Category Archives: Caleb

Warrior Prophets Prologue 2: Shadow of the Father

Warrior Prophets Prologue 2

Shadow of the Father

Rahab helping the spies escape Jericho

“With all due respect, Joshua,” Salmoon looked down, “you go too far.”

“I felt it, I tell you,” Joshua pressed. “Boaz has your father’s blood.”

“His blood? As opposed to mine? Forty years later, and you still don’t let me forget. Must I always carry the shame?”

“You are a great man in your own right, Salmoon. But you must admit that your father, Prince Nachshon, was unique. He was a hero, a natural warrior and an inspiration for our people. He was the right man at the right time. His jumping into the sea was an act of the highest faith. He led the way. God parted the waters right then because of him. We witnessed the end of Egyptian hegemony and he was the catalyst. You can’t hope to duplicate such history. No one can.”

“But I have not reached even a fraction of his accomplishments. I am known merely as Salmoon, the failed son of Nachshon the Daring. My own life, my own accomplishments in battle are not even worthy of mention. Now you wish to push my son into the arena at such a tender age. I will have no part in such a travesty.”

Boaz hid quietly behind his family’s tent. Joshua had approached their tent in the camp of Judah to talk with his father. With his typical gruff voice, his father had ordered Boaz out of the tent. Joshua, the new leader ofIsrael, smiled at the departing Boaz and sat down on the simple woolen rug in the small canvas tent. Boaz scampered away loudly, only to quickly turn around and silently return, sitting now very quietly just outside the tent. Boaz’s mother, Rina, was out spinning woolen threads with her work companions.

“What do you fear, Salmoon?” Joshua asked. “Is the shadow of your dead father so long that you cannot escape his reputation? You are a great man, revered and admired by your tribe. You are a captain of a thousand. I saw you as you smote the Midianites, and the Amorites before them. You are a natural leader of men.”

“Perhaps, but not great enough. It is Caleb, Prince Caleb, my brother-in-law, who has inherited my father’s mantle. He is the leader ofJudah. He is the one that receives all the acclaim. Is it not he, together with Pinhas the Priest, that you have sent on a secret mission?”

“How did you know?” Joshua asked, surprised. A light breeze from the Jordan River ruffled the sides of the tent on the Moabite plain. He saw a distinct shadow by the edge of the tent floor.

“Though my sister is quiet, I can perceive when her husband is not in their tent. Her face has an anxiousness, a worry, that is transparent. Pinhas’ absence from his duties in the Tabernacle has been more obvious.”

“Who else knows?”

“I have not discussed it with a soul, though anyone with eyes in their head must have noticed the unexplained absence of two such prominent men.”

“I don’t know that all are as perceptive as you, Salmoon. I preferred to send Caleb, as besides me, he is the only survivor of the disaster of the twelve spies, the only other person that knows the land of Canaan first hand. I sent Pinhas with him as he can be quite useful when there is trouble. But it doesn’t matter. My main intention was to send them discretely, unlike the committee my Master sent four decades ago. However, you are not the only one in your family with perceptive skills.”

Joshua pounced suddenly to the side of the tent. His arm shot outside the tent and pulled back a squirming Boaz by the scruff of the neck.

“Boaz!” Salmoon yelled sternly. “What is the meaning of this? You eavesdrop on the conversation of your elders? Is this how I raised you?”

“You were talking about me and Uncle Caleb. I couldn’t help it.”

“Don’t talk back, child.”

“You did ask him a question, Salmoon,” Joshua added as he released his grip on Boaz.

“I am embarrassed by this behavior, Joshua. Please don’t encourage him.”

“Does he not have the right to hear discussion of his own fate?”

“There is nothing to discuss.” Salmoon stood up, straightening his woolen tunic. “Joshua, I am honored by your attention, but there is nothing further for you to seek from our family.”

“Would it be acceptable for me to converse on this matter with Boaz?”

“I cannot stop you from speaking to whomever you wish. But he is a willful child, with little regard for authority, of which you’ve just seen a small example. If you seek a warrior from him, you shall have to wait many years. Good day.”

Salmoon bowed to the still-seated Joshua, signaling he wished to end the conversation. Joshua stood up and bowed back.

“Thank you, Salmoon, for your time and hospitality.”

Joshua exited the tent and smiled at Boaz for the second time that day.

Boaz tip-toed quietly through the sleeping camp. He waited three tents away from Joshua’s tent in the camp of Ephraim. Joshua’s tent was the closest tent to the central Levite camp surrounding the Tabernacle.

For the third night, Joshua waited until two hours after nightfall and walked quietly and purposefully outside the camp towards the Jordan River.

It took Joshua half an hour to cross the remainder of the Moabite plain and reach a gentle slope on the eastern bank of theJordan River. The spring night air was pleasant, with a cool breeze blowing from the river. Boaz realized he was alee from Joshua and recalled that to be downwind was a good thing when tracking someone or something, though he had never tracked anything before in his ten years of existence. Boaz kept his distance, making sure Joshua was in sight, yet not close enough that he would be noticed. He thanked the darkness of the night and the intermittent clouds that blocked the sliver of moon. His young eyes had adjusted well to the darkness. Boaz saw Joshua stop under a large willow tree, its sad leaves still lush from the winter rains. Joshua paced under the tree, constantly looking across theJordanto the sleeping city ofJerichoin the distance. Joshua finally stopped his pacing and sat down on a large rock. Boaz crawled on all four to reach Joshua’s willow. He felt as if it was taking an excruciatingly long time to reach the large willow, but he dared not risk Joshua noticing him.

Two robed men ascended from the Jordan Riverand approached Joshua in the dark. Boaz recognized them. He could make out the large bearded figures of his uncle Caleb and Pinhas the Priest.

“Are you well?” Joshua asked them.

“We are well. We were delayed,” Caleb answered. “The Canaanites have patrols up and down the river. One of them must have spotted our crossing and alerted the city. They sent troops after us as soon as we enteredJericho.”

“You were not caught,” Joshua stated.

“We were not. Rahav saved us,” Pinhas added. “Your information was accurate. Her house is built into the wall of the city. She was most helpful. She hid us in her house and misled the troops. She bid us wait three days in the mountains, until the search party would give up, and that then it would be safe to cross the river. It was as she said. She is fully committed to our side.”

“An amazing woman,” Caleb continued. “What an aura! It is incredible that such a beacon lives in the cesspool ofJericho.”

“She pressed us to make a pact with her,” Pinhas interjected.

“What pact?” Joshua asked.

 “She sued for the safety of her entire extended family. Parents, siblings, all her father’s home. We agreed. But only if they remain within the walls of her house. We bid her place a scarlet cord outside her window. It can be seen from outside the city.”

Joshua placed his hand on his flowing beard and paced again. Boaz stirred restlessly on the ground behind the tree. The three men looked at each other wordlessly.

“Curious. Committed to our side and her family. Intelligent. Faithful. Her aura, you say?”

“Yes,” Caleb said. “Almost blinding.”

“Very well. You were correct to trust her and make a pact with her. Her house shall stand, though all around her shall fall. Rahav and her family will not be able to stay inJericho, but I presume she understands that.”

“She does,” Pinhas answered. “She knows we come to destroy the city and conquerCanaan.”

“What of their army?”

“Numerous, but fearful,” Caleb stated. “News of our rapid destruction of Og and Sichon has shocked them. They have heard of our vengeance against the Midianites and the execution of Bilaam the Sorcerer.” Caleb looked at Pinhas meaningfully.

“They recall now also the stories of the Exodus,” Pinhas added. “The plagues of Egypt. The splitting of the Sea. They tremble in fear and should we just step across the river they will scurry as mice.”

Leaves rustled as Boaz tried to get comfortable on the rock-strewn ground.

The three men froze for a moment. Joshua smiled. Caleb and Pinhas looked to him for guidance.

“You may come out now, Boaz,” Joshua declared.

Boaz, confused, did not move. How did he discover me, again! Boaz thought. I was so quiet.

“It seems your father’s admonition has not curtailed your eavesdropping. Come out now and spare me the effort of having to drag you out.”

“I’m sorry, Joshua,” Boaz got up from behind the tree and brushed the pebbles and dust off his simple woolen tunic. “Hello, Uncle Caleb, Priest Pinhas.” Boaz nodded at the men. “I was curious as to where Joshua was going every night. I suspected it would be important and connected to the secret mission.”

“It is exciting for you?” Joshua asked.

“Yes! It is very exciting. I can’t wait to see the Canaanites defeated.”

“Do you wish to join us?” Joshua asked.

“Join what? Me? You’re joking. I’m just a kid. My father would never allow anything of the sort anyway. I can help perhaps with the supplies, but what do you mean?”

“Your curiosity may yet get you into trouble, young Boaz. Stay in your father’s tent. It is safer. We shall wait and see if there is a role for you. Go back to the camp now. There are things I would like to discuss in private.”

“Yes, sir,” Boaz bowed and ran off. Thank God they were not upset, Boaz thought. If I’m lucky, they won’t even mention it to my father.

Boaz imagined what it would be like to fight in the battles. To fight like his father, a captain of thousand. Like his grandfather, Prince Nachshon the Daring, who had jumped in the sea and fought side by side with Joshua against the hordes of Amalek all those years ago. Lost in his thoughts, Boaz stubbed his toe against a small rock in the dark.

“Ow!” he called out to the night.

I’m just going to slip back into my tent. Time enough for battle when I grow up, he thought mistakenly.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Joshua Chapter 2

And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two spies secretly, saying: ‘Go view the land, and Jericho.’ And they went, and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahav, and lay there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying: ‘Behold, there came men in hither tonight of the children of Israel to search out the land.’ 3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahav, saying: ‘Bring forth the men that have come to you, that have entered into your house; for they have come to search out all the land.’ 4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them; and she said: ‘Yes, the men came to me, but I knew not whence they were; 5 and it came to pass about the time of the shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out; whither the men went I know not; pursue after them quickly; for you shall overtake them!’ 6 But she had brought them up to the roof, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had spread out upon the roof. 7 And the men pursued after them the way to the Jordan unto the fords; and as soon as they that pursued after them were gone out, the gate was shut. 8 And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; 9 and she said unto the men: ‘I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan, unto Sihon and to Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we had heard it, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more spirit in any man, because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s house–and give me a true token– 13 and save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.’ 14 And the men said unto her: ‘Our life for yours, if you tell not this our business; and it shall be, when the Lord gives us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.’ 15 Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was upon the side of the wall, and she dwelt upon the wall. 16 And she said unto them: ‘Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers light upon you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers return; and afterward go your way.’ 17 And the men said unto her: ‘We will be guiltless of this your oath which you have made us to swear. 18 Behold, when we come into the land, you shall bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which you did let us down by; and you shall gather unto you into the house your father, and your mother, and your brethren, and all your father’s household. 19 And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless; and whosoever shall be with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. 20 But if you utter this business, then we will be guiltless of your oath which you have made us swear.’ 21 And she said: ‘According unto your words, so be it.’ And she sent them away, and they departed; and she bound the scarlet line in the window. 22 And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned; and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not. 23 Then the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun; and they told him all that had befallen them. 24 And they said unto Joshua: ‘Truly the Lord has delivered into our hands all the land; and moreover all the inhabitants of the land do melt away before us.’

