Category Archives: Eglon

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 29 – Lion of Judah

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 29

Lion of Judah

Ruth completed her third circle around Boaz. She found herself out of breath and disoriented as her vision fluctuated between the battle around her wedding ceremony and her presence in the future, as her descendant David faced the Philistine giant, Goliath son of Orpa.

The first group of Philistine mercenaries that Alron the Danite had brought into Bethlehem lay dead or unconscious on the floor of the alcove where Boaz and Ruth had meant to marry. Four elders held the poles of the wedding canopy over the couple. Ehud, Ploni, Garto and the rest of the residents of Bethlehem fought a pitched battle against the new infusion of Philistine mercenaries in front of the city gate. Judean pitchforks, axes and walking sticks were wielded against the iron swords of professional soldiers.

It seemed that the more numerous Judeans would stem the tide pouring through the city gate, until a flurry of arrows killed half a dozen defenders.

Ehud identified the man-child Beor as the deadly archer standing next to the sorcerer Sumahtrid. Ehud grabbed a spear from a dead Philistine and threw it with all his might at Beor. The archer moved his body, but not before the blacksmith’s spear clove his bow in half.

“You’ll have to get your hands dirty now, Beor,” Sumahtrid instructed his disciple. “I know how much you love it.”

Beor drew his sword and approached the thick of battle as Sumahtrid continued weaving spells with his hands and voice.

*

David stood frozen for a moment as Goliath’s footsteps shook the earth. David felt the tremors of the wounded land through the soft soles of his leather sandals. He held his staff in one hand and his sling in the other and feared that even his vaunted faith would not be enough to sustain him against the unnatural menace barreling towards him.

“Now,” Boaz yelled to the ghost of his bride-to-be. “He needs us now.” Both he and Ruth floated to David and each took hold of one of his shoulders.

David felt the strength of their spirits pour into him. He stood tall and did not flinch as the giant suddenly halted his march.

Goliath looked at David in shock, not believing his size, age, or lack of armor or weaponry.

“Am I a dog,” Goliath barked harshly at David, “that you come to me with a stick, boy? This is the hero the Israelites send to fight me? By all the gods, I have never been so offended. I swear to you by the old gods and the new gods, by Zeus and Hera, by Baal and Ashtarte, come to me boy, and I will feed your carcass to the vultures and your rotting corpse to the jackals.”

David took a step back from Goliath’s threat. Ruth and Boaz held David’s shoulders firmly, and soon found other hands joining them.

Moses, with his flowing white beard stood right behind David and whispered.

“I smote a giant much larger than this one.”

Abraham stood next to Moses and whispered, “Do not fear, my son. You must kill him to set the course.”

Samuel the Prophet joined their hands and said, “It is for this that I anointed you. You are the chosen of God. You can defeat this heathen.”

More and more hands rested on David’s shoulders; the ancestors, warriors and prophets of countless generations. They whispered to him. They encouraged him. They gave him of their essence. David felt their spirit. He felt their strength flowing into his soul, into his blood. He felt his muscles burn with power.

“You are our child,” Ruth said above the chorus of the generations. “We are with you. You are a Lion of Judah. This is your destiny. Show this monster, show these heathens, how a son of the living God, how a prince of Israel, has no fear.”

David took a step forward and looked at Goliath in the eye. He felt a kinship in the eyes, a certain ferocity – but nothing else.

“You come to me with a sword, a spear and a javelin,” David called out in a voice that bounced off the mountains on either side. The Philistine and Israelite armies hushed to hear David’s words. “But I, I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted this day. And it is He that will deliver you into my hand. I will kill you. I will cut your head off and I will give the carcasses of your Philistines to the vultures of the sky and to the jackals of the field, that all will know that there is a God in Israel.”

A cheer arose from the army of Israel as the Philistines looked on in confusion and the beginning of fear.

“And all will know,” David continued in a louder voice over the cheering Israelites, “that God doesn’t save with the sword or the spear, for battle is God’s domain and he will give you into our hands.”

“Enough! Enough, you filthy little dog.” Goliath raised his spear. The spear was as thick as a tree with an iron point the size of a man’s head. “I have never heard such a loud blabbering Israelite before. Enough!”

Goliath threw his spear with blinding speed, but David had already moved and was no longer where he had stood when the spear penetrated the earth as if suddenly giving birth to a new tree. Goliath raised his sword and with a piercing battle-cry slashed at David. David ducked under the heavy sword and rolled to his feet. He grabbed a stone from his satchel and placed it into the mouth of his sling. Goliath slashed at the running David. David somersaulted into the air, flipping over the flashing sword and landing on his feet.

“Stay still you little monkey!” Goliath spat and slashed again at the place where David had been. “Fight like a man! I didn’t come here to hunt rabbits!”

David spun his sling. Goliath paused and laughed. He sheathed his sword and drew his javelin from behind his back.

“You think your little pebbles will hurt me? I’m indestructible!”

David continued spinning until he felt the speed was right. Goliath launched the javelin at David. David jumped out of the way of the javelin, the force of the wind almost knocking him over. He kept hold of the sling and continued his relentless spinning.

God! Let my aim be true! David prayed. He felt the presence of Ehud again, guiding his hand. “I told you I would be with you,” Ehud whispered. “A Wolf of Benjamin assists the Lion of Judah.”

The stone left the sling with a rush of sound. The armies of two nations watched as the small stone, no larger than a man’s fist, flew towards the giant’s head. Goliath’s eyes lost focus as they tried to follow the speeding path of the riverstone.

Then it struck. It struck right beneath the gleaming bronze helmet, upon the bridge of the nose between the giant’s eyes. The helmet with the bright red plume flew off the giant’s head as he reeled backwards. The stone embedded itself deep into his thick skin. The towering giant took a step back from the force of the blow.

And then the impossible happened. The giant stopped breathing. A universal gasp echoed from both sides of the valley. The Philistines on one mountain and the Israelites on the opposing mountain held their collective breaths as Goliath ceased to live. They knew it when his eyes rolled backwards. They had seen it in countless enemies, but never in a being so large. His life was snuffed out. It was as if a towering cedar, one of the famed majestic trees from the forests of Lebanon, had been felled. Goliath wobbled for a moment, his legs no longer wielding the power to sustain him. He fell to his knees. His arms went slack at his sides and his massive body fell forward.

The entire world moved in slow motion and only had eyes for the falling giant. It was as if the rules of nature had been overturned. A small, young, unarmed boy had killed the mightiest; the most invincible warrior the world had ever created. The tiniest details of Goliath came into sharp focus. His burnished breastplate displayed the fortress by the sea with the characteristic gate of Ashkelon, the city of his birth. The greaves on his legs with the engraved soldiers were smiling with glee in the burning sun.

There must have been sound when the enormous body hit the ground, but nobody heard it. The shock was so overwhelming, the deed so impossible, that the visual senses were overloaded and did not allow any other sense to function. It was impossible. The large body bounced, his face splattering into the muddy riverbank, and then he moved no more.

*

Ruth finished the sixth circle, panting and sweating profusely. She could barely focus on the scene in Bethlehem. Boaz remained in a light trance, not able or willing to break Ruth’s circles, yet frustrated that he could do nothing to fight their immediate danger. They were surrounded by an army. The four elders holding up the wedding canopy were using their staffs to fend off the Philistine mercenaries that got through the guard of the Bethlehemites that had made a circle around Boaz and Ruth. There were perhaps two dozen Bethlehemites standing against a force of three dozen professional soldiers. Ehud was in single sword combat with the dexterous Beor, neither of them gaining an advantage. Ploni stayed close to Ruth, watching for any Philistines that made it past the guard of the four elders.

Then Ploni saw it from the corner of his eye; an arrow flashing through the thick air towards Ruth’s heart. Instinctively he jumped in its way as Ruth continued her dream walk. The arrow punctured Ploni’s lung and he knew he would not last long as he collapsed outside Ruth’s path.

Alron, standing on the parapet, reloaded another arrow to shoot at Ruth. He pulled on the bow and aimed at the Moabite princess, until a sword erupted from his belly, sending the arrow awry.

“You dirty traitor,” Garto exhaled as he pulled the sword out of Alron’s body, kicking him over the parapet. “You deserve much worse than that for bringing enemies into our city.”

Garto spotted the sorcerer Sumatrid on a further parapet and ran towards him.

*

Ehud cried for every Israelite that died defending Boaz and Ruth. He wept openly when Ploni fell. He could have saved them, but the sorcery was stopping him. He didn’t understand it. It hadn’t incapacitated him. It had just taken away his extra edge, his extra speed, strength and stamina that had always accompanied him in battle. Now he was just an old blacksmith, an experienced warrior, fighting a fresher, younger assassin.

He saw Sumahtrid in the distance waving his hands in strange patterns, but he could not reach him. If he disengaged from Beor, the assassin would kill Boaz and Ruth in short order.

Then he saw Garto running towards Sumahtrid and prayed that the unskilled overseer would be a match for the sorcerer.

*

Sumahtrid had mixed feelings about the death of Alron. On one hand, he would no longer have to pay him the exorbitant fees he had demanded, but on the other hand, the Danite had almost accomplished the task of killing the princess. He would just need to redouble his efforts. He didn’t understand why Boaz, the ancient warrior, remained frozen in his wedding ceremony, but that left Ehud as the only threat, and he needed to weaken Ehud until Beor could overcome the old blacksmith.

He saw the overseer running towards him with the sword. Perhaps it was time to change tactics. Sumahtrid whistled shrilly. All stopped and looked at Sumahtrid for a moment.

“To me, my pet!” Sumahtrid called to Beor.

Beor immediately backed away from Ehud and ran back to Sumahtrid.

Sumahtrid gestured at Garto who continued running towards him. A stone that Garto stepped on dislodged from the floor, sending Garto flying over the parapet, landing onto a pile of corpses below. The stone continued flying and knocked into an Israelite defender, sending him crumbling to the floor.

Sumahtrid sent another stone flying towards Ruth. Ehud sheathed his sword in his scabbard, jumped to intercept the flying stone and redirected it at a Philistine soldier.

“Guard me from any attackers,” Sumahtrid instructed Beor as he met him on the parapet. “I will let the stones of the ancestors kill the progeny. There will only be so many stones the blacksmith can catch.”

Sumahtrid lobbed stones at a more rapid pace. Ehud struggled to catch each one and divert them. Some started to get through and hit other Israelites. One stone hit an elder holding the wedding canopy, throwing him against the wall of the alcove. Another elder grabbed the canopy pole before it fell, his staff in his other hand, wary of another stone and the Philistines, who had backed away from the magical stone attack.

