Warrior Prophets Chapter 15
Boys’ Bar Brawl
Akavish, with an unhappy Risto on his shoulder, entered the musty-smelling establishment. He was surprised to see Philistines and Canaanites sitting amicably side by side. The tavern’s customers were in various states of merriment and intoxication. The proprietor provided a variety of solutions to a troubled heart – wine, mead, pipe weed, hashish, and other drugs and devices Akavish did not recognize. The layout of the tavern was of the eternal design. It seems that since the days that Noah first pressed his wine grapes, taverns have had the raised stools where customers can face the tavern-keeper at his station, with a handful of rounded tables adorning the room. At the far end of the tavern, a lamb on a spit cooked over an open fire.
Some of the Philistines were recognizable to Akavish; however, the majority of the men were Canaanites. There were also a few Phoenician traders, and two men at a table that could only have been Egyptian, with their white garments and shaved heads. Ashkelon had quickly reverted to a mercantile port under Laras’ rule.
Akavish found an empty stool to the right of an ancient looking man. On the other side of the old man, Akavish noted the back of a boy who could not have been much younger than his own twelve years. The boy was absorbed in talking to a tall youth next to him.
Akavish placed his thin frame on the stool. The tavern-keeper ignored him.
“Mead!” Akavish slapped the wooden counter.
“Can you pay for it, child?” the tavern-keeper asked.
Akavish slammed a copper piece on the counter. The copper piece disappeared as a mug of sloshing mead appeared in its place.
“On shoulder, curious creature,” the old man said to Akavish.
“What’s it to you?” Akavish didn’t bother looking up from his drink.
“So young, to drink and be rude,” the old man commented. He then addressed a series of chittering sounds at the monkey. Risto chittered back excitedly.
“Polite, the monkey is, at least.” The old man flashed a golden smile at Akavish. “Monkey says, rough time and a falling out with your father, you’ve had. Though typically rude, says monkey, the solace of drink, you don’t usually seek.”
Akavish looked at Risto and then at the old man with wide eyes.
“He told you that?” Akavish asked.
“Of course. Liar I am not. Monkey very bright.”
Risto nodded in agreement.
“Leave me alone,” Akavish said.
“Intemperate always alone. Gathering of lonely, tavern is. Pretend companionship brief moments, or drink, until can live with loneliness again.” The old man gestured at Risto with his fist; while sticking his thumb and pinky out, he placed the thumb on his own nose and then stuck out his tongue. Risto mimicked the old man’s movements exactly and chittered some more.
“From order of Lucian of Sheba?” the old man gave a nod of approval. “From accent, thought so. This child, for mighty deeds destined? Curious. Another one here, I have.”
The old man pushed his stool back and motioned to the boy next to him.
“Boaz, rude young man, meet.”
Boaz and Akavish stared at each other across the space in front of the old man. They each froze for a moment and then pushed off of their stools to stand facing each other, with swords drawn.
“What are you doing here?” Akavish asked as he aimed a cut at Boaz’s arm. Boaz parried and returned a stab at Akavish’s stomach. Akavish blocked.
“Yered brought us here. He said Ashkelon has the best drinks. What are you doing here? Last I saw you was in Gibeon.”
“What am I doing here!? This is my home. My father is king here.”
“You’re the son of a king? Why did you seek me out? Why do you want to kill me?”
“You don’t deserve to live.” Akavish hammered at Boaz’s defense. Boaz blocked every attack. “You are too young to be so famous. Why should tales be told of a ten-year old that makes hardened warriors quake? You’re just human, just a little brat. I would show the world that. That I am just as good as the famous Boaz. I am better! I will prove it now by killing you.”
Akavish grabbed Risto, who was still clinging to his shoulder, and threw him at Boaz’s face – a tactic that had served him effectively in the past. A moment after he threw Risto, Akavish followed with a rapid slash at Boaz’s sword arm. Boaz instinctively backhanded the flying Risto towards Akavish. Akavish’s sword cut at Risto’s arm instead, severing it above its hairy elbow.
Risto shrieked in anguish as he lay bleeding on the tavern floor.