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 30: Wedding Crashers

Warrior Prophets Chapter 30

Wedding Crashers

Yered, still cloaked, watched the wedding proceedings from a nearby alleyway. Risto clung to his back, completing Yered’s disguise as a hunchback. Yered kept smacking Risto’s hairy tail that flicked in and out of the cloak. They were surprised by the velocity of the Philistine attack upon Bethlehem and the large armored man who had made it through the gates.

“Your former master, that is?” Yered asked Risto as they watched Akavish fight Caleb near the city gate.

Risto chittered affirmatively.

“Frightening, he has become.”

Risto agreed and chittered a few choice curses, caressing his own prosthetic wooden arm.

“Most dangerous, he is. Lessened, danger will be if we stop him. Small threat, Raskul is.” He pointed at Raskul slowly making his way towards the fallen wedding canopy, as guests and residents ran for cover. A handful of people lay dead or injured in the city plaza. Arrows rained down on Bethlehem from outside the walls. Joshua stood in the center of the plaza, immobile behind the wedding canopy. He stood with eyes closed, head and palms heavenward, guarded by Boaz, with Vered standing next to Boaz.

Risto jumped up and down under Yered’s cloak.

“Patience, Risto,” Yered told the monkey. “When absolutely needed, enter fray and reveal ourselves we will.”

Risto chittered wildly, pointing at a fallen Caleb on the ground. The clear blue skies suddenly turned overcast, with dark heavy clouds rolling in, as Boaz ran to intercept Akavish’s claw before it impaled the unconscious Caleb. Boaz knocked the claw aside with his sword, but could not get through Akavish’s metal armor and helmet. However, Akavish was unable to injure the faster Boaz. Akavish finally turned from Boaz and walked towards Vered with his claw pointed at her.

The entire city shook as the Philistine battering ram smashed through the wooden gate ofBethlehem, scattering the Israelite defenders. A river of Philistines poured into the city, with Boaz the only one in their way to stop their surge.

Yered saw Raskul approach Vered menacingly. Boaz looked wildly between the approaching Philistine army and his bride. Vered was threatened by both Akavish and Raskul. Joshua stood oblivious as a statue next to Vered. Thunder rumbled in the previously clear summer sky.

“Needed, we are,” Yered said as he removed his cloak. “To split up, it is time.”

Akavish aimed his claw at Vered and reached for the lever that would launch his poisonous projectiles.

“Boaz!” Yered yelled. “Protect your woman, we shall. Focus on fighting Philistines, you should.”

Risto jumped off of Yered’s back and with a wild screech launched himself at Akavish’s head, blocking his view. Akavish tried impaling the monkey with his claw. Risto climbed to Akavish’s back and wrapped his tail around the eye slits of Akavish’s helmet.

“Risto?” Akavish hollered incredulously. “You are stopping me? After all these years, this is how you greet me? I will squash you as the insignificant creature you are!”

“Greetings, seeker,” Yered addressed Raskul’s back.

Startled, Raskul turned around. “Ancient One? What are you doing here?”

“Harm I encouraged, preventing I am.”

“What harm is that?”

“Revenge. As friend to an enemy, you are appearing.”

Raskul’s face turned crimson. “I meant no harm. Just introducing myself to the lovely bride of my old friend.”

“Who are you?” Vered aimed her wooden pole at the ancient Yered.

“Of Boaz, an acquaintance. Yered son of Job.” He smiled, showing his golden teeth.

“You, I’ve heard well of.” Vered lowered her pole. “You saved Boaz from the mines of Timna.”

“To save again, I have come. In mortal danger you are.” Yered pointed at Akavish struggling with the monkey on his back.

Boaz looked from the rapidly approaching Philistine army, to Akavish and to Vered. There is no way I can split myself to tackle Akavish and his army. What do I do!? Boaz agonized. Then he heard Yered’s call and saw a wooden-armed Risto flying at Akavish’s head. Thank you, God! Boaz thought fervently. Please keep her safe.

Boaz ran into the approaching Philistine army and slashed recklessly into their front. Half a dozen soldiers fell from his first blow. A deluge poured from the sky as thunder and lighting rocked the walls of Bethlehem. Philistine soldiers slipped on the wet stones as the front line came to a standstill under Boaz’s onslaught. Boaz fought with a fury he did not recall. You come to my home? Boaz thought angrily at the intruders. You threaten my family? My bride? On my wedding day!? Boaz slashed and hacked through the Philistine lines, moving like a whirlwind. Dozens of Philistines fell to Boaz’s ferocity.

Elimelech ran back and forth on the western ramparts of Bethlehem, killing one Philistine invader after another. His men were holding up against the endless barrage, but he knew they would shortly falter. More scaling ladders were propped against the wall uncontested. More Philistine soldiers were reaching the ramparts and engaging his men. Most of the dead on the ramparts were Philistine. The number of the Philistine dead outnumbered the Israelites living. But soon the living Philistines would overwhelm the defenders of Bethlehem. Zuki had fallen, and his brother Achi with him. Lerel would never walk again and Drami would never see. Avli would not return to his pregnant wife and Brenyah would not rejoin his nine children. Friends, relatives and neighbors fell to the Philistine arrows and swords. Yet Elimelech pushed on, encouraging his men with his spirit and his sword. Somewhere inside of him, though, his spirit broke. He could not bear this tragedy, this hardship, this pain. Why, God? he asked, as he stabbed with his sword a large Philistine wielding a mace. How can you let this happen? Why must we suffer so?

As if in response, a bolt of lighting cracked upon one of the Philistine ladders, incinerating the dozen soldiers on and around it. Then another flash struck from the sky followed rapidly by yet another. Three, four, five fires burned in the pouring rain against the walls of Bethlehem.

Thank you, God, Elimelech thought, as the tide on the western wall turned to the Israelites favor. But why the suffering? Elimelech looked at his dead and crippled men. I cannot bear to see my people suffer.

Ploni awoke to the sound of thunder and the cold rain on his body. He saw the throngs of Philistines march through the broken gate, felt his own broken bones and fainted from the pain.

An arrow shot the flying Pinhas out of the sky. He landed hard on the eastern ramparts. He lost consciousness amongst the dead bodies of the Philistines and Israelites. Philistines overran the eastern wall, killing the last Israelite defenders on that rampart, and poured into the city. Krafus smiled from outside the gates where he could see his soldiers joining the phalanx in the plaza.

“No!!” Akavish howled at the rain, “the water will dilute my poison!” With his healthy hand, Akavish finally grabbed hold of Risto and threw him into the sky. Akavish shot his remaining poisoned darts at the monkey. Risto twisted mid-air and avoided the deadly barrage as he landed safely on one of the courtyard houses.

“Blasted monkey. I will deal with you later. First to kill the bride, while Boaz is occupied with my men.” Akavish step over the still prone body of Caleb on the ground, pointed his claw at the redheaded girl and let loose his stars of death.

Joshua felt the cold rain on his closed eyelids. God had given him the keys to the skies and he was determined to use it well. He sensed the thousands of Philistines attacking the walls. Through his closed eyes he saw the hundreds pouring through the destroyed gate. He felt every Israelite death and injury. Elimelech, leading the defense on the western wall, the hardest hit, was on the edge of despair. Joshua flicked his wrist and lightning struck a ladder filled with Philistines right next to Elimelech. Joshua moved his fingers again and another lighting bolt struck a Philistine ladder. Again and again Joshua expertly moved his fingers as a conductor guiding an invisible orchestra. Lightning fell upon critical attack points, stemming the tide of the Philistine invasion. He noted the curious monkey struggling with the metal beast, and the slowly stirring Caleb on the ground. He was pleased to see Boaz holding the center. He sensed Vered confronting two men. He turned his attention to the eastern wall in time to see Pinhas shot down and the wall overrun. We shall need assistance from another source, he told God, the bolts are not enough, as he continued to conduct the lighting from the sky.

“I must protect Joshua,” Vered said to Yered and Raskul as she stood closer to the praying leader amidst the thunderstorm. “He is bringing the lightning and the rain, and that is probably the only thing giving us an advantage.” She looked anxiously at Boaz sprinting amongst the Philistine army, mowing down line after line of soldiers. How long can he last? she wondered.

Raskul followed Vered’s gaze and saw her fear and longing for Boaz. He had never seen such a look of love. At once he was both amazed and insanely jealous of Boaz. Look at him risk his life, Raskul thought in wonder. Look at his speed. His deadliness. One man against an entire army. Scribes shall write of this. And she loves him, she truly loves him. What a woman. Brave and beautiful! How could I come between such love?

“Go to safety,” Raskul commanded, as he drew his long knife and faced the Philistines by the gate. “I shall watch over your leader.”

He turned in time to see Akavish launch a whirling metallic disc at Vered. Raskul jumped in front of Vered. The star of death cut Raskul’s arm and then embedded itself in Vered’s shoulder.

Both Raskul and Vered fell to the floor writhing in agony.

Boaz’s heart shattered as he saw Akavish launch his star of death at Vered. He was amazed to see Raskul jump to intercept the star and then heartbroken to see him and Vered collapse. Something in him died. Unconsciously he slowed down. What do I have to live for now? he thought morosely. One Philistine tripped him. A dozen fell on him. He was trapped under an avalanche of soldiers. This is it, Boaz thought. Both of us die on our wedding day. He shed a tear in the pouring rain.

Then he heard the trumpeting. It was a ram’s horn. Amitai! That’s Amitai’s horn. The militia. He has brought the militia.

“Boaz,” he heard Vered call out softly. She still lives! There is hope! I will not die by these uncircumcised heathens! Boaz hacked frantically at the Philistines covering him, and then spun wildly, slashing at the bodies around him. He launched himself off the ground powerfully and cut all around him like a tornado through a field of wheat. He saw Akavish walking to the downed Vered, apparently to finish the job. He saw Yered and Risto tending to Vered. Boaz ran at Akavish and tackled him, both falling to the ground, the metal of Akavish’s armor banging loudly on the wet stones.

Yered whistled loudly and shrilly as he kneeled next to the prone bodies of Raskul and Vered. In moments Risto was on his shoulder, chittering heatedly.

“Yes,” Yered agreed. “Poisoned, they both are. Seconds, we have. Your arm, give me.”

Risto opened the panel on his wooden arm.

Yered ran his finger quickly over the small compartments in Risto’s arm. “Thyme, Silverweed, Anise, Celandine, Alkanel, Buckthorn. Yes. Buckthorn. For poison, only hope. A few moments, it will take.”

Yered took the crushed leaves, placed them in his mouth and chewed them vigorously with his golden teeth.

“Risto. Cup and water, fetch,” Yered commanded. Risto shut his wooden arm closed to keep his store of leaves dry and hopped away. He returned moments later, sloshing water in a clay mug.

“Ancient One,” Raskul groaned. “Save her first.”

“My intent, it was,” Yered answered through a mouthful of saliva and leaves. “Though a noble act of yours, I did not expect. Fortunate, you are, that the rain diluted the poison. Otherwise, dead you would already be.”