Within minutes, Ehud was bruised and bloodied by the attack of the flying stones. One of his arms hung limply at his side. All of the Israelites were dead, unconscious or dispersed, except for four wounded elders holding up the canopy around Boaz and Ruth.

“Now to finish the job,” Sumahtrid purred, rubbing his hands for a final assault.

*

David looked in awe at the fallen Goliath.

There was a roar of victory from the Israelite army and a roar of anger from the Philistines. Even without Goliath, the Philistines outnumbered and outmatched the Israelites. The Philistines would have to engage the Israelites, but it would be a massacre nonetheless.

The remaining Philistine generals ordered their army to form into lines. They would attack the Israelites.

“No!” Ruth’s specter said. “We must press the advantage. David, my child, you are not done yet.” Ruth thought of her role, she thought of her purpose, she wondered what she contributed that the other mighty ancestors didn’t. Why did God need her in the supreme mix of souls? And then she knew it. She knew what the blood of Eglon carried. She knew what a descendant of Lot could do. She knew what the Israelites were lacking and she knew why she was chosen. She knew why it was her and no one else from Moab. She was the kind one from Moab, in a time when Israel desperately needed kindness. It was compassion, it was humility, it was faith, but there was something underlying all these traits.

For a moment she had a vision of a memory she had not thought of since her childhood. It had been in the Judean desert, when her father, Emperor Eglon, controlled the land of Canaan. On one of the many days that she would sneak out of the City of Palms and explore the land, she climbed the stark rocky hills that hid the lush wadis. In one of the wadis she spotted a lioness. The lioness was wounded and trapped by a sudden rockfall. One leg lay broken under a pile of stones. A pack of hyenas, smelling blood, exited their lair. They approached the wounded lioness, only to cower back at her angry roar. The hyenas circled around the trapped lioness and headed towards her den, where her newborn cubs lay.

The trapped lioness roared again and with supreme effort extricated herself from the rocks. With three healthy legs she pounced on half a dozen hyenas. The hyenas counterattacked and nipped at the lioness’ broken leg. The lioness roared in pain, but never gave up. She roared and attacked as the hyenas jumped onto her, biting into her back, her neck, her healthy legs. With the fury only a mother can show for her young, the lioness slashed and bit at the hyenas. She finally killed one, biting through its neck and battering the other hyenas with the body of their dead brother. The other hyenas scattered, whimpering, and never approached the lioness’ den again.

Young Ruth, from her safe haven above the wadi, cried as she witnessed the power and fury of the lioness. She had never been the same again.

Ruth of Moab awoke from her daydream, and still in her spirit state looked at the body of Goliath with his face in the mud. Her specter grabbed hold of David and she felt Boaz by her side, and Ehud, and Abraham, Moses, Nachshon, Joshua, Samson, Samuel and many more. She felt the spirits of generations channeling through her into the body of the young redhead. And she knew what she contributed, what was uniquely hers and what was needed now. Ferocity. She had the capacity for ferocity that was unrivaled. She now poured all of her ferocity into David.

David gritted his teeth and ran as if his body were on fire. David ran to Goliath’s corpse and removed his gigantic sword from its sheath. With supernatural strength he raised the iron sword and brought it crashing down over Goliath’s neck. The sword clove straight through the tough skin, separating the head from the body. David raised Goliath’s head by the hair, faced the combined troops of the Philistines and roared.

It was a roar that was heard from one end of the valley to the other. It rebounded off of the hills and into the sky. The clouds shook from the power of the roar. It was a roar that contained the voices of all the ancestors of David, of Judah, of Israel. Those that stood in the Valley of Ella that day swore that they saw a gigantic vision of a lion standing over David.

“Lion of Judah!” an Israelite warrior cried.

“Lion of Judah!” his fellow warriors repeated.

“LION OF JUDAH!!” the entire Israelite army screamed.

As one man, the Israelites raised their swords and ran towards the Philistines. No orders, no plan, no strategy. A sea of bodies and swords flowed down the mountain and filled the valley. It was as if a gigantic anthill had been kicked and now a ferocious assault was unleashed. The Israelites ran at the astonished Philistines fearlessly. David dropped Goliath’s head, yet retained the massive sword. He ran to the head of the oncoming Israelite army and was the first to engage the awestruck Philistines. With one swipe of Goliath’s sword David killed six Philistines.

“Lion of Judah!” the Israelites repeated and dove into the ranks of the retreating Philistines. That day thousands of Philistines were killed. Not one Israelite fell. David and the Israelite army pursued the Philistines all the way back to their cities of Gath and Ekron. David did not stop until the Israelites tired of massacring the fearful Philistines. Vultures of the sky and jackals of the field feasted on the Philistine bodies. That day David became a legend for all time. That was the day the tribes of Israel got their first glimpse of their future king, the one that would unite the tribes and establish the eternal monarchy of Israel.

*

Ruth finished her seventh circle as a stone block flew towards her head. Ehud lay gasping in pain on the floor. A large stone had broken three of his ribs. At that exact moment, generations into the future, a young redhead roared a roar that shook the earth. That roar escaped the lips of Ruth. It came out of the mouth of Boaz whose eyes opened widely. It came out of the lungs of Ehud that rasped with pain. Their roar shook the city. The flying stone stopped in midair and dropped harmlessly to the ground. Unconscious Bethlehemites woke up with vigor. The injured were healed. The fatally wounded were revived. Sumahtrid tried to cast a new spell, but found he could no longer speak. Ruth awoke from her trance, left the wedding canopy and marched towards Sumahtrid on the rampart. She climbed the stairs quickly, as a lioness pouncing on its prey.

Sumahtrid backed away from the woman with the fire in her eyes. Beor stood in front of him with his sword ready.

Ruth stopped a few feet away and planted her feet firmly on the stone.

“GOD!” she roared, raising her fists to the sky.

A blast of power emanated from Ruth, knocking Beor off the rampart. The effect on Sumahtrid was different. Sumahtrid’s form froze. His skin and clothing took on a grey color, like ashes from a dead hearth. Cracks formed all over his body and little flecks of dust were carried by the wind. The process accelerated, as Sumahtrid’s body decomposed and finally disappeared altogether in the Judean wind. Beor, watching his master’s fate from below, ran out of the city, never to look back.

Ruth walked regally down the stairs in her white wedding gown. The population of Bethlehem stood at attention and formed a passageway for Ruth to return to Boaz under the wedding canopy. Ehud stood by his side, dirty but healthy-looking. Garto was there as well, and even Ploni had been resuscitated, grinning more widely than he had in many decades with an arrow shaft still protruding from his chest.

“Shall we finish the ceremony?” Boaz asked.

“By all means,” Ruth responded. “I just had an uninvited guest to get rid of.”

Boaz and Ruth were married that day in Bethlehem, and everyone who was there swore that they saw a giant silhouette of a lion overlooking the wedding canopy.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 15 – My Father’s Killer

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 15

My Father’s Killer

Ehud, atop the ramparts of Bethlehem, peered impassively into the darkness. He had seen Boaz return from the field with his workers. He overheard the workers discussing Ruth’s gleaning in the field, but she had yet to return. Ehud twirled his sword absently and recalled killing her father. Ehud had worked exhaustively on that special sword. He was sorry it had remained in the belly of the fat monarch all those years ago. He still didn’t know how word of the assassination had spread. Had one of the princes figured out how Ehud had killed Eglon? Had there been a secret observer that Ehud hadn’t noticed?

Ehud heard screaming in the distance. He climbed down from the rampart and ran out of the gate, past the guards and into the night. He saw a wagon in the distance. He ran faster than the casually trotting horses.

“Is there a problem?” Ehud appeared in front of Sumahtrid’s wagon. Ehud’s stocky outline, grey beard and sword glimmered in the pale light of the moon. Beor stopped the horses abruptly, their hoofs pawing the night air as they neighed in protest.

“Get out of our way,” Sumahtrid said. “We have important business and don’t have time for petty disturbances.”

“Help me!” Ruth cried, pulling noisily against her chains.

Ehud ran between the two horses and jumped into the wagon, launching himself behind Sumahtrid and Beor. He slashed at the side of the wagon where Ruth’s chains were set. Both her arms were freed, with the loose long chains still manacled to her wrists. Beor spun and slashed at Ehud before he had a chance to cut Ruth’s leg chains from their housing. Ehud parried and counter-attacked.

“The girl is mine!” Sumahtrid stood on the wagon and raised his arms. “You will not take her from me, meddler. I shall strike you down. By Horus and Shapsu, Anu and Enlil,” Sumahtrid chanted and waved his arms, “freeze this man’s blood until he is st-”

A metal chain slammed into Sumahtrid’s face, knocking him over the wagon. A second chain wrapped itself around Beor’s neck. Ruth pulled hard on the chain, putting space between Beor and Ehud. Ehud kicked Beor in the chest, sending him over the side of the wagon. Ruth pulled on the chain again, releasing it from Beor’s neck.

“Quick!” she told Ehud. “Grab the reins and take us back to Bethlehem.”

“Good thinking.” Ehud sat in the driver’s seat, took the reins and drove the wagon towards Bethlehem. Ruth sat inside the wagon, as close to the front as her ankle chains would allow. They were quickly on their way back to the walled city, leaving Sumahtrid and Beor moaning in the dust of the dark road.

“You saved me,” Ruth turned to Ehud. “You are Ehud, aren’t you? It has been many years.”

“Yes, Princess. And I may have to kill you.”

“So why did you save me?”

“I try not to be impulsive when killing.”

“That’s a consolation,” Ruth said with uncharacteristic sharpness. “I take it your murder of my father was well planned. I may have been better off with Sumahtrid after all.”

“Your father was ready to kill every firstborn of Israel – as your wedding dowry. It was God’s will that Eglon be killed and his army destroyed. What does that sorcerer want with you?”

“I don’t know. He said something about needing the blood of the daughter of Eglon.”

“Sorcerers.” Ehud spat. “And why are you gleaning in the field of Boaz?”

“Boaz? I just happened upon his field.” Ruth patted the grain-filled bag, still on her back. “Is it a crime to glean in the field of a good man?”

“It is no crime, unless you are the daughter of the murderous Moabite Tyrant and it is the field of an important man like Boaz. I am tasked to safeguard Boaz and you are a threat.”

“A threat? I have never been a threat to anyone in my life! I am destitute, homeless, friendless, and you consider me a threat? You are the underhanded assassin! You are the one who took advantage of my father’s friendship, of his trust, and stabbed him as he stood unarmed and unaware. Everyone has now heard of the assassination. His servants originally thought he had died of natural causes, while in the ensuing confusion you routed the army. I also heard from Mahlon how you killed Pharaoh. No, Ehud. You are the dangerous one. You are likely the most dangerous man I’ve ever met.”

