The cloud on the horizon could have been mistaken for nothing more than an approaching squall. Jalil focused absently up on it as he chanted his morning hymns.
"How often two executioners came upon me as the morning sun arose. O poor man, stand up and bear witness...”
The cloud grew wilder and Jalil could tell that indeed a storm was coming but not one that would bring rain. He hurried the last of his song.
“... unto the grave of time, and the Last Day."
Jalil ran barefooted through the little village of white-clay houses and up the rocky slope towards the shrine where the Sheik lived. He found him praying before an exquisite peacock engraved onto an ancient stone. Panting, he slowed when he saw him and approached with his head lowered.
The Sheik didn’t move, nor open his eyes, but spoke with softness in his voice that was natural to his position, “Why so excited, young man?”
“The invaders are here,” Jalil whispered.
The Sheik didn’t react. Jalil anxiously rocked back and forth on his heels, making several unsuccessful attempts at speaking. He arched his neck out the door towards the rising sun. The dust cloud was palpable now and he could hear the murmured voices of his villagers below.
“Why do you worry?”
“We’ve weathered invaders for six thousand years; do you think that now that we live under the age of Melek Taus we will be forsaken? Go, welcome them...”
The 101st Airborne Division made its way west of Mosul on April 17, 2003, several weeks into Operation Iraqi Freedom. One soldier could be heard yelling among the din of the transports, pointing out a lone figure approaching from the slope of a small hillside village, “Yazidis... them’s the devil-worshippers in these parts.”