“Boaz,” Vered moaned, her eyes fluttering to semi-consciousness.

Yered spat his mouthful of chewed leaves into the cup and stirred the mixture with his finger. He lifted Vered’s mouth and brought the cup to her lips.

“Fully, drink. Save you, it may.”

Vered drank greedily from the cup and lost consciousness, the grimace of pain easing from her face.

“I feel my life ebbing,” Raskul croaked. “There is no time.”

“A few more moments, hold on,” Yered ordered, as he stuffed fresh Buckthorn leaves in his mouth.

“No. I have been a scoundrel my entire life. I would rather leave having done something good. Farewell, Ancient One.” Raskul forced a dry raspy cough.

“To die, in such a rush you are?”

“I have nowhere else to go.”

Raskul closed his eyes, breathed a last rattling breath, and was still, forever.

“Bah!” Yered spat the leaves on the ground. “Taste of Buckthorn hate. Waste of good leaves, it is.”

He turned to see Boaz struggling with Akavish, the regrouping Philistine army and the lightning blazing across the sky.

“You will not succeed.” Boaz smashed his sword ineffectively against Akavish’s armored side.

“I already have. Your gate is broken. My army is on and within the walls. Your bride is dying in painful agony and shortly so will you.” Akavish answered with a slash of his metal claw to Boaz’s head. Boaz ducked, kicking Akavish in the midriff. Caleb, on the floor behind them, opened his eyes and looked at the fighting in a daze.

They heard the ram’s horn again.

“You hear that, Akavish?” Boaz said triumphantly. “God sends us our salvation.”

Smoke exploded amongst the Philistines at the gate. The rain, thunder, lighting and smoke completely disoriented the Philistine soldiers. When the smoke cleared, Akavish was shocked to see the Philistines split into two, with a wedge of Israelites cutting a swath through the Philistine ranks. Boaz saw Amitai and young Ehud at the lead, cleaving the Philistine army.

“I will not be denied!” Akavish head-butted Boaz with his metal helmet. Boaz, dazed, took a step back. Akavish pointed his claw at Boaz, ready to fire.

“Hey! Ugly!” Ehud called out. Ehud was a short brown-haired youth with a muscular build. He wore a simple, but blood-smeared, rain-soaked tunic, and held a short sword in each hand. Akavish turned to look at the new voice.

“Yes, you, metal-face,” Ehud continued as he approached Akavish. “I’m talking about you. Are you so horrific that you need to hide your face behind a mask? Is this the powerful King Akavish that is too cowardly to show his face?”

“I will kill you miscreant, for your affront.” Akavish fired his stars of death at Ehud. Ehud spun out of the way, letting the stars kill Philistines behind him.

“You’ll have to do better than that, loser.”

“Die!” Akavish yelled and ran at Ehud.

Ehud ran at Akavish, a sword in each hand and jumped into the air. With one sword Ehud knocked Akavish’s claw aside. The other sword he stabbed into the eye-slit of Akavish’s helmet.

“Argh!!” Akavish screamed in agony as the tip of Ehud’s blade blinded his right eye.

“Now, Boaz. His arm,” Ehud called.

A recovered Boaz together with Ehud grabbed the sides of Akavish’s claw and pulled forcefully. Caleb, fully awake, crawled behind Akavish, and grabbed both his legs. Ehud raised his own leg onto Akavish’s chest for leverage as Akavish struggled against the Israelite warriors, with Ehud’s short sword still stuck in his eye-slit. Finally the metallic arm came off, revealing a pink fleshy stump that ended a few inches below the shoulder.

As Caleb kept Akavish’s legs pinned to the ground, the large Philistine screamed again and clawed the wet air uselessly with his healthy hand. “My arm! My arm!”

“Do not fear, old friend,” Boaz said, turning the heavy metallic device around. “We’re borrowing it for just a moment.”

Boaz slammed the edge of the claw into Akavish’s pinky stump. The force of the impact let loose the five different poisons and acids Akavish had stored in his arm and launched the rest of his stars of death and arrows at point-blank range. Akavish’s shoulder exploded inside his armor leaving a blackened stump of dripping flesh. There was not enough flesh for all the different and now combined poisons Akavish had carried. A wave of black ooze quickly disintegrated Akavish’s chest, appendages and finally his head. A sickly dark vapor wafted up to the thunderous clouds. Nothing remained of Akavish except for an empty armor and his metallic claw. Caleb rolled away from the steaming armor.

“Good.” Ehud kicked the empty armor. “I had no interest in burying this sicko anyway.”

“The fight is not over.” Boaz clasped Caleb’s arm, raising him from the floor and turned back to the gate. Fresh Philistine troops arrived from the eastern wall, amidst the lightning and rain.

From outside the gate, Krafus raised his hand.

“Retreat! Retreat!” the Philistines called. “Akavish is dead! Retreat!”

Just as quickly as they had attacked, they pulled back.

Amitai and the Israelite militiamen pulled further into the city, letting the Philistines depart unchallenged.

“Make sure it’s not a trick,” Boaz told Ehud. “I’m going to Vered.”

Boaz ran and reached Vered, who was very still on the floor. Caleb followed behind him.

“Live, she shall,” Yered said to Boaz.

“What about Raskul?” Boaz asked.

“Dead. Saved her life, he did. Deep within him, good he had.”

“I told you he was likable,” Caleb added.

“I will treasure this act of his, no matter how poorly I thought of him,” said Boaz.

The lightning and thunder stopped. The clouds dissipated quickly on a gentle southern breeze. The sun was a bright red on the western horizon. Joshua awoke from his trance, his robe and white beard soaked. “It is over. They have retreated. That was close.”

“Thank God,” Boaz said.

“Indeed,” Joshua agreed. “Now we need to tend to the wounded and bury our dead. Yered, we are in your and your monkey’s debt once again. You have come to us unbidden in our time of need. First to rescue Boaz, and now to save Bethlehem and all of us. May God grant you all the blessings of your father Job, on you and your descendents.”

“Pfah,” Yered spat. “Blessings, already received, I have. Though, that you acknowledge my father, happy I am. To clear my conscience, I have come. Bless monkey instead.”

“Very well. Monkey, may God ease your pain.” Joshua touched Risto’s arm. “And may He reward your noble actions.”

Risto jumped up and down excitedly on Yered’s shoulder.

“Yes,” Yered agreed with Risto. “Well spoken this youngling is. Risto thanks you and to you and your people wishes well. Our time to depart, it is. Brave warrior, farewell,” Yered bowed to Boaz. “A long and blissful life with your bride may you have. An uncommon woman she is. Treasure her.”

Yered walked to the exit of the city, with Risto on his shoulder, waving his tail merrily in the air. They noted the residents of the city tending the wounded. The healthy soldiers covered the corpses and moved them outside the gates of the city. Two weary soldiers took the body of Raskul, while Vered’s parents returned to tend to the bride asleep on the floor.

At the broken gate of Bethlehem, Yered bowed to an old Philistine walking in, escorted by Amitai and Ehud. The two Israelites and the Philistine in the middle reached Joshua, Caleb and Boaz.

“I am Krafus of Ashkelon,” the old Philistine announced to them. “And I ask for parley. I wish to explain and to apologize, for we did not pursue this battle whimsically. We have been ruled these last years by a tyrant, the metal warrior Akavish. Our people have been in mortal terror of him. His madness, his paranoia, his hatred of the living, his random murders, almost destroyed our city and our people. We tried to depose him, to kill him, but nothing worked. Then we played on his hatred and fear of you Israelites, and you in particular, Boaz, in the hopes that you would do what we could not. If you did not kill him, we would have gained your territory. But our hope was that you would succeed. That is why we retreated as soon as the tyrant was destroyed. We had no wish to fight your lightning and sorcerer’s powers. We thank you. You have done us a great service.”

“You have done us great harm,” Joshua said, “to bring war to our homes. I do not believe that the Philistines are so peaceful or benevolent that you do not harbor further ambitions against us. But I see that you have achieved your prime mission of eliminating your ruler. Admirably crafty. He thought he had his army with him, when they were ever at a distance. Go in peace for now, Krafus. We accept your apology, but not your explanation. We shall ever be wary of you Philistines. Ehud, see Krafus safely out of our walls.”

Krafus bowed to the Israelites and left towards the gate with Ehud.

Boaz hugged Amitai.

“You came just in time,” Boaz said. “I thought this was the end. It was worse than when the Amonites ambushed us at Nurad.”

“I didn’t want to miss your wedding. How is Vered?”

“She will live. She rests.”

“I’ve had enough resting,” Vered said feebly from the floor. “What happened?”

“We won,” Boaz answered. “Akavish is dead and the Philistines have retreated. Raskul, Yered and Risto saved your life. Raskul died. He tried to stop Akavish’s star of death with his own body.”

Pinhas, Elimelech, Boaz’s parents and other friends and relatives returned to the wet and fallen wedding canopy. Pinhas winced with every step, a broken arrow shaft still protruding from his shoulder.

“High Priest,” Vered addressed Pinhas from the ground as her parents helped her sit up. “Would you still marry us? The marriage contract was penned for today and the sun has not yet set.”

Pinhas looked at Joshua and then answered Vered. “Today and this week will be a time of bereavement for many of us. All of us will have relatives and friends that have died today. Do you still wish to proceed, knowing that your week of celebration shall be a week of mourning for everyone else?”

“I share in the sadness and the mourning,” Vered said, standing up unsteadily, supported on either side by her parents. “But I want to show our city that this attack cannot stop us, will not stop us. They dared attack us unprovoked, and by the grace of God we were victorious. I will not compound our grief by denying our joy, our celebration.”

Joshua smiled and nodded at Pinhas.

“I take it neither you, nor Boaz has lost immediate relatives.”

Boaz’s father, Saalmon, spoke. “I have not seen my brother, Ploni. I do not know if he is amongst the living or the dead.”

“I saw him, brother,” Elimelech said. “He was badly injured at the gate, but he lives.”

“I will not hold up the sun for this,” Joshua said, “so I suggest we conduct a brief ceremony. The bride, groom, and their immediate families should have a modest celebration. The rest of us shall help with burying the dead, caring for the sick and comforting the mourners. This was a heavy blow for us, but the spirit of this new couple will soften the blow and put a smile on the face of the mourners. Life does go on!”

 “Boaz, the ring,” Pinhas asked.

Boaz searched the ground and, incredibly, found the ring right where he had dropped it. Joshua, Caleb, Elimelech and Amitai raised the tattered canopy above the couple.

“Boaz, place the ring on the second finger of Vered’s right hand and repeat after me: Hereby you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the law of Moses andIsrael.”

Boaz gave the bloody sword he was still holding to Amitai and then gently slid the ring onto Vered’s extended finger. Though wet and dirty, Vered glowed joyfully.

In a powerful voice, Boaz declared: “Hereby you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel!”

“Betrothed, betrothed, betrothed!” everyone sang.

Boaz took Vered’s hand. “Finally,” he said.

“Yes. Finally. I’m glad you had your sword handy and just as glad you’ve given it to Amitai. Let’s go.”