“My people and my God need me to be dangerous. Our enemies are strong, powerful and many. I kill them as a necessity. But that is not the point, Princess. I saw you wield that chain against the sorcerer and his driver. You are a perilous woman and I shall keep a close eye on you. If I see you approach Boaz in a threatening fashion, I will assume the worst. I will be watching.”

“Did you enjoy killing my father?”

“No. He was evil. He was treacherous. He was heartless. He was cruel. But he was charismatic. He did show friendship in his warped way. That’s why I will keep a close eye on you, Princess. You are sweet and needy and likeable, but you are still Eglon’s daughter and that makes you potentially hazardous. But come, it will not do for a princess to enter the city in chains.” Ehud stopped the wagon outside the city. He found the keys to the manacles and removed them from her wrists and ankles.

“Shoddy workmanship,” the blacksmith in him commented as he threw the chains to the back of the wagon. Ruth sat next to Ehud at the front of the wagon as he drove on.

“Do you live here?” Ruth asked as they entered the gate of Bethlehem. The guards recognized Ehud and raised their eyebrows at the Moabite riding with him.

“No. I live further north in the tribe of Benjamin.” Ehud stopped the wagon in front of Naomi’s house and jumped out of the driver’s seat, landing easily on the ground. “You can keep the wagon, Princess. You need it more than I do. Farewell.” Ehud disappeared into the night.

Ruth looked with incredulity where Ehud had stood. She got off the wagon and tied the horses to the side of Naomi’s house. A door had not yet appeared since she had left in the morning. She walked into the roofless house and found Naomi sleeping on the floor on a pile of straw. Naomi stirred at the sound of Ruth’s footsteps.

“Elimelech? Is that you?” Naomi asked groggily.

“No, mother. It is I, Ruth,” she answered, holding back tears at the mention of her decade-dead father-in-law.

“Oh, Ruth. Yes. I remember. I’m so weak.” Naomi rolled over on the straw.

“Come, mother. I have food for you. Sit up and eat.” Ruth gently lifted Naomi off the floor. “Here, have this.” Ruth pulled a half-eaten pita from out of her pocket. The remains of her lunch by the field of Boaz. It seemed like ages ago. She handed it to Naomi, the bread still warm from having been next to her body.

Naomi held the pita in her hands, unsure what to do with it.

“Slowly,” Ruth suggested. “Chew slowly.”

Naomi bit suddenly into the bread. She ate half the bread ravenously and then, just as suddenly, stopped. She closed her eyes, still holding the bread and whispered: “thank you.”

Ruth took the bag of grain off her back and showed it to Naomi.

“You gleaned all of this today?” Naomi’s eyes opened wide. “Where? Who’s field? He should be blessed!”

“The man’s name is Boaz. He was very kind.”

“Boaz! Boaz!” Naomi cried. “Oh, Vered! How I miss you. Boaz is my nephew. His wife, Vered, was my dear friend. She just died. He was always so strong, so good. God has not forgotten me. God has shown kindness to the living and the dead. Boaz is Mahlon’s cousin.”

“But Mahlon was so much younger.”

“Yes. Boaz’s father, Salmoon, was the oldest of the children of Nachshon, older than my own father, and much older than Elimelech or their youngest sibling, Ploni. Boaz is closer in age to his uncles.”

“He told me to glean from his field until his men have finished the harvest.”

“Good. That is very good. Stay with his maidens and glean in his field. Don’t go to anyone else’s field. Remain under his protection.”

“If he is your nephew and is obviously wealthy, why don’t you ask him directly for help?”

“I can’t. I can’t.”

“Why?”

“It is too embarrassing. I was a princess. I was the princess of Judah. Here. At one point I was feeding most of the families of Bethlehem. I can’t ask. I can’t beg here – I would die of embarrassment. But you have done well, my daughter, very well. Just on this grain we can live for a few days. We can start buying other things that we need.” Naomi looked up at the missing roof.

“I have a solution for that!” Ruth announced. “I’ve received a gift. A wagon with two horses. We can sell them and get a new door, a roof, some furniture, some supplies – the house will be livable once again.”

“A wagon with horses? Who would give such a gift?” Naomi looked at Ruth, wondering if she had been in the sun too long.

“It was given to me by my father’s killer, Ehud son of Gera of the tribe of Benjamin.”

Naomi froze at the mention of Ehud’s name. She remembered all the times Ehud had fought with Elimelech. Every time, Elimelech had been on the wrong side – disastrously so. The civil war, the rebellion against Eglon. She shuddered when she thought of the famous assassin and all she could answer was: “dangerous man.”

*

“Get up you buffoon!” Sumahtrid kicked the prone Beor. Beor stirred and growled. “Get up! We can’t stay here. That Israelite has found us out. We need to find more information and recapture Ruth.” Sumahtrid grabbed Beor roughly and dragged him to his feet. Beor was conscious enough to pick up his sword.

“Ruth,” Beor grumbled.

“Yes, Ruth, the princess. There are still descendants of Nachshon in this city. If she should mate with one of them it would be disastrous. Our work of the last ten years would be destroyed. A savior would come from Israel. We must stop that at all costs.”

“Costs,” Beor stood up straighter as the two of them walked away from Bethlehem.

“There will be a cost. It may be safer just to kill the remaining descendants. Ploni, youngest son of Nachshon, and Boaz, the old warrior.”

“Warrior?” Beor asked nervously.

“Do not worry. Boaz is ancient and his fighting days are long over. I’m more concerned about the warrior who stole Ruth. It must have been Ehud of Benjamin. But how did he find us? He will be a greater challenge.”

“Challenge.” Beor raised his sword.

“In due time. Ruth is likely to return to the field to glean. We shall wait for her there and then strike.”

“Strike!” Beor stabbed the air.

“Not her, you dunce!” Sumahtrid smacked Beor on the back of the head. “Her we want alive. Ehud is the enemy.”

“Enemy,” Beor said quietly.

Sumahtrid did not notice Beor looking straight at him.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source:

Book of Ruth, Chapter 2

18 And she took it up, and went into the city; and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned; and she brought forth and gave to her that which she had left after she was satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said unto her: ‘Where hast thou gleaned to-day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee.’ And she told her mother-in-law with whom she had wrought, and said: ‘The man’s name with whom I wrought to-day is Boaz.’ 20 And Naomi said unto her daughter-in-law: ‘Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off His kindness to the living and to the dead.’ And Naomi said unto her: ‘The man is nigh of kin unto us, one of our near kinsmen.’ 21 And Ruth the Moabitess said: ‘Yea, he said unto me: Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.’ 22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter-in-law: ‘It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, and that thou be not met in any other field.’

 

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 5 – Match-destroyers

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 5

 Match-destroyers

“I beseech you, Jalet.” Queen Neema was on her knees in front of her husband, a tear-stained kerchief in her hands. “Consider Captain Lekut. He is not of such noble stock.”

“Lekut?” King Jalet of Moab raised his eyebrow. “No. He is a good man and it may give him delusions of grandeur. I cannot risk it.”

“Damn it, Jalet!” Neema threw the kerchief to the marble floor of the audience chamber and then stood up, stomping her feet loudly. “You doom my daughters to eternal widowhood.”

“I’ve told you before, my dear,” Jalet said calmly. “You must choose someone that is not a potential threat. I shall have no objection. I will even pay for the wedding celebration.”

“Yes. But anyone who is not a threat in your mind will be of lowly stature. How can I allow my daughters to marry some commoner?”

“That is a choice you must make. I am being completely reasonable. Are they not willing to marry men that I approve of? It is you who is restricting them.”

“That’s not fair, Jalet. Imagine they were your daughters. Would you let them marry some peddler?”

“But that is exactly the point. They are not my daughters. They are the daughters of Emperor Eglon and all will remember that. My hold on my cousin’s kingdom is not so strong that I am willing to enable other contenders for the throne. No. Our son Zipor will inherit us. I wish to reign unopposed and unthreatened and to leave him the Kingdom of Moab in an orderly fashion. Enough! I tire of this discussion.”

“Your Majesty,” Captain Lekut called from the entrance a guard had opened. “I have some news of interest.”

“Approach.” Jalet smiled.

Captain Lekut walked purposely to the King’s throne and whispered in Jalet’s ear.

“How interesting,” Jalet said with surprise, looking at Neema with a smirk. “Invite them to the palace. We should make them feel welcome.”

 

“Hurry,” Sumahtrid said to Beor. “We must make sure the Princess and the Judeans do not meet. To the market!”

Sumahtrid ran through the narrow streets of Kir Moav until he reached the busy marketplace. He looked up and down the rows of vendors until he saw Mahlon in the distance, pacing restlessly in front of a cloth vendor.

“That is the store where Ruth works!” Sumahtrid hissed at Beor. “Perhaps he hasn’t seen her yet. We are just in time. Beor, draw that man away from the store and I’ll deal with the Princess. Go, go. Get him away from the store. I don’t care how – just don’t hurt him.”

Beor grinned mischievously and weaved his way quickly through the crowded market. As he approached Mahlon, he grabbed the money-pouch attached to Mahlon’s belt and knocked Mahlon over.

“Hey! Thief!” Mahlon yelled and chased after the smiling boy.

 

“Ruth?” Naomi said, catching her breath in the rainbow-draped store. This is the Ruth! She thought. This is the girl Mahlon keeps talking about. No wonder he was enamored with her – she’s lovely. But I can’t let him meet her – she’s not of our people.

“Do you know me?” Ruth asked.

“Why, of course not. We’ve just met.” Naomi shifted her eyes downward.

“Do you know Mahlon son of Elimelech? He is the Judean that I knew.”

“Mahlon? Yes, he is well known,” Naomi said slowly.

“You know him? Do you know where he is? How is he?”

Naomi glanced outside the store, but did not see her son.

“I can’t say I know where he is,” Naomi murmured.

“Oh,” Ruth sighed. “He was the one ray of light in a dreary existence.”

“Princess Ruth!” Sumahtrid burst into the store.

“What, Sumahtrid? What’s the problem?” Ruth asked.

“You!” Naomi stepped back from the black-robed sorcerer.

“You know each other?” Ruth asked.

“I am too late.” Sumahtrid eyed Naomi warily.

“Too late for what?” Ruth narrowed her eyes.

“To prevent your meeting.” Sumahtrid did not move his eyes from Naomi.

“What is so objectionable to our meeting?” Ruth asked with an edge in her voice.

“This is a family you should have nothing to do with,” Sumahtrid said.

“I agree,” Naomi said suddenly and fled from the store.