“You animal!” Akavish yelled at Boaz and continued slashing at Boaz in a berserker rage.
Boaz retreated under the onslaught, as the entire tavern watched, fascinated by the deadly dance of the diminutive warriors.
“That’s a reason to kill me? Just to prove that you’re better? What’s wrong with you?”
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong, you Israelite slug. I never knew my mother. My father is a vicious bully, whose idea of love is a punch in the stomach, and whom I can never please. If I could kill the young hero of Israel, perhaps that would get his attention, his respect. I gave up long ago on his love, or his version of it.”
Akavish assaulted Boaz with a barrage of stabbing attacks aimed at arms, torso and face. With blurring speed, Boaz weaved in and out of Akavish’s reach.
“Killing me won’t solve anything.”
“I don’t care. I can think of nothing else worthwhile to do with my life. And now the gods have brought you right to me. Die!”
Akavish disengaged from Boaz, threw a handful of his metallic stars at Boaz’s face and then lunged at Boaz with outstretched sword. Boaz dropped to the floor, slicing upwards to intercept the stars. Instead he sliced into Akavish’s sword arm, just below the shoulder. Akavish fell onto Boaz, armless and shocked.
“My sword? My arm? Where is it?” Akavish saw his right arm, tightly gripping his sword, a few feet away, next to the lamb on the spit. The tavern patrons gasped collectively at the sudden end of the battle. Akavish fainted as he gushed blood over Boaz.
Yered approached the unconscious Akavish and wrapped up his bleeding stump expertly and quickly.
“Lost in one night, two right arms. Jerusalem, they have forgotten. Monkey and boy, bound tightly. Stand, young Boaz. His own, will now for him care. Where to?” Yered asked Boaz as he picked him up from under Akavish’s body.
“Home. I’m ready to go home,” Boaz answered, looking at his sword in anguish.
“You are not going anywhere,” a deep voice rumbled. Big Laras stood at the entrance to the tavern, accompanied by half a dozen Philistine soldiers. “No one does this to me, to my family, and leaves unscathed. You will be punished.”
Laras lumbered closer to Yered and Boaz.
“Stop him, I attempt. Gibeonite and you, run!”
Skeletal Yered threw himself at the Philistine giant, jabbing his fingers into Laras’ neck, arms and torso. Laras merely swatted the old man aside with a beefy fist to the face. Yered flew into the tavern wall and crumpled into an unconscious heap on the floor.
Tall Shakra waited until Laras passed him and then attempted to stab him from behind. One of the Philistine soldiers intercepted Shakra’s blade. Laras whirled around and grabbed Shakra by the neck, lifting him a few feet off the floor.
“A comrade?” Laras asked at the choking Shakra. “But young and strong. Perhaps of some use. Bind him!” Laras commanded as he threw Shakra into the hands of two Philistine soldiers.
“And you little warrior.” Laras turned back to Boaz, standing over the unconscious Akavish. “You deserve a very special torture. But there is no gain in death. What shall we do?” Laras looked up and held his clean-shaven chin. “I know. We shall sell you and your gangly friend to the copper mines at Timna. I hear the Egyptians are always seeking fresh replacements.” Laras looked at the transfixed white-robed Egyptians at their table. “For some reason their slaves die very quickly in the mines.”
“I’m not going to any mine,” Boaz responded. “I did not ask for this fight. He brought it upon himself.”
“My son is foolish and headstrong, but he is still my son and I shall avenge the injury you have caused. Guards! Bind him!”
Two Philistine soldiers approached Boaz, one with heavy iron shackles in his hands. Boaz ran to the side and evaded the soldiers. He burst into a sprint, rapidly making his way towards the exit, but not a moment later smashed into Laras’ outstretched muscular arm and fell to the floor.
“I will sell you to the slavers,” Laras told the dazed Boaz on the floor. “And I shall make a little silver in exchange for the rest of what will be a short, drug-filled and miserable existence in Timna.”
Boaz tried to get off the floor only to see a large and heavy sandaled foot approach his face. And then he remembered nothing.
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