Vered and Boaz walked hand in hand to their new house.

“May they build a steadfast house inIsrael,” Joshua blessed the departing couple.

“Amen,” everyone answered, as the sun set on the city ofBethlehem.

* * * * * *

Notes:

While there is no recorded battle betweenIsraeland the Philistines during the time of Joshua, there are multiple elements of the story that are drawn from the Prophets:

There were multiple battles (many of whichIsraellost) with the Philistines especially, during the times of the Judges, Saul and David.

We have a couple of instances of a man single-handedly defeating an army, most notably Samson against the Philistines.

Though there is no record of Joshua calling for additional miracles, the Prophet Samuel is recorded as having called for a thunderous lighting storm during a clear summer day.

Naomi (mentioned in last week’s story) and Elimelech do marry.

Ploni and Elimelech were uncles of Boaz.

The Midrash writes of the greatness of Elimelech but blames him for later abandoningBethlehemand his people in their time of need during the famine.

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 29: Prenuptial Warfare

Warrior Prophets Chapter 29

Prenuptial Warfare

Raskul rode his donkey cautiously on the road to Bethlehem. He passed the city of Hebron uneventfully and tried to enjoy the view of the rolling vineyards and olive groves of the Judean Mountains. The cool summer breeze dissipated the heat of the afternoon sun. Nonetheless, he was anxious about the coming encounter. In the distance he could make out the walled city of Bethlehem surrounded by acres and acres of wheat fields.

A rider on a chestnut horse approached Raskul from behind. He was a tall man with a flaming red and white beard and a broad grin.

“Greetings, traveler,” the man called out as he matched Raskul’s pace.

“Greetings, my lord,” Raskul nodded to the princely man.

“My name is Caleb. Who are you?” The man inquired.

“I am Raskul of the Kenites,” he said, adding quickly, “no enemy of the Israelites.”

“Welcome, Raskul. What brings you to the tribe of Judah?”

“A wedding.”

“You’re an acquaintance of Boaz, then?” Caleb asked jovially.

“A f-friend,” Raskul stuttered.

“I’m his uncle and am also traveling to Bethlehem. Let us ride together to the city.”

Neither of them noticed a hunchback figure in a long cloak riding behind them. From the folds of the cloak a hairy tail peeked out.

“Why do we need to be on duty today?” Eran complained to Yashen.

“Someone needs to.” Yashen yawned.

The two of them stood on the eastern tower of the city gate. The gate of Bethlehem was a large stone arch with two swinging heavy oak doors. The gate faced north, towards nearby Jerusalem. They could barely make out the walls of Jerusalem through the summer haze.

“It’s a waste of time, I say,” Eran continued. “We should be down there mingling with all the guests.”

Yashen looked at the stonework city plaza within the gates where a growing number of people gathered. Long tables with freshly baked cakes stood next to the stone homes that surrounded the plaza.

“The whole Nachshon clan makes it look like a meeting of redheads,” Yashen commented. “I’d be interested in a Benjaminite brunette myself.”

“I think Naomi is the prettiest girl in town,” Eran sighed. “But looks like Elimelech has already made his move.” He pointed at the two redheads standing close to each other.

“Good day, men,” a commanding voice called to them from the gate.

Eran and Yashen turned around to see an old man with a long flowing white beard. Next to him was a middle-aged bearded man, with bright eyes. Both rode gray donkeys.

“Our Master, Joshua. High Priest Pinhas. Welcome,” Eran blurted.

“Thank you, young man. What is your name?” Joshua, the old leader ofIsrael, asked.

“Eran son of Haser.”

“Eran,” Joshua instructed. “Though I know you would much rather be down at the celebration, I would advise you to take your duty seriously. We have been blessed with years of peace here, in no small part thanks also to the recent efforts of our groom. Nonetheless, we must remain vigilant.”

“Yes, Joshua,” Eran said. “Though I hear rumors of a new warrior leading the militia together with Amitai.”

“Ehud of Benjamin. I have met him. Cunning and sharp. But I’ve also heard rumors of the Moabites regaining their strength and for some reason I have an ominous feeling today. Keep your eyes open.”

“Yes, sir!” Eran and Yashen responded.

“Good. Carry on.” Joshua commanded and rode off with a smiling Pinhas. 

“Hello, Boaz,” Raskul said nervously.

Boaz turned around from talking with his uncle Ploni.

“Raskul?” Boaz said, surprised.

“Yes, I thought I’d join you on this day of celebration.”

“Why, thank y-. Wait. Someone give me a sword! I vowed to kill you on sight, you backstabbing, traitorous wretch. How dare you come here on this day? Ploni, fetch me a sword.”

“Now, now, now, Boaz.” Raskul raised his hands. “Let’s not be so hasty. I swear, I won’t swear by any of the gods, which I know annoys you so much. You are a forgiving people. A gracious people. Is this how you would treat an old journey-mate?”

“What’s the matter, Boaz? What did he do? He seems like a pleasant enough fellow,” Caleb asked.

“He tried to sell me and Amitai into slavery. He is a snake that should be killed without hesitation. Ploni, what are you waiting for? Run into my father’s house and get me my sword.”

“On your wedding day you will kill a defenseless man?” Ploni asked.

“Perhaps you’re right. Get some rope and let’s bind him and I can kill him tomorrow.”

“One moment, Boaz,” Caleb interceded. “I realize this man has done you great wrong, and had terrible intentions, which in the end did not materialize. He has come to you on your wedding day, knowing your anger towards him, in order to make amends. I think that in the spirit of this day you should forgive him.”

“Fine. Ploni, please bring me my sword in any case. I don’t trust this uncircumcised lout for a moment. His coming is a bad omen. The sword will be a good reminder to keep him from wagging his idolatrous tongue. I will slice it off, Raskul, if you so much as think the wrong way.”

“You are kind as always,” Raskul mock bowed. “Where is your mate Amitai? He was always the better spoken one of you two.”

“Amitai is at the front leading the militia. If it weren’t for criminals like you, he might have been here to celebrate with me.”

“You are too harsh, Boaz. I never actively harmed someone. Perhaps I tried to make some silver off the misfortunes of others, but I never lifted a finger against someone in anger.”

“No, just out of greed. You are incorrigible, Raskul, and I will be happy once you leave.”

“May I stay to see you successfully married?”

“Yes. But one wrong word and you will regret having ventured toBethlehem.”

“Enough, Boaz,” Caleb interjected. “I’ll keep an eye on your friend. I see Joshua and Pinhas have arrived and the guests look ready. Let’s get started.”

Eran and Yashen looked dutifully to the east, across the Jordan River from where the Moabites would logically approach, while keeping half an eye on the northern road from Jerusalem. The eastern front was quiet as the sun started its slow descent to the west. A group of twenty cloaked horsemen trotted leisurely towards the gate. Eran was the first to notice them approaching the gate.

“More friends of Boaz?” Eran pointed out to Yashen.

“Must be. They are heavily armed. Either some militiamen or some former captains of hundreds or thousands. But why are they so covered up in this heat?”

“Something is not right. They are wearing heavy armor under their cloaks. Where is that trumpet. Pass me the trumpet, Yashen.” Eran said urgently. Yashen reached for the trumpet in the corner of the tower and handed it to Eran.

Suddenly, from amongst the riders, a giant of a man, completely covered in armor, with a metal helmet that enveloped his head, galloped at breakneck speed towards the gate. He aimed his right arm at the two watchmen. An arrow shot out of the man’s arm and hit Eran in the shoulder before he could blow the trumpet. The trumpet clattered to the floor as Eran fell, writhing in agony. Yashen reached for the trumpet, but was pierced by an arrow to the abdomen before he could touch the bright metal rolling on the floor. The last thing he saw was an army of thousands approaching Bethlehem from the west with scaling ladders and a large battering ram.

The other horsemen raced after their leader towards the open gate of Bethlehem.

Boaz stood under the wedding canopy that was erected close to the gate of the city. Vered walked around him slowly seven times, smiling shyly. They were both in white. Boaz wore a new long white tunic and Vered was in a flowing dress of white cotton, with gentle white lilies adorning her flaming red hair. Boaz and Vered’s parents stood under the canopy together with Pinhas, who was officiating. The canopy was constructed of a large white shawl supported by four long wooden poles. Joshua and Caleb held the front poles and Elimelech and Ploni held the back ones. A large assembly filled the town square.

“Do you have the ring?” Pinhas asked.

“Elimelech?” Boaz asked his uncle.

“Of course, of course. Here it is.” Elimelech retrieved an unadorned gold ring from his pouch. As he handed the ring to Boaz, they were distracted by the sound of loud galloping. The ring dropped and Boaz bent down to pick it up. An arrow whizzed by where he had been standing and struck an elderly man beyond the canopy. It hit the man in the leg. The man immediately fell to the ground, where he convulsed and then stopped breathing.

“Take cover!” Joshua commanded as he lowered the canopy to cover the wedding party. “We’re under attack!” Several more arrows punctured the canopy. One hit a woman’s arm. In seconds she was on the floor, dead.

“Poison!” Caleb yelled, as he looked at the victims.

They all saw the twenty horsemen approach the gates with a metal giant in the lead.

“Caleb,” Joshua ordered, stepping naturally into the role of command. “The gates. Pinhas. The walls. Elimelech. Ploni. Organize the men. Boaz, with me. The rest of you, into the houses.”

Caleb moved like a blur to the gate. He closed one door before the invaders arrived. As he was closing the second one, he saw the metal giant would make it in. He was surprised to see an older, familiar-looking attacker motion with his hands for the rest of the riders to slow down. The intruder made it past the swinging door. Caleb shut and bolted the gate shut. The metal giant kept galloping towards the wedding party and the fallen canopy. Caleb raced after the rider and launched himself at him, knocking him off the horse. The rider clanged heavily on the plaza stonework, cursing as he stood himself up. Caleb rolled as he fell and was on his feet in a moment facing the invader.

“I’m not interested in you, old man,” the intruder with the metal face said. Only two slits for the eyes and one for the mouth revealed darkness within. “But I’ll kill you just as well.” He pointed his arm at Caleb, turned a dial on it with his left hand and a metal dart shot out. Caleb ducked and the dart struck a young boy who had been running for cover. The boy fell, convulsed, and was still.

Caleb launched himself at the intruder and tackled him to the floor. Caleb struck a series of blows at the metal clad warrior to no effect. The intruder tried hammering at Caleb with his metallic arm, but Caleb was faster.

“Out of my way! It is Boaz I want!” the intruder bellowed.

“Akavish, isn’t it? Caleb breathed heavily as the metallic arm missed him by a hairsbreadth. “And that was Krafus with you.”

“Yes. I am King Akavish of Ashkelon and soon I will rule your people as well.”

Akavish grabbed Caleb with his massive healthy arm and tried to stab him with his metallic claw. Caleb wriggled and punched, avoiding the claw, but unable to escape Akavish’s grasp. Frustrated, Akavish threw Caleb above him into the air and then shot three darts in rapid succession at Caleb’s falling body. Caleb managed to contort his body and avoid all the darts, but as he fell he struck his head on the side of Akavish’s metallic arm, falling to the floor, unconscious.