“What? What was that all about?” Ruth asked incredulously.

“Let her be, Princess. The family of Elimelech is nothing but trouble.”

“Elimelech!? That means Mahlon must be here! She lied!!” Ruth ran out of the store.

“She didn’t know?” Sumahtrid asked himself. “What have I done?”

 

Naomi found a breathless Mahlon panting by the area of the blacksmiths.

“Where did you go off to?” Naomi asked angrily.

“Some street urchin stole my money-pouch.”

“Did you catch him?”

“No. But when he saw me closing in on him he threw it back at me, though he managed to take out a few coins beforehand, that little thief.”

“Never mind. Let’s find your father and get out of the market.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Oh, nothing. I’m just tired and would like to rest. I hope he found good accommodations. There he is.” They saw Elimelech and Kilyon on their wagon, slowly making their way through the crowd of the market.

Naomi and Mahlon walked through the midday bustle and reached the wagon. As Mahlon put his hand on the wagon another hand overlaid his.

“Mahlon!” Ruth exclaimed.

A shock of energy coursed through Mahlon as he heard his name and felt her touch.

“Ruth? You’re here? Wow! That’s fantastic!”

“Oh, I’m so happy to see you too. You can’t imagine!”

“I imagined you married a Pharaoh by now. What are you doing in the streets as a commoner?”

“I am now lower than a commoner; for the king will not allow me to marry any of noble blood and my mother will not allow me to marry anyone else. It is so good to see you.”

“Yes. Likewise.” Mahlon blushed and slid his hand from underneath Ruth’s. “Um, meet my parents, Elimelech and Naomi.” Mahlon gestured at his two scolding elders. “And my brother, Kilyon.” Kilyon was grinning openly.

“Hello, beautiful.” Kilyon bowed from atop the carriage. “Do you have a sister by any chance?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Ruth smiled.

“Elimelech of Judah?” Captain Lekut approached the wagon on horseback with half-a-dozen men.

“Yes,” Elimelech answered, somewhat relieved by the intrusion.

“King Jalet has extended an invitation that you visit him in the palace,” Captain Lekut motioned to the towering structure down the road.

“That is most gracious,” Elimelech said. “However, we have just arrived and I am eager to secure our new accommodations and rest a bit. Tomorrow perhaps we shall pay his majesty a visit.”

“The king does not like to be kept waiting,” Lekut placed his hand on the pommel of his sheathed sword. “And tomorrow is a long time away. Much can happen in a day.”

“Very well, then. We are your guests. Lead us.”

The half-a-dozen men surrounded the wagon as the captain trotted ahead of them. Naomi got on the wagon. Mahlon walked side by side with Ruth, chatting quietly.

“How have you been?” Mahlon asked Ruth as a familiar black-robed figure ran ahead to the palace.

 

“What do I care for your dark prophesies, Sumahtrid. Leave me alone.” Jalet waved off the sorcerer. “Your master’s powers did not help Eglon who was so fond of him. I must proceed with political expediency. Not some fortune-teller’s reading of entrails – no disrespect, of course. But no. My course is clear and neither you nor Neema shall dissuade me.” Jalet looked at his pouting queen sitting next to him.

“They are here,” a guard announced.

“Bring them in,” Jalet ordered.

The family of Elimelech together with Ruth entered the audience chamber.

“Excellent!” Jalet smiled. “Ruth is here as well. Call for Orpa and let us close matters.” A guard ran out of the chamber to fetch the other princess. Ruth stood next to her mother who was seated by Jalet’s side.

“Welcome Prince Elimelech of the great Israelite tribe of Judah.” Jalet stood up. “It is quite a rare and unexpected surprise for one of such great stature to come unannounced. What brings the great and mighty to our humble city?”

“You are most gracious King Jalet, to welcome so honorably one undeserving of such honor. I have come with my family to reside in your fair city for some time, if that is agreeable to you.”

“I have no objection.” Jalet sat back on his throne, hand on his chin. “But may I ask for what purpose have you come to Kir Moav? Should we be expecting more Judeans?”

“The pressures of my role have been too much for me of late. I require a respite. I do not expect any of my brothers to follow me.”

“I see. No, I perfectly understand. At times I too wish I could just lay down my crown and have the cares of a simple man once again. You are both brave and fortunate that you are able to abscond the way you have. You are most welcome amongst us.”

“That is most gracious of you, King Jalet. I thank you.”

“And you are welcome. However, I have a proposition, even a request, for you.”

“Yes, your Majesty?”

“I see these two handsome powerful-looking men beside you. I take it these are your sons?”

“Yes. Mahlon, my eldest, and Kilyon, his brother.”

“Mahlon and Kilyon. And is it true you are all descendents of the fabled Nachshon the Brave, the man for whom your god split the Sea of Reeds for your people.”

“We are all of the blood of Nachshon.”

“You see, Neema.” Jalet turned to his queen. “Princes of noble birth with an illustrious ancestor. You cannot ask for better.”

“I must object, your Majesty,” Sumahtrid interjected. “It is that very blood that makes them so dangerous.”

“Listen to the sorcerer, Jalet.” Neema placed her hand on the king’s arm. “You cannot be serious. My people are sworn to destroy them and you would propose this?”

“Silence!” Jalet roared. “I will not be argued with in front of guests.”

“What are we talking about?” Elimelech asked.

“Let us speak as men, Elimelech, not as leaders.” Jalet leaned on his throne. “As one head of a household to another.”

At that moment, Orpa, dressed in a shimmering green gown entered the chamber. Kilyon’s eyes widened as he saw her. Orpa batted her eyes at his open gaze and strutted towards the throne to stand beside Ruth at her mother’s side.

“Ah, perfect timing, my dear.” Jalet gestured at Orpa. “You see, Elimelech. I have a complex situation to deal with. You of course must remember my queen Neema from your days under the subjugation of my dear departed cousin Eglon. Now I have these two beautiful beloved step-daughters, whom I treasure as if they were my own. And here is the dilemma. Some amongst my people have questioned my succession to the throne after Eglon’s unfortunate and sudden demise. If someone of noble blood or with royal aspirations were to marry my dear step-daughters it may put me in a tenuous situation. They might claim that as the son-in-laws of the former Emperor they should have a right to the throne. It is of course unreasonable to place myself in such a position. To complicate matters, their dear mother, my queen, is quite selective, as every mother has a right to be, as to who her daughters marry. So we find ourselves many years now unable to find suitable matches for our girls.”

“What are you proposing?” Elimelech asked in a low voice.

“Why, I think it is obvious. Your sons are a perfect match for the daughters of Eglon. Your boys are of noble blood, yet no Moabite would consider them as heirs to the throne, hence they are not a danger to me. I propose we arrange the ceremony as soon as possible. I will even cover the entire expense of the wedding party!”

“This is a most difficult offer.” Elimelech took a step back. “You may not know, your Majesty, but amongst our people, we do not marry those outside of Israel.”

“Yes. I have heard about your reticence to marry others. But I have also studied your history. Did not Joseph marry an Egyptian? Moses a Midianite? Both of them daughters of high priests of other nations. And Joshua married Rahav, a Canaanite of Jericho. So there are certainly exceptions and I think Ruth and Orpa are clearly beautiful and regal exceptions.” Jalet saw Elimelech tensing up. “Be careful what you answer Elimelech. Our hospitality may depend on it.”

Naomi grabbed Elimelech’s arm and stepped in front of her quickly reddening husband.

“That is a most gracious offer, your Majesty,” Naomi said. “As you know, we have just arrived from a long and tiring journey. Please let us rest a bit and let us discuss it further after we’ve had some more time to get comfortable. I see that your queen and your, ah, advisor are likewise uncomfortable with your plan, but we shall give it due consideration, if that is agreeable.”

“Yes, wife of Elimelech. You are wise, though forward. Perhaps I have pushed this idea too quickly. That is the burden of leadership at times. To think too fast, too far ahead of everyone else. I must give my subjects some time to see things as I do, to catch up to my thinking. Yes. Tomorrow I will require an answer. Do you have accommodations?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” Elimelech said, regaining his composure. “We have found a suitable place and will give you our response tomorrow.”

“Until then.” Jalet motioned to the guards to escort the Judeans out.

“With your permission, your Majesty, I will also excuse myself,” Sumahtrid asked urgently.

“Begone.” Jalet waved the sorcerer away, recalling having tried unsuccessfully before. Sumahtrid rushed out of the audience chamber.

“You cannot mean to go through with this, Jalet. Is this part of some new plot that I cannot fathom?” Queen Neema asked.

“Why don’t we ask your daughters what they think of my proposal? Ruth? What say you? I saw you looking longingly at the eldest.”

“I would marry him,” Ruth said, not daring to hope.

“That was straightforward.” Jalet smiled. “What about you, Orpa? The younger one clearly had eyes for you.”

“He is handsome,” Orpa answered. “He has a certain vibrancy to him. I would not refuse an offer.”

“There we have it,” Jalet clapped his hands. “Your daughters agree. They even like them. They are fine upstanding young man, strong and smart, with fire in their eyes. They are of noble birth, yet are not a threat to my monarchy. You will not find better grooms than these again, Neema.”

“They are Hebrews.” Neema spat the word.

“And you are Amalekite. So? Your daughters are Moabite. We live in a new world. The Philistines control the coast. The Egyptians are diminished. The Hittites are no more. The Midianites are becoming civilized. So what if these boys are Israelites. They are here to stay and your old enmities will not serve you well.”

“My ancestors would cringe to contemplate such a union.”

“Your ancestors are dead and their hatred did them no good. It is to my advantage, to your advantage, to your daughters’ advantage and even to the Judean advantage for these unions to take place. It is wise.”

“Elimelech did not seem pleased either,” Neema argued.

“He is a smart man. He will see the wisdom and the advantage of the offer despite his tribal misgivings. You will see. Tomorrow we shall announce the engagement. Congratulations girls!”

“Let’s wait and see,” Neema said, hoping Elimelech was as stubborn as she thought.

 

Sumahtrid reached his house before the Judeans arrived at theirs. It was early evening and the setting sun turned the pink stones of Kir Moav to red.

“Good, Beor. You’re here,” he said to the boy, gnawing on an old bone with one hand and fidgeting with his knife in the other. “I have another task for you. Listen to me. You will climb on to the roof of the house across the road. Make a small hole in the thatch so you can hear what they say and perhaps even see something. You will be my eyes and ears. I will be with you in here.” Sumahtrid touched Beor’s head. “I will see everything you see and hear everything you hear. I must know what Elimelech will say and decide. I hope that he will stop this marriage that he is clearly against. Perhaps I should advise him to leave Kir Moav. But no. He will never listen to anything I say. I’ve interfered too much already. Go. Go to the roof and let’s see what they say.”

