Warrior Prophets: Chapter 8
Alliance of Hate and Fear
Akavish had learned that dusk was an excellent time to sneak around. The rapidly dimming light played tricks on one’s eyes. Lengthening and intersecting shadows camouflaged movement. At dusk, Akavish became invisible to the untrained eye.
Climbing the stonework of Yafiya’s palace up to the unmanned battlement had been easy for the wiry twelve year-old. Akavish, with Risto on his shoulder, fastened a coil of rope around the merlon and let himself down, head first, to the thin lancet window. He squeezed silently through the window, his bony frame sliding soundlessly over the stonework, and found himself high up in a dark corner of the throne room.
Akavish recognized Yafiya, the handsome King of Lachish, with his long unbraided dark locks framing his triangular face. Yafiya sat upright on his wooden throne facing his Chief of Staff, the squat, steely-faced Margun. Two torches on the wall behind the King lit the long room.
“We cannot sit still and wait for the Israelites to pick us off one at a time, my liege. We must unite!” Margun declared.
“With whom, Margun? With Eglon? They are more concerned with the Philistine encroachment. With Hebron? They are still upset about our raid on their flocks last spring. With Adonizedek in Jerusalem? They are most likely to fall next. Let them be a buffer. I would not waste my soldiers on the Israelite forces until I absolutely have to.”
“What about Gibeon? They are strong and canny.”
“I would sooner strike a deal with the blasted Phoenician merchants than with a Gibeonite. They are not to be trusted.”
A loud rapping on the heavy door echoed in the room.
“What is it?” Yafiya asked, annoyed.
“Urgent messenger from Jerusalem,” a guard announced.
“Let him in.” Yafiya raised his eyebrow at Margun.
A young man, in leather armor, ran breathlessly into the room.
“Your majesty,” he bowed to Yafiya.
“Speak,” Yafiya ordered.
“I bring word from my liege, Adonizedek. The Gibeonites have allied with the Israelites.”
“What!?” Yafiya jumped out of his chair, startling Akavish in the shadows.
“How is this possible?” Yafiya yelled at the messenger. “Is this some deception? Is Adonizedek so desperate that he would fabricate a story to get our support?”
“No, your majesty. I saw them myself outside of Gibeon. I swear to you by Baal, Ashtarte and all the gods, this is the truth. I saw Joshua, Caleb, the princes of Israel, the young Boaz, and more than ten thousand Israelite troops.” Akavish’s pulse quickened at the mention of Boaz’s name.
“They made a pact with the leaders of Gibeon,” the messenger continued. “The entire scene was surreal. Joshua accused the Gibeonites of deceiving them and pretending to be from outside Canaan.”
“That sounds like a Gibeonite tactic,” Margun interjected.
“Joshua cursed them and their descendents to be slaves for eternity, but held the Israelites back from killing them. I have never been so fearful before in my life. The Israelite anger was palpable. But the Gibeonite leaders walked back into their city, untouched by the ten thousand soldiers that wanted to kill them. The Israelites retreated back to their camp.”
“This is very bad,” Yafiya sat back on his throne, resting his elbow on the side of the throne and his head in his hand.
“Your majesty,” the messenger pleaded. “My king begs for an alliance. I have just come from Yarmut, whose king has agreed, and my next stop is Eglon. After that I shall cross back east to Hebron and return with them north to Jerusalem. We shall together punish the Gibeonites and thereby strike at an Israelite ally that we know we can defeat.”
“What value is there in striking Gibeon when the Israelites are the real danger?” Yafiya asked.
“No one has survived a direct encounter with the Israelites,” the messenger explained. “Their god is powerful and Joshua is a magician of the first order. By attacking their allies we fight normal men of flesh and blood, except perhaps for that old witch of theirs. The Israelites will then be forced to help their allies. Bloodying the Gibeonites will give us a tactical advantage and then we can meet the Israelites on a battlefield that we know and control. With our five armies and some of the most powerful sorcerers in Canaan we shall prevail.”