Pinhas, the High Priest, closed his eyes for a moment as he stood behind the wedding canopy and then quickly levitated. He flew towards the gate tower, as he watched Caleb reach the doors. He saw two dead watchmen at the eastern tower, where he landed. On the western side thousands of Philistine troops ran towards the walls ofBethlehem. Pinhas spotted the tall scaling ladders and the massive, metal-tipped battering ram. Elimelech and Ploni approached the stairs to the eastern tower.

“Elimelech,” Pinhas called down. “Assemble your men at the western wall. The first wave of attackers will be there in moments. Ploni. You will need to get men to reinforce the gate. The Philistines have a gargantuan battering ram and your oak gates will not last long under their onslaught. Go! I’ll see what I can do from the air.”

Pinhas took to the air as the first ladder abutted the wall. Half a dozen men were on the ladder and one reached the top of the wall before Pinhas reached them. Pinhas flew feet first into the Philistine on the rampart and knocked him over the two-story wall. He then grabbed the top of the ladder, and with all the Philistines on it, pushed it backwards. Ladder and soldiers fell on the troops below. Pinhas flew and knocked over ladder after ladder, weaving in and out of a rain of arrows from below, until Elimelech reached the rampart, followed by a few dozen defenders.

“There are thousands!” Elimelech stood gaping at the hordes massing under the walls.

“You’re just in time,” Pinhas landed, exhausted. “I need a rest. Keep the ladders off as long as you can. I see they are massing on the eastern wall. I will hold them off until we can get reinforcements on that side. God be with you.” Pinhas flew to the eastern wall of the city as half a dozen new ladders landed simultaneously on the western wall, followed by a barrage of arrows.

Joshua calmly observed the maelstrom of metal jousting with Caleb. He noted the dead victims of the poisoned arrows and darts. He closed his eyes and sensed the thousands of Philistines crashing against Bethlehem like stormy waves upon the shore.

“Looks like your childhood nemesis has returned with some friends,” Joshua said to Boaz and Vered, all hiding behind the pockmarked wedding canopy.

“Akavish with Philistines? That metal monster is Akavish?” Boaz asked, incredulous.

“He has an amusing way of celebrating your wedding. We need to stop them, but we’re going to need some help. I’m going to pray. Guard me while I focus my attention. Salvation will come from the sky.”

Without further word, Joshua stood up, closed his eyes and turned his head heavenward. Boaz stood up, with sword in hand, watching for any arrows that might threaten Joshua as he concentrated on his communion with God.    

“You know this attacker?” Vered pointed at Akavish struggling with Caleb.

“He has wanted me dead since I was a kid. Last I heard he was king ofAshkelon.”

“Was he upset you didn’t invite him to the wedding? I told you to double-check your list.”

“Not funny, Vered. People are dying because of this madman.”

“Well, I’m sorry, my hero, but if I don’t make light of the situation, I will panic out of sheer terror. What’s Joshua going to do?”

“He said salvation will come from the sky. I don’t see anything. Stopping the sun won’t help us this time.”

“I see clouds forming,” Vered pointed at a dark cloud moving in from the north. “Perhaps he’ll make it dark.”

“No! Caleb has fallen. I must help him. I must hold off Akavish. Watch Joshua, my love.”

“Boaz, wait! How am I supposed to protect him?” Vered called to Boaz. But he had already jumped over the canopy and was speeding towards Akavish. He knocked the tip of Akavish’s claw away from Caleb’s prone body.

“Your timing was always miserable, Akavish,” Boaz stated as he smashed his sword against Akavish’s helmet.

“I think I might have gotten it right this time,” Akavish responded as he swung his claw at Boaz. “Great audience. All your nobles, princes and leaders ripe for the picking. Tell me, can I congratulate you on the wedding or was I too early? Can I kiss the bride?”

“You sick man. You stopped the wedding.” Boaz’s sword clanged off Akavish’s armor. “Are you causing all this bloodshed on a mere vendetta? You’ve dragged your people into this as well?”

“My people are mine to do with as I will. Your wedding was merely a good opportunity to attack.” Akavish kicked Boaz away from him, aimed his arm, and shot a barrage of darts, arrows and stars of death.

Boaz’s sword moved faster than the eye could follow, picking each deadly object out of the air.

“You have become faster,” Akavish said. “But you will not find a way to harm me. It is just a matter of time until you fall.” Akavish shot a second barrage of weaponry at Boaz. They all clattered to the ground, repelled by Boaz’s blade.

The sound of steel against oak resonated throughout the city as the battering of the gates began.

“My people shall be here soon and then it will indeed be a celebration. Where is that bride of yours? I would have you watch her die in agony before I end your miserable life.” Akavish turned away from Boaz and walked calmly towards the downed wedding canopy.

Vered grabbed one of the poles of the canopy and looked around frantically for signs of attack. She kept an eye on the duel between Boaz and Akavish.

“Can I be of assistance?” a leathery voice addressed Vered from behind. “We’ve never been properly introduced. I’m Raskul, an old friend of Boaz.”

“I’ve heard of you,” Vered pointed the pole at the older man, grateful for a manageable threat. “Stay away from me, or I swear I’ll knock you on the head.”

“So violent! A fitting bride for Boaz. And one who swears. A woman after my own heart. But you misunderstand me. I am just here to help. And it looks like you can use help.”

“Boaz said you were a greedy old man, capable of great mischief.”

“He would, and I am.” Raskul edged closer.

“Stay away, Raskul.” Vered backed away, noticing for the first time the long knife at Raskul’s side.

Ploni didn’t mind battle. He had fought in one successful battle after another with Joshua, soundly defeating the kings ofCanaan. But this was different. He had never been in a siege before. Never had to wait for an enemy to breach his last physical defense. This is what it must have felt like to be on the receiving end, he thought.

“Hold the doors!” Ploni called out, as together with a dozen men they held the crumbling oak doors against the Philistine battering.

“They’re breaking!” someone yelled. “The next hit will break through!”

“HOLD!” Ploni yelled, as he pressed his body against the door.

The metal of the battering ram crushed wood and bone as it smashed through the doors ofBethlehem. Ploni and the men around him were thrown from the gate like rag dolls. Ploni lost consciousness as hundreds of Philistines poured into Bethlehem.

Akavish smiled behind his helmet as he heard his troops at his back and aimed his metallic claw at the redheaded girl in the white dress.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 16: Monkey in the Middle

Warrior Prophets Chapter 16

Monkey in the Middle

Pain assaulted Akavish’s awareness from multiple points. His mouth was dry and sticky. In semi-consciousness he tried to open it, but his parched lips would not part. He groaned a deep pain-filled noise, but no sound reached his ears. He was light-headed. He had trouble organizing his thoughts. He remembered Boaz and a duel. He had been about to kill Boaz, once and for all. But something had gone horribly wrong.

Then he remembered. The pain just below his right shoulder reminded him. Boaz had cut off his arm. Tears welled up in his closed eyes. My arm? Akavish thought. Is it possible?

Akavish felt the bed underneath him and the clean sheets over him. He had been cared for. He still felt pain down his arm. How is that possible? Was it reattached somehow? Did I dream of losing it?

Akavish slowly moved his left arm towards the stump that was his right. His fingers drew back suddenly from the place where his arm should have been. Tears fell freely down his face. It is gone! Yet I still feel the pain!

Akavish sat up in his bed and opened his eyes. He saw Krafus sitting in a corner of the small room, staring at him with pained eyes.

“Water,” Akavish managed to croak.

Krafus brought a copper cup to Akavish’s lips and held the cup for him as Akavish fumbled it with his left hand. Akavish drained the cup.

“My arm,” Akavish stated.

“Yes,” Krafus answered, understanding the question. “It is gone.”

“But I can still feel it.”

“Yes, warriors who’ve lost limbs talk of the sensation. They swear they can feel their fingers or move their toes, but it is clearly gone.”

“It doesn’t grow back, does it?”

“Not unless you’re a lizard.”

“What happened with Boaz?”

“Your father stopped him and his friend and sold them to the Timna mine. They won’t last long there.”

“What about Risto? He was also hurt.”

“I’ve not seen your monkey since the fight.”

“I must find him.”

“You must recuperate first. You nearly died. And it will take you time to get used to your new condition.”

“You mean as a cripple?”

“No. Not a cripple. It is true you will be at a great disadvantage, and you can give up on the path of a warrior, but I have known many one-armed men who went on to lead productive lives.”

“I am a fighter and that is what I shall do.” Akavish got out of bed, only to fall back into it.

“What happened?” Akavish groaned.

“You lost much blood. If you try to get up slowly it might be easier.”

“Perhaps I’ll rest a little bit longer.” Akavish covered himself again.

“Not so dumb after all,” Krafus declared as he got up. “I’ll go fetch you some food.”

The boy hunted for green. His singular task in life was to find the green rivulets within the rock. The oil lantern was his only friend in his underground prison. He used a small chisel to cut the innards of the earth. He was careful to examine each crumbly grain of dirt. If he found the green, he was to place it lovingly in the bucket at his side. His masters had warned him not to lose any of the green, any of the precious copper. He had the whip marks to remind him. His back still stung from his recent lashing. His whole body was racked with pain and fatigue. He didn’t remember how long he had been digging. Days, months, years? His whole existence seemed a continuous stream of digging. He would collapse to the ground from exhaustion only to be kicked awake a few hours later. Upon awakening he was given a ladle-full of smelly water and a dried crust of bread and whipping if he didn’t start chiseling again quickly.

He tried to remember. Anything. But his mind was a jumble of thoughts and visions that made no sense. His name? He wasn’t sure. Boaz? Boaz. Yes. That sounds right.

What am I doing here? How did I get here? But he couldn’t think clearly. Not knowing what to do and fearing the whip, Boaz kept chiseling with less and less strength.

Risto slapped his furry little hand against his side. He rode on Yered’s shoulder. The old man had nursed the little monkey’s wound and allowed Risto to travel with him. Yered had even tied a thin branch to the stump on Risto’s right side. It was small comfort for the loss of his arm, but he somehow felt better with the branch on rather than off.

Risto was furious with himself. He had grown fond of Akavish. Too fond. He had been aware of Akavish’s many character faults, but had enjoyed the boy’s company and attention. The partnership had turned deadly in their last encounter with the other prodigy, and now both Risto and Akavish had lost an arm. Risto wanted to have nothing further to do with Akavish and decided to follow the eccentric, yet kind old man under him.

“Laugh at me, Joshua and Caleb will,” Yered grumbled to Risto.

Risto chittered at Yered.

“I know, I know. The only hope for Boaz and the Gibeonite, it is.”

Yered approached the Israelite camp at Gilgal, unarmed, except for a one-armed monkey on his shoulder.

“You saw Risto leave with the old man with the golden teeth?” Akavish asked the tavern-keeper.

“Yes. The old man woke up after your father smashed him against the wall. He tended to your monkey and said something about going to Timna.”

“To Timna? To the copper mines? What’s he looking for there?”

“I presume he wants to find his young friends. Perhaps you should seek some human friends, as opposed to chasing after some jungle animal.”