Beor scampered out of the house and quickly climbed onto the roof. He found a thin stretch of thatch and used his knife to cut through it until he could see clearly into the common room. He felt an annoying buzzing in his head. Beor scratched at his head, but it did not help. He sensed the presence of Sumahtrid watching what he saw and hearing what he heard. Beor tried to ignore the feeling. He twirled his knife reflexively as he balanced himself on one of the beams and peered down into the house.

Elimelech’s family entered quietly. Then they all spoke at once, a loud crescendo of noise filling the evening sky.

“Quiet! Quiet!” Elimelech yelled. “I will speak and you will hear me. You shall not marry those Moabites, daughters of an Amalekite that we are commanded to destroy. It is an abomination. How can you even suggest that we would consider it?”

“Would you rather Jalet execute us?” Naomi asked.

“Yes. I have not stood for much of late, but I will not stand for my sons to marry outside our people.”

“Father, aren’t you being excessive?” Kilyon asked. “They are princesses. Rich and beautiful. We would live very comfortably in our exile.”

“Absolutely not! At least your brother has the sense not to suggest a marriage. He knows them well. He lived amongst them for many years. Isn’t that right, Mahlon?”

“Ruth is the only woman I’ve ever cared for,” Mahlon said with a faraway look.

“And her sister is gorgeous!” Kilyon jumped in. “Come on, Father. Stop being such an old stick. We are no longer amongst our people. Who else should we marry? Do you expect us never to marry?”

Elimelech was quiet. He looked with pained eyes at his sons and his wife.

“God has been quick to punish me for leaving our people. We are here just a few hours and already my sons are ready to marry heathens. Perhaps you were right, Naomi. Perhaps we should have stayed. But the deed is done and I will not go back. It would be an even greater embarrassment. But my word is final. While I have breath in my body, I shall not allow this marriage to take place. Over my dead body!” Elimelech yelled.

The presence of Sumahtrid in Beor’s mind was startled by the yell and became confused about his surroundings. Sumahtrid’s mind left Beor’s body. The boy lost his balance and fell through the thatched roof, clutching his knife and falling atop Elimelech. “Dead body!” was all Beor remembered hearing. Elimelech crumpled to the ground. Beor lifted himself off Elimelech and drew his knife out of Elimelech’s back.

“Dead body!” Beor repeated and ran out of the house, before the shocked family could react.

Elimelech looked up in confusion and coughed blood. Mahlon ran to his father and saw the stream of blood oozing out of his back. He placed his hands firmly against his father’s back, but knew it was futile.

“Elimelech!” Naomi cried, on her knees next to him. “Elimelech!”

“I forgot,” Elimelech whispered. He clutched his chest, knowing the end was near.

“What?” Naomi asked through her tears.

“Everything. Everything my father taught me. I should have been strong in God. I tried to be strong in myself, to make up for my weakness, and now it ends like this. I was wrong to fight the Benjaminites. I was wrong to fight Ehud. I was wrong to leave our people. Am I wrong about the boys?”

“No, my love.” Naomi grasped his hand. “You are not wrong. It is our way. Your father would have been proud of you. Of the strength you showed against the King of Moab.”

“I can’t see clearly anymore.” Elimelech coughed more blood. “My eyes have misted over. What have I done? I’m sorry, Naomi. I loved you. Not as you deserved. But I loved you in my own way. Goodbye, my love. Don’t…”

“Don’t what, Elimelech? Don’t what? Don’t leave me! No! Elimelech! No! Not here! Not now! No!!” Naomi buried her head in Elimelech’s still chest.

“Come, Mother,” Kilyon hugged Naomi. “He’s gone. There’s nothing we can do now. We have to let him go. Come.”

“No! No. No. No. No.” Naomi wept, convulsing in her grief.

“Mother, he is gone.” Mahlon stood up, his hands and clothing soaked in his father’s blood. “We should bury him. Bury him as our own people do – not like these heathens. He would have wanted that.”

“Yes, yes, of course we need to bury him. But not just yet. Give me a few more moments with him.” Naomi placed her head on his cold chest, feeling more bereft than she ever had in her life. Little did she know that this was not the last loss she would suffer.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Book of Ruth, Chapter 1

1 And it came to pass in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the field of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Kilyon, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. And they came into the field of Moab, and continued there. 3 And Elimelech, Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 2 – The Prophecy

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 2

The Prophecy

The strong hands of Sumahtrid easily tore the chicken’s head, spilling its blood into the sizzling pan. He sprinkled the ashes of a black cat into the pan, creating a sulfuric cloud that filled the dark cave. The sole illumination was from the red embers under the pan.

“Awaken, my Master,” Sumahtrid chanted huskily. “Awaken and instruct your disciple. Awaken Dirthamus. Awaken!”

There was no response. Sumahtrid sat cross-legged on the rocky cavern floor, inhaling the fumes from the pan. He closed his eyes and focused on the memory of his master. Sumahtrid heard a deep groan emanating from the bowels of the earth. The mist over the pan slowly took form and showed a silhouette of the emaciated hunched figure of ancient Dirthamus.

“Who dares sssummon me?” the ghost of Dirthamus hissed.

“It is I, Sumahtrid, your heir and disciple.”

“Yesss. SSSumahtrid. I remember.”

“I have met the son of Elimelech. He is powerful. If the union shall happen, I fear the worst. What do you see my master? What can we do?”

“In thisss world, I have vision but no power,” the ghost wheezed. “I can do nothing. But I can sssee. A ssscion of Judah shall join with the Emperor’s daughter. The redeemer shall come from that union. You cannot allow it to bear fruit. But our touch must be light, for if our hand is ssseen, all shall surely be lossst.” Dirthamus placed his hand on Sumahtrid’s shoulder. Though the disciple did not feel his master’s touch, he nonetheless trembled at the ethereal contact.

“What can I do? Should I just kill them?”

“No!” the ghost yelled and rose to the ceiling of the cave, its aura growing brighter. “They mussst remain alive. For now. But we can humble them. They shall be more tractable the lessss earthly power they have. The time shall come when I will have my revenge upon the Judean, but revenge cannot interfere with the grand ssscheme. Remember what Bilaam prophesssied. Recall the wordsss of my massster,” the ghost started to sing, his voice suddenly clear, and the timbre higher:

“For the Redeemer shall come forth from Jacob,

The sweet singer of Israel.

Judah shall wield the scepter of Kingship,

Descendant of Abraham’s father.

From the saved one’s son, his daughter’s son, a new line is forged.

The spark of monarchy is born.

The Warrior and the King shall strive,

The Weaker shall best the Stronger.

The Hunter shall become Hunted.

The fate of the land of the generations hangs in the balance.

Darkness threatens the world.

The scale can be tipped.

Sister’s sons shall duel, the earth holds its breath.”

“Bilaam identified Lot, Abraham’s nephew, as the Sssaved one,” Dirthamus’ ghost explained, his voice returning to its hissing raspy self. “And the ssson that is alssso a grandssson was Moab, though it could jussst as well have been Ammon. That is why Bilaam joined with Balak, King of Moab. He knew that both the Warrior and the King would be descendantsss of Balak.

“What am I to do, then?” Sumahtrid asked.

“Remember your lessssons. A sorcerer’s touch must ever be light, tipping the ssscales ever ssso ssslighty. Affecting the flow of dessstiny, molding fate to our whim. Only at the critical junctures can we reveal our might, bringing our full power to bear, thereby assuring our vision of the world. Patience, my ssson. The hidden hand is the powerful hand. Though we may not know glory we shall achieve victory. Get thee a disciple as well. Our line must continue.”

Dirthamus’ form dissipated, leaving a smoke-filled dark cavern.

“Zipor!” Ruth called after her younger half-brother. “Get back here!”

Zipor son of Jalet, crown-prince, heir to the throne of Moab, climbed the pink cliffs on the eastern face of the capital city of Kir Moav. At ten years old, Zipor was an active and precocious young man. He had long black hair, like his mother, and wore a rich blue tunic, dirtied from the dust of the rocks. King Jalet allowed Zipor to roam in the desert, honing his hunting skills, as long as he was accompanied.

“Leave me alone, Ruth,” Zipor called up. “You’re a sissy, besides being an old maid.”

“Please, Zipor. Just come up.” Ruth ignored the insult, as she stood on the cliff ledge outside the walls of Kir Moav. Her lustrous red hair was braided tightly and she wore a plain beige tunic. But Zipor was right. She was an old maid. Though she retained the beauty of youth, she was thirty years old. Both she and her sister Orpa were unwed, more due to political complications than for lack of suitors. Only Zipor’s existence and good health now kept them safe.

“You’re a frightened old hag,” Zipor said as he climbed up the cliff. “Next time I’ll tell father to send me with Orpa. She’s much more fun.”

“Quickly.” Ruth turned her head either way. “There’s something wrong.”

“Okay. What’s the panic about?” Zipor asked as he reached the ledge.

“I don’t know.” Ruth grabbed him by the arm and hustled him back to the city.

Neither of them noticed the malevolent eyes under a dark robe watching them from the distance.

“How does this look, mother?” Orpa asked Queen Neema, holding the long silken gown against her tall body. They stood in Neema’s sitting room, a heavily furnished chamber with tall windows and even taller ceilings. Orpa had inherited her father’s height, hair color and his cravings for food. Orpa’s long red hair fell in undulating waves across her shoulders. She wore a silky white gown that did not bother to hide her girth, yet contrasted sharply with her bright hair. Neema, former wife of Eglon and Empress of the Moabite Empire was short and thin, with long dark hair, showing some hints of grey. She had reached the stage where the grey hair grew faster than she dared pluck them anymore. Better grey than bald, Neema thought to herself.

“It’s beautiful,” Neema answered, not contemplating the dress. Her thoughts returned to Zipor, her son and the heir apparent. After the death of Eglon and her unsuccessful bid in Egypt, Neema had returned to Jalet, the new King of the diminished Moabites, and offered herself as his Queen. Jalet was quick to accept. Marriage to Eglon’s widow would strengthen Jalet’s claim to the throne despite her Amalekite ancestry. And Neema had done for Jalet what she had failed to do for Eglon. She produced a male heir.

“I will wear it to the market tomorrow,” Orpa announced, interrupting Neema’s reverie. “There is an Ammonite merchant in town that has caught my eye, and I would catch his.”

“I don’t know why you bother anymore. If he is of high enough station Jalet will not permit it and it is beneath you to marry anyone lower.”

