Ilo Sungila felt he could see vast expanses of war-torn Mozambique from the hilltop of his new agricultural supply store. The store beamed light into his rural Bantu village, which had been stagnant and depressed for the past forty years.
“It will not be easy, but farmers’ yields will be better and life in the entire village will improve,” said Olumide.”
The Sungilas worked hard. The shop, which doubled as their home, became the focal point of the village. Villagers sat on Ilo’s stoop in the late afternoon, drinking and telling stories.
Only Huso, the mason, worried Ilo from all the village members. Huso had been out of work a long time, drank too much, and often spoke enviously regarding Ilo and Olumide’s success. One night, Ilo heard glass breaking in the store. His uncle got up first and went to investigate. As Ilo rose, he heard sounds of a struggle, and then something falling to the floor. When Ilo entered the store, he found Huso, drunk, armed with a club, clutching the small cigar box filled with their money. Ilo’s anger took over him, and he ran at Huso, who struck him three times. Ilo heard his bone crack. He watched powerless as Huso pocketed the money and fled.
Cautiously, Ilo attempted to probe the damage to his arm. The slightest touch sparked a burst of pain that made him woozy. Holding his injured arm still, Ilo rolled onto his knees, stood up shakily, and limped to the rusty tap in the backyard. He tried to lift a bucket with both hands and winced in pain. He turned the tap and filled the bucket, using one arm. The world spun around him as he lugged the bucket to the house.
With no doctor within thirty kilometers, Ilo had no choice but to treat his uncle’s injuries. With his good hand, he washed the blood from his uncle’s face and shoulder.
“Wake up, Uncle! We worked so hard to bring agricultural technology to our village. At last, we’re seeing results; don’t let everything fall to pieces.” Olumide didn’t move or make a sound. Finding a gash on Olumide’s head, Ilo wrapped it with a piece of cloth torn from his sleeve.
“Please, venerable ancestors, save my Uncle Olumide, the son of Folami, the son of Chinedu, the son of Dumisa,” Ilo prayed. He paused, feeling confused and foolish, and tried again.
“Most honored ancestors, whoever is the true God, ask him to save uncle’s life!” Ilo listened for an answer. The crickets chirped, the night birds chattered, and the jackals growled. Ilo shivered, bore his pain, and remained next to his uncle throughout the night, dozing off here and there.
At dawn, his uncle moaned. As the rising sun appeared through the slats in the window, Olumide’s eyes flickered. Ilo brought him a cup of water. Uncle smiled, sipped the water, and patted on the mat for Ilo to sit. “There are stories I must tell you. They are a treasure, a tradition, passed from father to son that will end with me,” Olumide related. He glanced at his nephew. “But you are like a son to me.”
“What is this treasure?”
“Stories,” said Olumide, “of a great king who ruled with justice, righteousness, and faith. People called him the Light of Justice. Any person, great or small, could speak his mind to the king.”
By now, opening time had passed, and people crowded around outside the store, banging on the door, rattling the shutters, and shouting.
Ilo limped to the window and raised the shutter three centimeters.
“My friends, Olumide is ailing. I promise to open the store as soon as possible!” he whispered He let the shutter drop.
Ilo listened as Olumide taught him the art of storytelling: how to touch people’s hearts, the difference between true and false humility, how to address a crowd with one utterance and yet give each man the words he needed. Ilo learned to control his face, body, and tone of voice.
After five days, Olumide succumbed to the beating. Ilo embraced his uncle’s words and began his career as a storyteller. For the next twenty years, he ran his shop and told stories about the Light of Justice.
People came from near and far; walking up to twenty kilometers across the parched savanna to listen to the great storyteller, Ilo Sungila. Some people arrived alone, others in groups—by foot, bicycle, bus, and car. Throughout the day people gathered from surrounding villages and towns to learn about the fabled king, the Light of Justice.
One particular night, Ilo gazed at the gathering of child-soldiers, looters, rapists, and murderers, their way of life cultivated by false leaders.
“As a young man,” Ilo began, hushing the crowd, “the king served as a junior judge in court. Two men claimed the same girl for a bride. The first man presented a document signed by the girl’s father, and the second showed one signed by the mother. Reputable witnesses made their marks on both documents. Each parent promised money to the groom.”
Ilo stroked his beard, playing a judge deep in thought. He slid to one side of his chair and acted the part of the haughty father. He slid to the other side and played the mischievous mother.
“The king and his fellow judges questioned each groom’s motivation to marry. Both men cited good looks, money, and social standing. The judges examined the grooms’ and parents’ intentions. The senior judge called for a recess in another hut. ‘If we consider only legal documents,’ he said, ‘the father’s words have more legal weight.”
“Let us question the intended bride,” the young king pronounced. The judges questioned the girl and then the king made a pronouncement.
“On the surface, what do we have here: two parents who seek a husband for their daughter,” the king summarized.
Ilo paused as the people moved closer to catch every word.
“But to let either of these men marry this girl is a travesty of justice.” The plaintiffs burst out shouting, and the senior judge hammered for silence.
“Parents spoke separately to two men and made two separate contracts on the same night! They intended to sow discord. In fact, they didn’t consider their daughter’s desires whatsoever! I wouldn’t want either of these men as sons or brothers-in-law. Why, you ask? They want a wife for the wrong intentions! It’s clear the young woman is well-intentioned and respectable. These two don’t want her virtues; rather they want cattle and social esteem. My opinion is the parents wrote both engagement documents in bad faith toward the bride and are void!” the Light of Justice declared. Everyone in the audience remained seated; each person deep in thought, absorbing Ilo’s words.
Wherever people strive to live a more moral and just life, you find stories of the Light of Justice. The Mayans, Chinese, Incas, Malaysians, and Fijians tell stories of ships lost at sea in terrible storms that reach the land of the legendary Light of Justice. In the far North, the saga is told of Andvett the Terrible. Shipwrecked with his crew after a storm, the murderous company encountered the king, and returned home as changed men.
In the Vatican’s archives, Father Leonardo Franconi found references to seven distinct accounts of troubadours who sang of a mysterious Light of Justice. Intrigued, Father Franconi wanted to know the identity of this fabled king. He searched the library for the originals, but found none.
After consulting with the librarian Father Franconi found out why the originals weren’t available.
“The originals are sealed in an underground vault beneath the Vatican. Inside the vault lay dangerous secrets of the Catholic Church, among them, numerous references to the Light of Justice and what the church did to bury those stories.
In cities across the world, secret communities wait for a sign, a secret name, and a day to come, to fulfill a long awaited prophecy.
For twenty-five years, Yoshua Rosenberg, Hebrew University Professor of Archaeology, stalked the legendary Light of Justice from the lowlands of East Africa to the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Spain. He struggled to explain how this king’s fame transverse so many far-flung ancient cultures. People who met this king lived hundreds of years and thousands of kilometers apart, as if he existed in spherical rather than linear time.
Yoshua’s search continued until his work centered on these legends.