“That animal is my friend. The only one I have.” Akavish stormed out of the tavern.

“I’m not surprised,” the tavern-keeper said to Akavish’s back.

Boaz had brief moments of clarity. I’m being drugged, he realized. That is why my mind is so numb. I can barely think how to get out of this hole. I must retain clarity, but how? I already feel it slipping away. Boaz continued with his mindless digging.

“The son of Job?” Joshua asked incredulously.

“Hard of hearing, young Joshua?” Yered responded.

“Why should I believe your tale? Boaz is a very capable child. I can’t believe he would get entangled in a bar fight, and even less so, to be sold as a slave to the Egyptian copper mines.”

“Met Larus, you have not, nor into unconsciousness smashed, nor in iron chains taken, nor mind numbed from continuous drugs. Die, child will, if you do nothing.”

“How is it this creature is with you?” Caleb asked. “Last we saw him was atop the shoulder of that deadly little Philistine, who was so intent on killing Boaz.”

“Addled your brains, decades in the desert have. Of little monster, monkey tired. One handed, as well, is he. Much more interesting company, I make. Send troops to Timna to free them, if for boy’s life and his friend, the Gibeonite, you care. Otherwise, to certain, though slow and painful death, you doom them. To accompany you, am willing and ready am I. Suicidal it would be, going on my own. To give up on my inordinately long life, am not prepared yet.”

“Why should we believe you?”

“Chance that I’m right, are you willing to take?”

Krafus insisted on accompanying Akavish. They hired camels in Beer-Sheva for the long trek south to Timna.

Akavish rode unhappily atop the camel’s hump.

“How is one supposed to ride these infernal beasts?” Akavish asked.

“Much like a horse, I suppose. Point them in the right direction and make sure not to fall off.”

“They smell and this heat is suffocating.” Akavish tried to wipe his sweaty brow, with his lone remaining hand, lost balance, and promptly toppled off the camel, to the dusty, hard ground of the Negev desert.

Where is the drug, Boaz thought in his moment of clarity. The bread? What can they place in that dry piece of bark? The water? No, I’ve noticed the masters drinking from it as well. What is it? It must be something in the air. Yes. That must be why they cover their faces when they come in the mine. That is it. If I can raise my shirt up to my nose and take it off when they approach…

Caleb led a dozen of his best soldiers south along the shore of the Salt Sea. Caleb feared strange Yered was telling the truth and time was of the essence.

Krafus and Akavish could see the opening to the great copper mine of Timna. The red mountains were a stark contrast to cloudless blue sky. From the south, they could smell the breeze from the Sea of Reeds.

“Let me handle this,” Krafus told Akavish as a burly Egyptian overseer approached.

“You come for copper?” The Egyptian asked.

“Perhaps,” Krafus answered.

“This one not good for slave,” the Egyptian pointed at Akavish’s missing arm, “so better be to buy copper.”

“We seek information.”

“Copper prices have not changed.”

“We are seeking a man. A very old man. He may have had an unusual animal with him.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about. Wasting my time. Leave.” The Egyptian turned his back and walked back to the mine entrance.

“Is there a young boy here?” Akavish blurted. “An Israelite, red-head, about ten or eleven years old?”

The Egyptian turned around.

“All are young boys here. I don’t care for age, color or nation. Thinking that one-hand can probably also dig.” The Egyptian approached menacingly. Akavish noticed the whip in his hand and the large sword by his side. Half a dozen Egyptian guards, showing interest in the discussion, left the mine entrance and approached Krafus and Akavish.

“Never mind,” Krafus called out and turned his camel away, motioning to Akavish to follow.

“Not buying copper, not selling slaves, asking strange questions. By Ra! Spies or trouble-makers. Deal with each same way.” The Egyptians closed in on Krafus and Akavish.

Arrows suddenly protruded from the chests of each of the Egyptians. The Egyptians had just enough time to register surprise as they dropped to the floor, dead.

“Yered spoke the truth,” an Israelite voice called out. “There is the one-armed Philistine boy.”

Akavish looked up the mountain to see a dozen Israelite soldiers with Caleb, and fresh arrows in bows aimed at him. He was pleased to see his monkey on the old man’s shoulder.

“Risto!” Akavish called out. “Come to me.” Akavish opened his arms.

Risto did not budge off of Yered’s shoulder, but merely glared at Akavish.

“You four,” Caleb pointed at soldiers to his left. “Guard the Philistines. The rest, with me to the mine.”

Before Caleb could reach the mine entrance, they heard a commotion from deep within the mine. Suddenly, an exhausted, blood-drenched Boaz emerged, with a bloody chisel in his hand. Shakra, the Gibeonite, was behind him, together with dozens of children, teenagers and men, bedraggled, bloody and blinking in the strong desert sun.

“Caleb!” Boaz shouted joyously. “What took you so long? I thought I would live out the rest of a mindless existence down there.”

“It looks like you didn’t need us after all.” Caleb grinned.

“Truth, I spoke. Child fortunate.”

Akavish stuck his left hand in his tunic, but Krafus grabbed his arm with a vice-like grip.

“Have you learned nothing, child!” Krafus berated Akavish. “Do you wish to die so badly? You would attempt to kill this child, at which you have failed so miserably, while surrounded by four of his compatriots with arrows pointed at your heart?” Krafus released Akavish’s arm. “Perhaps you deserve to die. You can put your idiotic and misguided existence out of its short and tragic misery.”

Akavish looked back to Risto.

“Risto, please, come back to me.”

Risto jumped off of Yered’s shoulder, grabbed ahold of Yered’s water skin and filled his mouth from it. He then hopped to Akavish. Within arm’s reach, Risto spat a gush of water at Akavish’s face. Surprised, Akavish spluttered as the water dripped to the dry desert floor. Risto turned his back on Akavish and farted loudly. He hopped back to Yered and jumped onto his shoulder.

“That’s incredible!” Shakra exclaimed. “That animal really doesn’t like you.”

“There is nothing more for you here.” Krafus held Akavisk’s arm tenderly. “Let’s go home.”

Akavish looked one last time at Risto, his sole childhood companion and friend. He then turned to look at Boaz, and saw him as if for the first time.

Boaz, sensing a change in Akavish, called out:

“Do you still hate me?”

“Probably. But I hate myself more,” Akavish answered with the heaviness of truth. “Let’s go home,” he turned to Krafus.

Caleb motioned for the Israelite soldiers to let them go. Krafus and Akavish cantered their camels northward without looking back.

Caleb and Boaz hugged.

“When I could think, I thought this was my end.” Boaz cried. “That I would be doomed to this eternal hellish trance. I’m so glad you came.”

“You seem to have escaped on your own.”

“If those guards would have been at their posts and you hadn’t shot them, I’m not sure we would have had the strength to make it.”

“Well, we are safe now. Are you ready?”

“Yes, please. Let’s go home.”

* * * * * *

END PART I of WARRIOR PROPHETS

Warrior Prophets Chapter 12 – Royal Executions

Biblical Fiction

Warrior Prophets Chapter 12

Royal Executions

Let them out,” Joshua commanded the troops surrounding the mountain cave. An enormous circular stone the height of two grown men blocked the cave entrance. Even in the summer sun, Boaz shivered, thinking of the fate of the cave’s residents. He looked towards Shakra the Gibeonite by his side, who looked pale and worn. Boaz was not sure if Shakra was tired from all the killing, or his burden as the youngest Gibeonite chieftain.

A half a dozen Israelite soldiers rolled the massive stone from the entrance. Silence greeted the Israelites.

Kings of Canaan,” Joshua announced. “We know you are in there. Come out and save yourselves the discomfort of a needless struggle.”

You will have to come and fetch us,” a high pitched voice called out. “We shall not willingly walk to our deaths.”

Joshua nodded at Caleb. Caleb motioned to a dozen soldiers to accompany him into the dark cave, with swords drawn and bows on their back. Boaz followed on Caleb’s heels. Shakra did not follow, nor was he asked to.

They are no longer a threat,” Boaz whispered to Caleb. “Why do we hunt them? We’ve completely destroyed their armies.”

Because they are our enemies,” Caleb answered without looking back. “And not just any enemies, but the leaders of our enemies. If we let them live they would assemble a new army to fight us again. We must wipe out the snakes, both the bodies and the heads.”

Boaz closed his eyes as they walked deeper into the darkening cave. He could sense the aura of the Canaanites inside. He immediately detected the aura of the five kings. A broken brown of deep despair colored their souls. A sharp red of anger tinted part of them, though Boaz did not know to whom the anger was directed. Boaz was incredulous to note a rich purple of pride or arrogance in many of them, or was it dignity? He didn’t understand.

He noticed two dozen auras to their left, waiting in ambush.

To the left,” Boaz whispered to Caleb.

Very good. Your senses have become sharp indeed. I’ve only noticed them now.”

Arrows,” Caleb commanded quietly to his troops. “Stay in line with me.” Caleb grabbed the hands of soldiers on either side of him and turned them to directly face their hidden adversaries. Each soldier grabbed his companion and did likewise.

Fire!” Caleb ordered. A dozen arrows flew. Ten bodies fell to the ground.

Fire!” Caleb repeated. A dozen more arrows flew. Six bodies fell to the ground.

Engage!” The Israelite soldiers shouldered their bows, drew their swords and approached the surviving Canaanites in the dark.

Boaz closed his eyes again and saw the vibrant green Israelite auras slaughter the remaining Canaanite ones. The dull brown auras were extinguished one after another. Boaz thought of rats being drowned.

Caleb and his troops turned to the five quietly whimpering voices in the back of the cave. The five kings offered no resistance and let themselves be walked out of the cave. Each king had an Israelite soldier on either side, holding their arms firmly.

Both Israelite soldiers and Canaanite kings blinked in pain at the bright afternoon sun.

Joshua pointed at five of his generals and called out:

Come near. Put your feet upon the necks of these kings.”

The escorting soldiers forced the kings to lay on the ground. Each general placed his foot on the neck of a king.

Fear not, nor be dismayed,” Joshua adjured the generals as he approached them with outstretched sword. I am fearful and dismayed, Boaz thought. They are defenseless. They have surrendered themselves. He noticed Shakra turning his head away.

Be strong and of good courage,” Joshua continued, “for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom you shall fight.”

Joshua methodically beheaded each king, their heads rolling down the gentle incline. The head of Yafiya, king of Lachish, with its long locks, reached Boaz, who stopped the roll with his foot.

Though Boaz had seen many dead in his short military career, he felt his insides churning. Not able to contain himself, he ran aside, hid behind a boulder and started to retch. Boaz sobbed and cried and retched, until his stomach was empty, and then he continued to retch more, while hot tears rolled down his face.

He sensed Caleb approaching him.

What is the matter, Boaz?” Caleb asked gently.

I can’t do this anymore,” Boaz wept.

Do what?”

The killing. At ten years old, I’ve become a little killing machine. Is that my fate? Endless war? I should be playing, learning, not out here executing helpless old men.”

They were not so helpless and they certainly were not innocent.”

I don’t know that.”

Do you doubt our ways? Do you doubt Joshua? Do you doubt that we are doing anything less than the will of God?” Caleb answered forcefully.