“You doom me to eternal singlehood!” Orpa threw the new dress onto the floor, hot tears springing from her eyes. “Shall I die unwed? I do not care anymore for station. Why, I would sleep with a filthy Philistine if I did not fear your whipping me afterwards.”

“Calm yourself, Orpa,” Neema commanded. “You know very well the situation. Just a little longer. Once Zipor is King, you will no longer be a threat and you will be free to marry men of the highest station.”

“When Zipor is King!?” Orpa yelled. “That can be decades! Jalet is in the prime of his life. I think I will just kill myself and be done with it.”

“Orpa! Stop this nonsense. This is the reality and there is little we can do to change it. Be grateful I brought your brother into this world, or Jalet would have killed you and Ruth long ago.”

“Half-brother. That brat is no more than a half-brother and the only child of yours that you care about.”

“Enough!” Neema slapped Orpa across the face. “You will not talk to me in such a fashion. I am Queen of Moab and you and your sister are alive thanks to me. Your father’s empire has crumbled and I have salvaged a comfortable life for us. You gorge yourself as your father did and buy expensive dresses with Jalet’s money. If your life in the palace is so horrendous you are free to leave. I will not hear any more complaints from you, young woman.”

Orpa looked down, her cheek red from her mother’s slap.

“I am sorry, mother. I don’t know what overcame me. Perhaps the fate of never being married, of being little more than a pawn in Jalet’s calculations, has made life seem unbearable. I will speak no more of this matter. May I be excused, my Queen?”

“You would do well to remember Jalet’s generosity and never disparage him. Even my protection will only go so far. Leave me. Your presence is infuriating me.”

“Thank you, mother. I will remember.”

Orpa stormed out of the chamber, not looking back.

By the time Orpa had shut the door, Neema was once again thinking about the future King.

Krita of Amalek was proud of her boy. At three years old, she had just weaned him, and he was eating solid foods with gusto. He was big for his age and would grow to be as big as her husband. She did not like to be in Kir Moav. The tall walls frightened her and the hateful looks of the Moabites made her queasy. There was an uneasy peace between Moab and Amalek, thanks in part to Queen Neema’s efforts. Nonetheless, Krita always urged her husband to conduct his business quickly and take them out of the city. He was haggling with the fabric vendors in the market as she watched her boy taking confident steps around their wagon. She sat inside the tethered wagon, the afternoon sun making her drowsy.

Unexpectedly, the wagon lurched forward. The horses had been untied from the post and something had frightened them into bolting forward. Krita quickly grabbed the reins and stopped the horses. She jumped out of the wagon and looked for her boy. She found a trail of little footsteps in the sand that led to larger footsteps. The little footsteps stopped, but the big footsteps had turned back. She frantically followed the big footsteps, but soon they mingled with multiple footsteps and the trail was lost. She called out her son’s name in the busy marketplace, but most people just walked around her. She ran up and down the main street of Kir Moav and looked down all the side streets. She finally fell to her knees, pulling out her hair as she wept for her boy. She rocked back and forth, moaning as if mortally wounded. The Moabites avoided her and none offered assistance. One old lady walked up to Krita and placed a single copper piece in her palm, thinking her a deluded beggar. Krita would never forget that day, nor would she ever recover from the loss of her little boy.

“Greetings, my young disciple,” Sumahtrid said to the boy. The sorcerer sat on a wooden chair while the boy stood on the ground of the unadorned stone house. “Do not be frightened. I am your new father, your mother and your master. I shall teach you all, you shall serve me and you shall become powerful.”

“Mama!” the boy cried.

“You may call me, Sumahtrid, for that is the name my master gave me. But how shall we name you?” the sorcerer wondered aloud.

“Mama!” the boy replied, unconvinced.

“I know!” Sumahtrid exclaimed. “Beor. Your name shall be Beor. The spirit of Dirthamus and especially the spirit of his master, Bilaam, will be pleased.”

“Mama!” the boy continued to cry.

“Silence!” Sumahtrid rapped Beor on the shoulder with a stick. “This shall be your first lesson. Disobedience shall be greeted with pain.”

Beor was silent out of shock and then cried loudly. Sumahtrid hit Beor repeatedly until the boy collapsed from exhaustion.

Several hours later Beor awoke to see Sumahtrid still sitting next to him.

“Mama?” Beor asked.

“Sumahtrid,” the sorcerer answered.

“Sumah?” Beor asked.

“That will do for now. The second lesson is as follows. Here is a blade.” Sumahtrid placed a small knife into Beor’s chubby little fingers. “Here is a rodent.” Sumahtrid placed a cage that was open at the top in front of Beor. The drugged rat moved lethargically within the small enclosure.

“Kill it,” Sumahtrid commanded the boy.

Beor dropped the knife and turned away from the rat. Sumahtrid rapped him on the shoulder, picked up the knife, placed it again in Beor’s hand, waved his stick menacingly and ordered: “Kill it!”

Beor shook his head and said: “No.”

Sumahtrid hit him on the shoulder again. Beor yelped in pain.

“I will not stop hitting you until you stab that rat, even if I have to kill you.”

Beor touched his sore shoulder and flinched from the pain. He looked at the slow-moving rodent, looked at the knife in his hand and at the big stick in Sumahtrid’s hand. He shrugged his shoulders, approached the cage, aimed his knife and stabbed the rat, the knife going through its entire body.

“Excellent!” Sumahtrid exclaimed. “I knew I chose well. You shall grow to become an excellent assassin, my son.”

Beor did not understand the words Sumahtrid spoke, but he was happy for the first positive feedback from this strange man. He understood instinctively that he would continue to please this man even if it meant killing other creatures. The boy thought about the man and realized that he didn’t like being called Beor, but he could no longer remember his original name.
* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 28 – Epilogue: Scribe of Eternity

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 28

Epilogue: Scribe of Eternity

Fifty Years Later…

Ehud cried as he laid down his quill. It was not his aching and inflamed joints. It was not the sound of his grandchildren playing in the yard. It was not the sound of Blimah feeding the noisy chickens. It was not even the sound of Lerim, his son-in-law, banging metal with his workers in the smithy. It was the story, the story of Ruth – it always brought him to tears.

It had been years since Ehud had had the strength to heft a hammer. But he chose to wield a quill instead. He had copied down the five books of Moses multiple times. His scrolls were considered works of art and had been sought after by all the tribes of Israel. He had written the Book of Joshua many times and had distributed that prophetic scroll widely as well. However, it was the Book of Ruth that always brought him to tears, for he had known all the protagonists and he had played his own small part in God’s grand scheme.

My next prophet shall arrive tomorrow, God had said to him during the night. Pass on to the prophet the scroll and your blessing.

How will I know who it is? Ehud asked.

You will know.

Ehud waited for the ink on the scroll to dry. He then rolled it up, tied it and covered it with a soft skin to protect it. He carried it reverently out of his house and walked slowly, with the assistance of his cane, onto the porch. Children were already assembled for what had become a daily ritual. They sat impatiently on the ground. Adults stood behind them, also interested in the prophet’s story. It was no longer just members of the tribe of Benjamin. Families from all the tribes, from Simeon in the south to Asher in the north and Gad to the east arrived on a daily basis to hear the oral history Ehud would convey.

“Tell us how you stabbed the fat king!” a Judean boy yelled.

Ehud scanned the crowd for sight of the prophet, but no obvious candidates became apparent. He sat on a wide swing of his own design. Sturdy planks of wood supported by chains eased Ehud’s creaky bones. Blimah, her hair snowy-white under her beige shawl, walked over and sat next to Ehud on the swing. She wove her arm into his and smiled contentedly.

Ehud told over his usual story: the subjugation by Eglon, the resistance, the subterfuge, the assassination and finally the victorious battle that had freed them from Moabite subservience. Ehud looked at the well-fed fearless children and marveled at God’s benevolence. Gone were the days of a foreign aggressor or the days of heavy famine that had led to ruin for Elimelech and his family. There were still minor skirmishes and the worship of God was not always strong, but the outright devotion by Israelites to foreign gods was minimal. The people of Israel were enjoying an era of peace and prosperity they had not experienced since the days of Joshua.

“Tell us about Ruth,” a young girl spoke out.

Ehud felt a shock of force when the girl spoke. He looked at her closely. She was perhaps seven or eight years old. She had long dark tresses and deep blue eyes that sparkled with intelligence.

“What would you know of Ruth?” Ehud asked. “She still lives. Not far from here – in Bethlehem.”

“I would hear of how she journeyed to Israel from the fields of Moab,” the girl answered.

“That is a story for another place and another time.” Ehud gripped the scroll tighter and closed his eyes.

He had a vision. It was a vision of an older woman with long black tresses and sparkling blue eyes. She led an army of Israelites from a mountaintop against the iron chariots of a foreign aggressor. The chariots were overturned and the foreign soldiers vanquished. Ehud trembled from the revelation and opened his eyes to stare into the deep blue eyes from his vision.

“What is your name child?” Ehud asked.

“Deborah daughter of Neriah of the tribe of Naftali.”

“Approach,” Ehud ordered.

Deborah arose and walked through the seated children to Ehud and Blimah on the swing.

“You have been blessed, Deborah,” Ehud said softly. “A great task awaits you.”

“What task?” Deborah asked nervously.

“I cannot reveal much,” Ehud said, “but you will lead and save Israel in its time of need.”

“When? What need? I’m just a girl.”

“It will be many years in the future, after I am long gone. The tribes of Israel shall look to you for guidance, for you shall grow wise and strong in the ways of God. Have faith and remain strong, young Deborah, for God shall ever be with you. Take this scroll.” Ehud handed the skin with the Book of Ruth to the young girl.

“What is this?” Deborah asked.

“It is the answer to your question.”

“Which question?”

“It is the story of Ruth.”

“Why are you giving it to me?”

“Because you will carry it on. You see, her story has not ended, for there are generations to come before her mission bears its fruit. You will pass this scroll to the next prophet and eventually her story will be written in full. You will also write my story that you have heard here today and pass it on as well. And the next prophet will write your story and the cycle will continue until the Monarchy of Israel is established.

“I don’t understand,” Deborah said.

“You don’t have to. You just need to believe me. Deborah, look into my eyes. Do you believe me?”

Deborah looked deeply into Ehud’s dark brown eyes. She smiled suddenly.

“I don’t understand, but I believe you.”

“Never lose faith.” Ehud held Deborah’s head in his hands and kissed her lightly on the forehead. “Be strong and of good courage,” Ehud blessed her, remembering Joshua’s blessing to him in his own youth. Ehud felt some of that spirit, the spirit that has passed from Moses to Joshua to himself, pass on to Deborah.

