, and the whirlwind so created held me in place, and I beheld a vision.
The tempest vanished and I saw the Pure G-d asleep in an immense void above the earth and nothing moved. He stirred and awoke and saw that He was alone in his place. He breathed and a fire was born into the void. By this light He reached down to the earth and gathered the world’s unburied and forgotten dead. He anointed them with tongues of fire and cast them into the void where they became the stars and spheres of the heavens. Then a great comet rose from the east and it hovered over Qumran’s ruins. And the comet burst into ten thousand stars, and they did form the constellation Kesîl. From them appeared the seven angels of the Pure G-d who had entreated us to aid them in their sacred purpose. They came down bearing a body bound in a linen shroud, and they laid it on the ground. Then the leader of the seven smiled upon me, as he had smiled upon us in the days after Jerusalem was destroyed, and he said:
“They will see the dwelling place of the Pure G-d,
They will see the time of angels,
They will see the coming of the light.”
And the angel drew his sword and cut open the shroud to reveal the face of the man of signs and wonders, and he was of the light. And the angel said:
“By your words will he be raised from the dead,
So that the world will know the light.”
The sun rose above Mount Nebo and I was returned to the world. I knew my years of isolation were not in vain. I knew the man foretold to us would return, but not in the time of men; he would return in the time of angels when the secrets of the heavens are so revealed. And thus, my own sacred purpose was made known to me. I must guide the way of the man’s ret...
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