I don’t know what to think anymore. But I know that I can’t continue like this. I need to leave.”

Perhaps you were too young to be involved in such bloody conflicts. Go back. Go back to our camp in Gilgal and rejoin your friends. Being in a safer environment should be good for you.”

No.”

No, what?”

I will not go back to Gilgal. I cannot go back to the life of a simple Israelite boy. I will go elsewhere.”

Are you mad?” Caleb asked angrily. “Where else can you go? How will you live?”

I don’t know. Perhaps amongst the Canaanites that we are exterminating. I’m curious about this enemy that we are commanded to kill. Or perhaps I will go to the Philistines. There is no command to kill them, is there? I might find out why that Philistine hates me so, and is intent on killing me.”

You might discover much more than you anticipate. This is a foolish notion. Please get it out of your head and make ready to return to Gilgal.”

Boaz crossed his arms, pouted and did not move.

I will leave this place,” Boaz declared, “and I shall not return to Gilgal, whether you like it or not.”

You will disobey me!? You will turn your back on me? On your training? On your people?”

I can’t stay here and I can’t go back. That is what I know in my heart.”

Caleb brought his hand to his bushy red and white beard and looked for long moments at Boaz. He closed his eyes briefly and then opened them again.

I see that your mind is made up. But you should not mingle with the Canaanites. It is against all our laws. If you must, seek out the Philistines. You may learn a thing or two. They are renown as great metal workers. But do not learn from their foreign ways, for they are idol-worshipers too and if they continue their strange worship in this land, that will make us enemies as well.”

Thank you for understanding,” Boaz said.

I understand your feelings. But I still know you’re making a mistake. You are stubborn though, and you will need to discover this on your own. I just hope the damage will not be too great. Also, you should not go alone, but who to send with you?”

Caleb turned to look towards Joshua and the dead kings. Soldiers had tied the bodies to nearby trees, letting them hang and sway in the mountain breeze. He saw a morose Shakra staring sadly at the dead kings.

Shakra!” Caleb called.

Shakra, surprised, turned, and saw Caleb and Boaz. He walked slowly, with hunched shoulders, towards them.

Yes, Prince Caleb?” Shakra asked unenthusiastically.

I would like to make a request of you.”

I am your servant, and at your command.”

Good. I would like you to accompany Boaz.”

And where is the young master going?”

He is not sure. He is tired of fighting and bloodshed and does not want to return to our camp at Gilgal. He wishes to explore the land and its inhabitants.”

But who will lead my people?” Shakra asked.

Do you still desire to lead Gibeon?” Caleb asked back, through narrowed eyes.

Shakra’s mouth widened at the question. He stood speechless for a moment, then looking down, answered: “No.”

We can send word to your people,” Caleb suggested, “that you are on a mission on our behalf and that you request someone else take on the mantle of leadership.”

Shakra’s face transmitted his emotions. First he frowned in contemplation, then a wide grin lit up his face.

That would be fantastic!”

Do I have a say in any of this?” Boaz interjected. “Who said I wanted or needed a companion?”

I say,” Caleb stomped his foot on the ground. “As God is my witness. I only allow you to leave us if you are escorted. The alternative is for me to drag you in chains back to Gilgal and keep you in chains until you regain your senses. I much prefer to keep my eye on you, but I accept your need to see this enemy you’ve been killing. But do not get too close. You will see that they may breathe and eat and work as we do. That their wishes for their children are to grow up healthy and strong. That they mean no harm to anyone. You will come to think of them as very much like yourself. But you would be wrong. We stand for something else. Something entirely new in Canaan and most likely the world. We are descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God, the one and only God, took us out of Egypt. I was there. I saw the plagues and the splitting of the sea and Moses bringing the Law from the mountain. I heard the voice of God and I shall never forget it. And God abhors these Canaanites. He abhors these people that worship the work of their hands. That worship lifeless husks of clay and metal. That are immersed in gross sensual gratification and care little for the life of the spirit and of truth. Their world is one of falsehood, lies and evil. Go young Boaz, if you must, if you must examine the enemy from up close. But do not be enamored by their ways. Do not be seduced by their pleasures and exotic rituals. Do not be impressed by their powers and their magic, for it is all as nothing compared to the path of our God. I do not wish for you to go. I allow it only reluctantly as I would not yet break your spirit by forbidding you. But by God, you either go with Shakra, who I pray now has the maturity, sense and understanding to keep you from harm, or I will call for the chain-master right now and you will have an uncomfortable journey back to Gilgal.”

Boaz stepped back and stared at Caleb with wide eyes. He had never spoken to him so. So passionately, so forcefully.

I will go with Shakra,” Boaz conceded.

Good,” Caleb nodded. “And I want you to return by Passover, though you are welcome and encouraged to return earlier than that. When the rains stop, you should start your journey back, especially if you’ve reached the coast.”

Both Boaz and Shakra nodded.

Get provisions from the supply-master and then come take your leave from Joshua,” Caleb directed.

Boaz and Shakra ran excitedly to find the supply-master. The squat middle aged supply-master grudgingly gave them each packs with a small tent, pots, fruit and dried meats. He gave them the few copper pieces he had on hand. “Don’t eat anything you haven’t killed or cooked yourself,” he warned their backs.

They found Joshua and Caleb by the entrance to the cave where the kings had been. With the descending sun, the kings’ bodies were cut down from the tree and thrown into the cave. Israelite soldiers piled large boulders in front of the entrance until the cave was impenetrable.

I understand you are leaving us,” Joshua addressed Boaz.

Yes, sir,” Boaz replied.

I will sorely miss your special insights and your growing skills, but Caleb thinks it may be for the best.”

I am tired of this war,” Boaz answered.

It is necessary, but one so young should not have to be exposed to it. Just make sure to come back. And remember your lessons. Not just your training with Caleb, but the commands of our teacher, Moses.”

I will.”

And you, Shakra,” Joshua turned to the Gibeonite. “Guard our Boaz well and do not revert to your old ways. We take your forsaking idol-worship as permanent and steadfast. Do not expose yourselves to unnecessary risk or danger. Forty years ago, Caleb and I spied this land and learned much of great use. You are to learn and to avoid trouble. I have heard of new Phoenician weapons and iron chariots. I would learn more, their strengths and weaknesses. But remember God, our God. Do not forget Him and do not forsake Him and He shall guard you and return you safely. Godspeed.”

Boaz and Shakra both bowed to Joshua. Boaz ran to Caleb and embraced him.

Thank you, Caleb,” Boaz muttered, holding back tears.

Keep your wits about you and come back soon.”

I will.”

Boaz let go of Caleb, turned around and together with Shakra, walked westward, towards the coast and the Philistines.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source: Joshua Chapter 10

15 And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal. 16 And these five kings fled, and hid themselves in the cave at Makkedah. 17 And it was told Joshua, saying: ‘The five kings are found, hidden in the cave at Makkedah.’ 18 And Joshua said: ‘Roll great stones unto the mouth of the cave, and set men by it to keep them; 19 but stay not ye; pursue after your enemies, and smite the hindmost of them; suffer them not to enter into their cities; for the Lord your God hath delivered them into your hand.’ 20 And it came to pass, when Joshua and the children of Israel had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they were consumed, and the remnant which remained of them had entered into the fortified cities, 21 that all the people returned to the camp to Joshua at Makkedah in peace; none whetted his tongue against any of the children of Israel. 22 Then said Joshua: ‘Open the mouth of the cave, and bring forth those five kings unto me out of the cave.’ 23 And they did so, and brought forth those five kings unto him out of the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon. 24 And it came to pass, when they brought forth those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the chiefs of the men of war that went with him: ‘Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings.’ And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. 25 And Joshua said unto them: ‘Fear not, nor be dismayed; be strong and of good courage; for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.’ 26 And afterward Joshua smote them, and put them to death, and hanged them on five trees; and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. 27 And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had hidden themselves, and laid great stones on the mouth of the cave, unto this very day.

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 11: The Battle of Gibeon, Part 2

Biblical Fiction 

Warrior Prophets Chapter 11

The Battle of Gibeon, Part 2

I’m going to die, was Boaz’s first thought, as he saw the metal stars twirl rapidly at him. His body moved of its own accord. Time slowed to a crawl. He could see the stars approaching his head and neck. He could see the wiry young Philistine flicking star after star at him from atop the rampart of Gibeon. Six stars now intended his death. That furry animal still clutched the boy’s shoulder gleefully. Impossibly, Caleb intercepted four of the stars with his sword. One passed Boaz harmlessly. In his slow motion world, Boaz had the presence of mind to catch one of the stars in his sling. With the star’s own momentum, Boaz slung the weapon back at its thrower. The Philistine boy ducked quickly, but not before the star hit the animal on the shoulder.

“Well done!” Shakra, the young Gibeonite leader, complemented Boaz.

“Shakra, quick. Lift me up. I need to stop the Philistine. We may not be so lucky next time.”

Shakra, understanding Boaz’s intent, threw the light ten-year old Boaz over the heads of the Canaanite troops. Boaz started running on the top of the heads and shoulders of the Canaanite army as he neared the Philistine. The Philistine flung another barrage of deadly stars at Boaz. Boaz’s body once again took over. Boaz followed his Instincts and blessed his ancestor Judah for passing on such a life-saving trait to him. He twirled and somersaulted midair. The stars passed him by, embedding themselves in the backs of the Canaanites below him. More purposely, Boaz caught a star mid-air and slung it back with violent speed at the Philistine’s throwing hand.

Boaz, pleased to see the star hit his adversary’s hand, saw him cry out in pain and run. Boaz reached the rampart, intending to pursue the Philistine. A large Canaanite commander intercepted Boaz and thrust a long sword at Boaz. Boaz pulled out a short sword from his side and parried the Canaanite sword.

“You are the wonder boy?” the Canaanite asked, smashing his sword on to Boaz’s short weapon. “You have chosen your opponent poorly. I am Margun, commander of all the troops of Lachish.”

“I did not choose my opponents and I do not care who you are,” Boaz replied as he rolled under the blow and stabbed Margun under his guard. Caleb reached Boaz at the rampart, clearing the swordsmen and archers with long swipes of his sword.

“Warn me next time you attempt something so foolhardy,” Caleb saluted Boaz.

“There was no time. I was following the Instincts you’ve been telling me to listen to,” Boaz answered.

“Remind me to teach you the trait of Diligence of Yissachar. Your Instinct does not make you invulnerable.”

Caleb and Boaz watched as Canaanites at the gate of Gibeon fell to the Israelite onslaught. Gibeonites who had retreated rejoined the fray. Joshua and Shakra joined Caleb and Boaz on the rampart over the gate. Shakra noticed Gibeonites fighting Israelites. The Israelites killed every Gibeonite that attacked them. But no Israelite fell, whether by Gibeonite or Canaanite sword.

“You are killing my people, too!” Shakra shouted at Joshua.

“That’s terrible!” Joshua stated. “But there are three armies here. How do we tell foe from allies who’ve never met?” Joshua asked.

Boaz held the fringes on the side of his garment and showed them to Shakra. Seven long white strings with one deep blue one rested in Boaz’s hand. He had fringes on each corner of his garment.