Deborah’s face lit up and a barely perceptible aura of light seemed to radiate from the little girl. She bowed to Ehud, walked past the crowd of children, found her father amongst the adults and strode away.

“Who is she?” Blimah asked a pensive-looking Ehud.

“She is our future.” Ehud smiled, held Blimah closely, and for the first time in decades felt as if a burden had been lifted from him. “My job is done.”

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 27 – King of the River

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 27

King of the River

Jalet was an early riser. He loved to greet the sun from his palace in Kir Moav. He hefted his wide girth through the double wooden doors that led to the opulent porch and bowed formally to the monarch of the sky.

Life was comfortable. His older cousin, Eglon, Emperor of Moab, had assigned Jalet to administer the ancestral Moabite stronghold while Eglon reigned from his new capital in the City of Palms.

Jalet ate well. He was not nearly as large as Eglon, but he did make a point of enjoying every delicacy he could acquire. Eglon. Eglon had been on his mind of late. He had such mixed feelings about his wildly successful cousin. On one hand, he was appreciative of the trust and position Eglon had given him. Jalet was the king of Kir Moav and had very little to worry about beyond the petty squabbles and fights of the people within his walls. On the other hand he was jealous of Eglon; jealous of his extraordinary success, wealth and power. Eglon had risen from a simple warlord of the Moabites to the conqueror of Amalek, Ammon and all the tribes of Israel. He had become a major force in the world, controlling trade from Egypt to Mesopotamia. His upcoming alliance with Egypt would make him partner to what would become the strongest, largest empire in history. Oh, how Jalet wished for such power, such grandeur, such control of one’s destiny and the fate of the world. But here he was, relegated to what had become a minor outpost in the grand scheme.

Jalet noticed from his porch a line of travelers approaching the city. It was rare for so many people to arrive at Kir Moav at once. As they got closer, he saw it was mostly women and children. He recognized Moabites from the City of Palms. Then he spotted Empress Neema and her daughters on foot, in torn and soiled clothing, and he knew something had gone terribly wrong.

 

You have done well, my son, God said to Ehud in his dream. You have freed my people, and more importantly, you have restored their faith. They shall now serve me wholeheartedly. At least for a time.

I am your servant, Ehud thought to God. I am gratified that we were successful.

Yes. However, I have another task for you.

I am ready.

You are to go to Bethlehem and gather Mahlon son of Elimelech. I have given him a gift. A gift that you shall utilize.

How?

I will have you send a message to Egypt. Evil thoughts and evil deeds shall not go unpunished. No one, not even Pharaoh is beyond my reach. They have forgotten. We shall have to teach them again. However, this time the message will be just for Pharaoh.

 

“I don’t believe it,” Jalet said for the tenth time, as Empress Neema sat in his audience chamber and described the death of Eglon and the fall of the City of Palms and the Moabite Empire. Ruth and Orpa sat on either side of Neema. Bagdon was in the chamber as well, pacing as Neema spoke.

“The city has been burned to the ground and all of our forces, all ten thousand soldiers are dead,” Neema concluded.

“We were betrayed!” Bagdon interrupted. “We were betrayed by Galkak. He turned the forces of Ammon and Amalek against us. But at least he is dead. He has paid for his betrayal.”

“Galkak!?” Neema screeched. “Galkak was the most loyal friend and ally Moab ever had. He was from my people. From Amalek. He conquered Rabbath Ammon single-handedly. He saved Eglon countless times. No. No, Bagdon. Now that I think of it, it is you, Bagdon, you Israelite that has orchestrated all of this. Eglon trusted you. He raised you as a son. He promised our Orpa to you. I warned him he could never trust an Israelite, no matter how many of your brothers you killed. But no, he wouldn’t listen. He fawned over you. He thought you were the ideal subject. You were his success. And now you have given us ashes. And you have the gall to accuse the one decent man we have ever known? Galkak was probably on to you and you killed him. Cousin,” Neema turned to Jalet, “get rid of this traitor.”

“But, but, I am general of the forces of the Moabite Empire. I should take over!” Bagdon stammered.

“And where are your forces, General?” Jalet asked quietly.

“I can rebuild them. We can reconquer those Israelite peasants. I will fulfill Eglon’s vision. I am his heir!”

Jalet shifted his weight on the throne, understanding the situation and knowing immediately what he had to do.

“Bagdon, you are young, and I will excuse your excitement, massive failure and potential treason. My dear, departed, cousin Eglon, did place his trust in you. Therefore, if you leave Kir Moav now and never return to Moabite territory I will not have you killed.” Jalet motioned the two chamber guards closer. They understood and pointed their spears at Bagdon. “However,” Jalet continued, “if you remain, we shall execute you, as per the accusation of the Empress – is that satisfactory, Neema?”

Neema nodded. Bagdon looked at Jalet, sensing his seriousness. He looked at Neema and finally at Orpa.

“I would have been a good husband to you. I would have made you proud,” Bagdon said to Orpa and stormed out of the chambers.

“Well, now that that’s settled, let us continue our discussion, Neema.” Jalet rubbed his thick hands. “Let us speak frankly. The Empire is finished. All that remains of the might of Moab is here in this stronghold which I rule.”

“I am Empress!” Neema stood up, knowing where Jalet was going.

“My dear, Neema. You were the Empress. And as you so correctly pointed out, you are Amalekite. That is where your true allegiance lies and as our nations are no longer united, I would recommend you return home. However, I am feeling magnanimous, so I shall give you the following additional choices: you may marry me and be a humble Queen of Moab as you once were, before the failed Empire was conceived. Alternatively, you and your daughters are welcome to remain as permanent guests of our palace. You will hold no office or rank, but it is the least I can do for the poor homeless family of my dear deceased cousin. In any case, you must recognize my succession to Eglon to the throne of Moab, on which I already comfortably sit.” Jalet patted the armrest of his chair.

Neema said nothing for a few minutes, looking angry, then somber and finally smiling.

“You have certainly inherited some of Eglon’s cunning.” Neema reached out and caressed Jalet’s arm. “You are both right and gracious in your suggestions, King Jalet of Moab. I have always been attracted to power. Now you have it and you have shown you know how to wield it. Give me some time to consider your offer. There is one other journey I must make with my daughters to explore our fortunes before I will be able to give you a reply. Would that be acceptable?”

“Neema, take as long as you need. My home will always be open to you and your daughters.”

 

“Ehud! How good to see you! How is Blimah?” Vered greeted Ehud warmly at the entrance to their bakery. It was late afternoon in Bethlehem.

“Blimah is relieved that Eglon and the Moabites are gone and my role with them finished. But she was a bit disappointed that I needed to leave home again so soon.”

“She’s a good woman. Make sure to get back to her as soon as you can. Boaz! Ehud is here!” Vered called to the back of the bakery.

Boaz entered the storefront and embraced Ehud.

“What brings you to Bethlehem?” Boaz asked.

“Mahlon.”

“Mahlon? What do you want with him?”

“He has a power that will be useful for my next mission.”

“With animals.”

“Yes. How is he adjusting to being back home?”

“I think he’s having difficulties, and Elimelech is a wreck.”

“I figured. That’s why I came to you first. How bad is Elimelech?”

“He is broken. He is a great man, but he has been on the wrong side of the major events of our times. He led the civil war, yet he did not support your effort against Eglon. His leadership has been disastrous, yet people still look up to him and he is filled with self-doubt. He will not be happy to see you.”

“I need Mahlon.”

“Elimelech will not stop you, but Naomi might. Her son has just been returned to her after eighteen years. She had thought him lost forever. She will not wish to part with him again.”

“This will be a short absence.”

“Nonetheless, she will object. Would you like me to come along with you?”

“Thank you, Boaz, but I think it better if I go alone. You two look good. Thanks again for your help in the battle.”

“I hope that’s the last one. I was almost killed, you know. If it weren’t for your man Davneh, I would have been skewered.”

“I know. He was a good man and I was sorry to lose him.”

Boaz and Ehud embraced again and Ehud walked down the road to Elimelech’s home.

Ehud knocked on their door tentatively.

Naomi opened the door. She wore a simple beige dress with thick red hair tied neatly under her headdress. Her smile quickly turned to a frown when she recognized Ehud.

“Ehud,” she said.

“Hello, Naomi. May I come in?”

“You bring nothing but trouble to our family.”

“I’m sorry you see it that way. The trouble is never of my making. I have an important mission I must talk to your family about.”

“Family? You want Mahlon, don’t you. I know he’s having a hard time readjusting, but that’s no reason for him to leave.”

“Naomi, please let me in, so we can discuss things calmly. Is Elimelech home?”

“Yes. He and the boys just returned from the field and are washing up. Come in, then. I will get them.”

Ehud entered the large common area. A long wooden table filled the room. Naomi went to the back of the house. She returned with Elimelech, Mahlon and his younger brother Kilyon. Kilyon had the same red hair and muscular build as his brother and father.

“What do you want now?” Elimelech asked.

“May I sit down?” Ehud asked.

“What do you want!?” Elimelech asked again.

“I need Mahlon for a few weeks, perhaps even less. There is something I must do, that he is uniquely blessed to help me with.”

Mahlon, already happy at the sight of Ehud, smiled even more.

“I’m happy to go, Father,” Mahlon said. “I could use a break from this Judean town.”

“You are not going anywhere, young man; and this Judean town is your home!” Naomi stomped her foot.

“What is it you need him for?” Elimelech asked.

“Justice.”

“Against who?”

“Our people’s enemies.”

“Is that all you ask of us?”

“That is all I ask.”

“Naomi, you know Mahlon has been uncomfortable here.” Elimelech turned to his wife. “We cannot cage him here. He is a grown man. I agree to let him go with Ehud, but on one condition.”

“What condition?” Ehud asked.

“That he returns to Bethlehem and makes a greater effort to be at peace here.”

“I agree, Father,” Mahlon said quickly.

“Can I go as well?” Kilyon asked.

“No,” Ehud, Elimelech and Naomi said at once.

“Why does Mahlon get to have all the fun?” Kilyon asked, but nobody bothered to answer him.

 

“Terrible about Eglon,” Seti said to Pharaoh in the audience chamber.

“Yes. He had so much promise. I will miss that fat, uncouth Moabite. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. What did we lose from the gambit? A few horses and a little gold? It would have been well worth it had he been successful,” Pharaoh told his son and heir. “Do not fret. Nature abhors a vacuum. We shall find some other agent to take up the reigns of power in the area and do our bidding. It may be time to further cultivate our relationship with the Ammonites.”

“Yes, Pharaoh. You are wise and far-seeing as always.”