“It could work, my liege,” Margun agreed.
“Or it can bring our destruction sooner,” Yafiya twirled the curls of his long hair in his fingers.
They heard a swift ‘whoosh’ through the air and Yafiya felt a sharp tug on his hair. The curl he was holding was suddenly separated from his head. A loud thud alerted him to a small, thin, star-like device protruding from his chair.
Yafiya jumped out of his chair and Margun pivoted around, sword in hand.
“Who is there?” Yafiya called out.
“An ally,” Akavish tried to deepen his young voice in the shadows.
“Show yourself,” Margun commanded.
“There is no need for violence,” Akavish said. “You may lower your weapon.”
“You attack us and say there is no need for violence?” Yafiya asked incredulously.
“I merely wanted to demonstrate my skill and value. Had I wished, you would all be dead.”
“Show yourself, coward!” Margun shouted, holding his sword in both hands.
A dark blur flew through the shadow striking Margun on the left shoulder. Margun cried out in pain, as a star of death protruded from his shoulder, yet faced the shadow with sword in his right hand. Another blur cut his right wrist, forcing Margun to drop his sword.
“I could have easily struck your eyes, throat or heart, but I merely wished to disarm you. Do you still threaten violence or am I wasting my time with fools?” Akavish asked from his shadow. Margun grasped his bleeding wrist with his left hand and then with his right hand awkwardly pulled the star of death out of his shoulder. He gave the device to Yafiya.
“Come forward ‘ally,’” Yafiya called nervously, gingerly holding the bleeding star. “We are impressed by your skill and wish to understand you better. We shall not threaten you, if you show us no further harm.”
Akavish exited the shadow of the room with a long dagger strapped to this back, three stars of death in each raised hand and Risto clutching his shoulder.
“You are the Philistine,” Yafiya exclaimed. “The one who killed Balhad’s men.”
“What do you want? If I didn’t have more pressing matters, I would sic my army on you and your pet.”
“If I didn’t want to work with you, you would have been dead already, and your army would be headless,” Akavish responded, smiling. Risto chittered in agreement.
Yafiya sat back on his throne, letting his cut curl fall from his fingers, but still clutching the star with the sticky blood.
“Pardon my manners then, young Philistine,” Yafiya said. “How can we be of service? I now recall you sent us a contribution. Very noteworthy.”
“It is I who is offering you services. You shall join the King of Jerusalem, you shall attack Gibeon, it will draw the Israelites in and I will fight for you.”
“There is someone I must kill.”
Yafiya’s eyebrow shot up in surprise.
“The young warrior from the tales?”
“Is there another?”
“To prove myself. To prove that a child of the sea can best a hero of this strange people that everyone fears, with their invisible gods. To prove to my father that he was a fool for treating me like a child. Does that answer your question?”
“Will you join with Jerusalem and attack Gibeon?”
“Yes, but not because I think we will win.”
“If we are to be defeated, I would have it at the time and place of my choosing, and at the very least we can hurt those devious Gibeonites.”
“If you go with such an attitude, even I know it will affect morale.”
“Do not worry, young warrior. To my troops I shall be the epitome of optimism and confidence. I have been a ruler long enough to falsify all emotions and feelings,” Yafiya smiled grimly. “And with a skilled assassin in our employ, it may be enough to tip the balance. There may be several other targets to kill before you have a chance at your Boaz.” Yafiya lightly tossed the star with the dried blood at Akavish.
“That is fine. I will enjoy the practice.” Akavish licked his lips as he caught the star.
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Joshua Chapter 10
1 Now it came to pass, when Adonizedek king of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them; 2 that they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty. 3 Wherefore Adonizedek king of Jerusalem sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Yafiya king of Lachish, and unto Debir king of Eglon, saying: 4 ‘Come up unto me, and help me, and let us smite Gibeon; for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.’ 5 Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped against Gibeon, and made war against it.