“Shakra, tell your people that the Israelites are all wearing fringes,” Boaz urged. “And tell your people to rip the idols off their necks. That way our armies can recognize each other.”

Shakra nodded, took Boaz’s fringed garment off of him, and stood on the top of the rampart.

“Gibeonites! The Israelites are the soldiers with the fringes on their garments!” He waved Boaz’s garment in the air, the fringes flying as a flag for all the Gibeonites to see. “Take your idols off your necks! Otherwise, the Israelites will kill you! Pass it on!”

Gibeonites viciously removed the telltale idols from around their necks. Israelite soldiers examined their combatants’ necks, while the Gibeonites focused their gaze upon their opponents’ waists. The Canaanites looked at both waists and necks, wondering in morbid fascination the nationality of who was killing them.

The Canaanites remaining within the walls of Gibeon were quickly dispatched by the joint Israelite/Gibeonite attack. The Israelite army outside the walls engaged the bulk of the Canaanite troops surrounding the city. The Canaanites fled from the unrelenting Israelite onslaught. They fell, as before a wild bull in a vegetable patch, leaving discarded husks of fringeless bodies with their cold idols still adorning their necks.

The Canaanite troops of the five kings retreated from Gibeon.

“Chase them!” Joshua ordered from the ramparts of the city. “We must destroy their armies today. Do not let them leave unhindered.”

Joshua, Caleb, Boaz and Shakra descended from the ramparts.

Shakra, finding one of the Gibeonite commanders, called him.

“Lurus, order our troops to secure the city. There may be some Canaanites hiding about. And tend to the wounded. It looks like the Israelites can handle the Canaanites without us.” Shakra looked meaningfully at Joshua.

“Yes,” Joshua agreed. “Our Lord is with us and you shall see how He deals with those who cross us. You are welcome to come along Shakra, to see for yourself.”

Shakra gulped and nodded. Together, they joined the Israelite army in pursuit of the Canaanites.

The Israelites hammered and hacked at the Canaanite rearguard all the way up the mountain pass eastward to the village of Beit Horon. At Beit Horon, the Canaanite commanders attempted to hold the Israelites, but to no avail. The Israelites cut through their defenses as the scythe cuts through wheat.

The Canaanites retreated southeast, down from Beit Horon towards the fortress city Azekah. The downhill terrain allowed the fleeing Canaanites to put some distance between themselves and the Israelites. Suddenly, the clear afternoon sky darkened. Thick clouds formed over the moving Canaanites, following their retreat. With a blast of thunder, hailstones fell on the Canaanites. Hailstones the size of human skulls rained down on them. The stones killed or maimed every Canaanite they hit. The Canaanites halted under the fatal barrage. The Israelites kept their distance, allowing the divine downpour to do its dirty work. Shakra looked aghast at the carnage. Canaanites fell in waves. Hundreds and thousands of Canaanites crumpled to the ground, more than the Israelites had killed by the sword. They lay as freshly slaughtered quail, littering the mountain with their corpses.

Just as suddenly as the hail had started, it stopped. The dark cloud disappeared, revealing the setting sun and the remains of the Canaanite troops continuing towards the sanctuary of Azekah. Boaz could see the sun glinting on the walls of Gibeon and the summer moon starting to rise from the valley of Ayalon.

The Israelites closed in again on the retreating Canaanites with Joshua, Caleb, Boaz and Shakra in the lead, together with the other Israelite generals and princes. The Canaanites, noting Joshua at the front, redoubled their attack. Archers shot their arrows at the leader of Israel, only to watch him deflect them with his sword.

“If we don’t finish them soon,” Boaz remarked to Joshua, “we will be forced to stop, or fight them in the dark in their territory.”

“The child is right,” Joshua agreed. “We have never been in these areas and we must destroy their troops while we retain the advantage.”

Joshua climbed onto a nearby ridge.

“Caleb, protect me,” Joshua requested. “I need to concentrate.”

Joshua faced the Canaanites, closed his eyes tightly and raised his arms heavenward.

A volley of arrows sped towards the unmoving Joshua. Caleb slashed through the arrows, stopping them mid-flight.

“Sun!” Joshua commanded in a booming voice, heard throughout the mountain and beyond. Joshua’s voice seemed to echo of the very sky. “Stand thou still over Gibeon. And thou, Moon! In the valley of Ayalon.”

The response was utter silence. The entire world seemed to stand still at the sight of a mortal commanding the heavens. Boaz was not certain, but thought he heard a deep rumbling or groaning sound, as if the movement of some giant mass was being held in check.

Israelites and Canaanites both looked from the moon to the sun. Over the course of long moments they did not notice any movement of the celestial bodies. All looked in awe at Joshua standing on the ridge until he commanded: “Attack!”

The sun and moon did not move from their places in the sky for the length of an entire day. It was sufficient for the Israelites to annihilate the remains of the Canaanite armies of the five kings. Very few Canaanite soldiers ever made it to the town of Azekah.

Far behind the Israelite troops, a lone thin figure hugged a tree. He whimpered at the raw display of power. Akavish, the young Philistine, still clutched his wounded right hand. Risto, with a makeshift bandage on his furry little arm, sat on Akavish’s shoulder dejectedly. I must go back to my people, Akavish concluded. I cannot fight them alone.

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Biblical Source: Joshua Chapter 10

8 And the Lord said unto Joshua: ‘Fear them not; for I have delivered them into thy hand; there shall not a man of them stand against thee.’ 9 Joshua therefore came upon them suddenly; for he went up from Gilgal all the night. 10 And the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon; and they chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah. 11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died; they were more who died with the hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword. 12 Then spoke Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel: ‘Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ayalon.’ 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Yashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. 14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.

Warrior Prophets Chapter 10 The Battle of Gibeon, Part I

Biblical Fiction

Warrior Prophets: Chapter 10

The Battle of Gibeon, Part I

With the rising of the sun, the gate caved in with thunderous splintering of the solid oak wood. The battering ram smashed through the wood, ripping the heavy copper hinges off the sides of the gate. Akavish was gleeful at the opportunity to retrieve all the stars of death that lay implanted in the warm corpses of the defenders of Gibeon. As the army of the five kings rushed into the city with raised swords and engaged the Gibeonite soldiers, Akavish, with Risto on his shoulder, hopped from body to body, evading the raging battle around him and extracted his metal stars from immobile heads or necks. I have become too dependent on these stars, Akavish thought. Once I run out of them, I have lost my long-range advantage. I need another weapon.

A Gibeonite attacked Akavish. Risto jumped off Akavish’s shoulder and scratched at the soldier’s eyes. Akavish ran him through casually with his short sword and continued gathering his precious stars. Risto rejoined Akavish’s shoulder.

“The Israelites are here!” someone yelled. Akavish was not sure if it was a defender or attacker. He looked past the city gates and saw Lachish’s troops ambushing the Israelites on either side. The Israelites had been expected, though perhaps not so early in the morning.

I hope Boaz is here, Akavish thought. I want him for myself. Akavish exited the city and trotted towards the site of the ambush two hundred paces away. Before he could take a few steps, the ambushing army of Lachish turned and began to retreat. The retreat quickly became a rout, as the troops ran into Gibeon through the gates the other troops had secured. Akavish fell back into the city.

“What is going on?” Akavish asked a Lachishan soldier.

“The Israelites fight like devils! They must have known about the ambush. Three hundred of our men fell during the ambush and not one Israelite. Not one! Find a safe boulder and crawl under it.” The soldier ran off without looking back.

“Hold the gate!” Akavish recognised Margun’s voice. The Lachish commander rallied his troops. “We outnumber them five to one!” Margun yelled.

Ironic that they are now defending the gate they just broke down, Akavish frowned.

Akavish climbed the ramparts over the gate to seek Boaz. The troops of the five kings that had breached the city turned from the Gibeonite defenders to prepare for the Israelite onslaught. The Gibeonite defenders disengaged and ran deeper into the city. They will regroup, Akavish concluded.

He looked outside the walls of Gibeon. Surrounding the city were mostly the troops of the five kings, including a high concentration of Lachishan’s at the gate. The five kings had raised an army of close to a hundred thousand soldiers. The Israelites, perhaps twenty thousand strong, had formed an impregnable wedge. The tip of the wedge methodically cut through the troops defending the gate. Canaanite troops attacked both flanks of the Israelite wedge, only to be shot or sliced as they approached. Mounds of bodies slowly grew as the Israelite wedge inexorably penetrated the defense at the gate.

Margun joined Akavish on the ramparts with a dozen archers.

“Quick!” Margun commanded. “Kill their front! Stop them!”

The archers loosed their arrows on the front of the Israelite wedge. A flurry of swords and sticks knocked the arrows aside. Not one Israelite fell.

Akavish saw a large man with a flaming red and white beard at the tip of the wedge. He swung his sword at a speed Akavish had never witnessed before. After each swing another Canaanite attacker fell. That must be the legendary Caleb, Akavish realized. To his side was a young, tall, dark Gibeonite, wielding a sword competently. That is the Gibeonite leader who concocted the original deception, Shakra. Akavish’s heart skipped a beat when he beheld the young boy behind Caleb. Boaz. That can only be Boaz. He is so small! He can’t be more than eleven years old. Boaz was whirling a sling and downing Canaanites left and right. He seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of stones.

This is it! This is my chance to make history, Akavish thought as he swiftly threw three stars at the approaching Boaz. Caleb’s sword flashed and intercepted all three. The stars bounced off the sword loudly, with sparks lighting the air. The three stars pierced three Canaanite soldiers in front of Caleb.

Incredulous, Akavish threw six additional stars as rapidly as he could. Caleb blocked four of them, with the resultant sparks. Two got passed his guard. Boaz moved with supernatural speed. One star passed him harmlessly, embedding itself in the ground. The last star, Boaz caught in his sling, and with the momentum of Akavish’s own throw, hurled it back towards Akavish.

Akavish ducked, but not before the star hit Risto’s arm. Risto yelled in pain. Furious, Akavish grabbed a dozen stars. He was startled to see Boaz running towards him, leaping on the heads and shoulders of the Canaanite soldiers between them. Akavish threw a continuous stream of his deadly stars at Boaz. Boaz twirled and somersaulted in the air, not a single star touching him. Finally, Boaz caught another star in his sling and launched it at Akavish. The star hit Akavish’s right hand, deadening it immediately. Akavish howled in pain as Boaz got closer. I never knew these stars were so painful, Akavish held back tears. My hand is useless now. We’ve got to escape.

Akavish climbed down from the rampart into the city and ran as far away from the gate as possible. He looked back to see Boaz on the rampart stab Margun with a short sword. The five kings are doomed, Akavish realized. None will survive.

Akavish prodded the metal star out of his hand and licked the oozing blood from his wound. I will live to fight another day.

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Biblical Source: Joshua Chapter 10

7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. 8 And the Lord said unto Joshua: ‘Fear them not; for I have delivered them into thy hand; there shall not a man of them stand against thee.’ 9 Joshua therefore came upon them suddenly; for he went up from Gilgal all the night. 10 And the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon; and they chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.