“One must think in terms of generations and eternity, though I would have loved to see the ears of the Israelite firstborns that Eglon had promised. No matter. Time will furnish us with another puppet.”

“I am concerned about how thoroughly Eglon’s power was destroyed,” Seti said.

“Yes, it was somewhat of a surprise. Perhaps Eglon exuded power he did not truly possess. He was something of a charlatan.”

“Perhaps, or perhaps there is something we haven’t considered.”

“No. Eglon attempted to rise above his station and insinuate himself into our circle. He overreached and failed. It is as simple as that.”

“As you say, Pharaoh,” Seti said, unconvinced.

 

Ehud and Mahlon made good time to Egypt. It took them ten days on the road from Beer Sheva. They connected with the Sea road, and traveled undisturbed. They kept the great sea to their right and the Sinai desert to their left. Their mounts loved Mahlon, who knew exactly how to get the best speed out of them. He rested the horses when they needed it. He made sure they were fed and watered at good intervals but he also knew how to push them when they were getting lazy. Horses were notoriously lazy animals and they would use any excuse to slow down, wander off the road and nibble at wild grass.

The duo left the desert and entered the lush fields of the Nile delta. Vast irrigation ditches stretched for miles around the delta and south on either side of the northward flowing river. Black slaves from Sheba worked the fields, plowing for the summer crop. Ehud and Mahlon rode southwards, bypassing the city and Pharaoh’s palace.

They found a rocky, uncultivated stretch of land on the river bank.

“This spot should work,” Ehud said.

“I told you before, Ehud. I don’t know if I can do this at all. They are completely different creatures.”

“You’ll be able to do it. I have utter faith in you.”

“That’s nice, but I don’t have faith in myself.”

“Let’s find out.”

They dismounted and tied their horses to a nearby willow tree, its long curved branches touching the rushing river. Mahlon approached the water, lay down on the mossy ground and closed his eyes. Mahlon sent his mind out to find the creatures nearby. He felt the warm familiar minds of their two horses. They were happy to rest and were already becoming drowsy after the long journey. He felt some sparrows hiding in the willow, chattering to each other inanely.

Mahlon pushed his mind to the river. He sensed a catfish nearby, but was unable to comprehend its thoughts.

“I can’t do it.” Mahlon rolled over, opened his eyes and massaged the temples of his head. “They are completely alien. It’s a foreign language. It’s one thing to talk to mammals, but these creatures are completely different.”

“Keep trying,” Ehud encouraged.

“Fine, but I think your whole plan is crazy.”

“Just talk to them.”

Mahlon rolled back onto his stomach, closed his eyes and sent his mind once again to the river. He found another catfish and tried to understand its thoughts. There was a familiarity to its mind, but at the same time, something completely different. Mahlon imagined himself in the water and tried to feel what the catfish was feeling.

Then he heard it. The catfish was thinking “move, move, move,” over and over again. Mahlon understood. It was a much simpler creature, without the sophistication and complexity of the mammals he had known his whole life.

Mahlon reached further and found a water snake slithering in the river. He heard its “hunt, hunt, hunt,” as it scoured the river bank. Now for the king of the river, Mahlon thought.

He sensed one a mile upstream, a massive crocodile. It herded a school of carp against the side of the river and snapped its powerful jaws from side to side, scooping up the flailing fish in its large mouth and chomping them quickly. Mahlon waited until the crocodile had finished its noisy repast and calmly floated downstream. Mahlon sensed the reptilian intelligence and spoke to the crocodile’s mind.

You are powerful, Mahlon introduced himself.

Yes. I fear none, the crocodile thought back.

Truly? There are none that threaten you?

I am the largest of my kind. Only the hippo, Taweret, is dangerous, but she is far now.

What is your name?

I am Timsah, father of Garwe.

I am Mahlon, son of Elimelech.

You are curious. I have never communicated with man like this.

I have a special ability.

It is interesting. I would learn more of man. They dirty the river, divert the water and change the course of my home. Why do they not stay on the land and leave the water to me?

Does not Timsah also come onto land at times?

Only when water hunting is poor.

It is the same for man or even more so. I will tell more if you will do me a favor.

Perhaps I shall eat you instead.

Do you eat all men that you encounter?

No. Only annoying ones, or if I am very hungry. Your meat is too soft and your bones too hard.

Will you do me this favor?

It depends on what you ask.

Approach and I will explain.

Timsah swam towards Mahlon and Ehud, moving its tail and body sinuously.

All Mahlon could see of the king of the river were his eyes, ears and nostrils. Otherwise he was invisible. Ehud jumped as Timsah crawled suddenly onto the river bank. Timsah was the length of two grown men. He had a dark bronze scaly skin sprinkled with black spots. His sides were a pistachio green and he walked firmly on four short splayed legs. Bright green eyes stared at Mahlon.

Greetings, Timsah, king of the river.

Greetings, Mahlon son of Elimelech. It is surprisingly pleasing to speak to man in this fashion. Who is this man next to you? Does he not speak as you do?

This is Ehud, Mahlon motioned. He is my friend and he is the favor I require.

Speak.

 

Pharaoh rose with the sun, Ra, his fellow god. Pharaoh loved the early morning. It was the only time during his busy day he had to himself. Since time immemorial, all Pharaohs performed their morning ablutions in solitude. He went to the river bank outside his palace and washed his face with the life-giving waters of another friend from the pantheon, the river god, Hapi son of Horus.

As he rinsed his eyes, Pharaoh beheld a sight more wondrous than any he had ever seen in his life. From the river in front of him, a man rose from the water atop the largest crocodile he had ever seen. The man spat out a hollow reed from his mouth and still dripping from head to toe, stepped calmly onto the river bank.

“Are you a god?” Pharaoh asked Ehud.

“I am a messenger of God,” Ehud answered, shaking water off of himself.

“Which god?”

“There is only one God. The God of Israel.”

“Israel?” Pharaoh took a step back, frightened. “Who are you? What is the message?”

“The message is actually for your son, the new Pharaoh.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand!” Pharaoh screamed, starting to panic.

“Clearly.” Ehud unsheathed the sword strapped to his back and stabbed Pharaoh. Pharaoh collapsed to the ground, dead. Ehud raised his sword and cut off Pharaoh’s ear. Ehud took the dismembered ear and placed it upon the palm of Pharaoh’s prone hand. Ehud then impaled the ear and the hand, leaving the protruding sword like a flag upon the battlefield.

“There is your firstborn’s ear, Pharaoh. Perhaps your son will think twice now when contemplating harming the children of Israel.”

Ehud stepped onto Timsah, who had been waiting by the river bank, and disappeared into the water of the Nile.

* * * * * *

Notes:

The Nile crocodile is called Timsah al-Nil in Arabic, Mamba in Swahili, Garwe in Shona, Ngwenya in Ndebele, Ngwena in Venda, Kwena in Sotho and Tswana. (Wikipedia)

Taweret is the hippo-headed Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility.

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 26 – The Battle of Moab

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 26

 The Battle of Moab

“We’re not going to be left behind,” young Lerim declared to the crowd of youngsters around him. “We’re not going to let the adults fight alone!”

“But how are we going to fight against professional soldiers?” a boy asked.

“How are our parents and brothers going to fight against professional soldiers?” Lerim retorted. “They’re farmers and shepherds, with not a weapon amongst them all. We have to do what we can, with whatever we have.”

“Won’t we make things worse by being underfoot? How will the adults fight if they are worried about our safety?” the boy continued to ask.

“We will help, yet keep our distance,” Lerim explained.

“I don’t understand,” the boy stated.

“Come into the smithy, all of you.” Lerim waved the crowd in. “I have a plan.”

Ehud rode hard, past the idols of Gilgal and the quarry. The sun set, lighting the mountains of Moab across the river with a deep red hue before darkness quickly descended. That’s where your people belong, Ehud thought to the dead Tyrant. You should never have crossed the river. But now we will push you back. Ehud blessed God for the full moon that let him ride through the night. He reached the hills of Mount Ephraim.

He saw a handful of bonfires and a few men awake. In the shadows, he could make out a large camp, asleep. He rode to the first bonfire and met big Perad, his assistant.

“How did it go?” Perad asked. “We heard from the princes that the Moabites pursued you.”

“The Tyrant is dead and I avoided the Moabites,” Ehud said. “How many answered our call?”

“Not many. Perhaps a thousand.”

“It will have to do. Now is the time.”

Ehud removed a hollow ram’s horn from his saddle. In the middle of the night, under the full moon, he raised the tip of the horn to his lips and blew with all his might. The sound of the horn reverberated throughout the mountain and down to the valley below. Again and again Ehud blew on the horn. Those in the camp awoke immediately and congregated around Ehud. Men from nearby towns approached the midnight convocation.

“Arise, my brothers!” Ehud called out to the swelling crowd. “Arise, and follow me. For God has given your enemy, Moab, into your hand! Eglon the Tyrant is dead. Dead at my hands. And so shall the rest of your enemies fall. Arise!”

More than one thousand men followed Ehud to the Jordan plain.

“Eglon is dead,” Bagdon said to Galkak in the palace hallway. Bagdon breathed deeply, fighting for a sense of control.

“No!” Galkak cried. “How?”

“He just fell down in his audience chamber. No blood, no wounds, nothing. The men are saying it’s because of his weight.”

“This is terrible! Eglon and Dirthamus in one day. What are we going to do?”

“King Galkak, I know that Eglon was your friend and that you have been his most loyal vassal. And I know I haven’t always been as respectful to you, but I ask that you honor your alliance and support me in finishing Eglon’s last wishes and strengthening our growing Empire. The action against the Israelite firstborns is critical for securing our treaty with Egypt. Your troops are here. We can finish the Israelites this morning and you shall have a prominent place in the expanded Empire.”

Galkak put out his arm and clasped Bagdon’s.

“I am your brother,” Galkak stated emotionally. “Where you go, I go. I shall not leave your side until this campaign is finished.”

“Now I know why Eglon treasured you so much,” Bagdon said. “It is lonely to be a leader, but you have consistently proven yourself a friend. Let us ready our troops. Much blood will be spilled today.”

Ehud and his men reached the Jordan valley with the morning sun. They carried axes and hoes, pitchforks and spades. There were a few crude bows amongst the men. Perad carried a large hammer and had brought one for Ehud as well. Lanky Davneh carried a hammer as well – every man took the tool he was comfortable with.

Moabite soldiers filled the valley and let the Israelites through uncontested. Six thousand Moabites guarded the perimeter of the valley. Another four thousand soldiers of Amalek and Ammon waited at attention outside the City of Palms.

“We make for the river,” Ehud announced. “They will not expect us to attack their border.”

Lerim and his companions, about three dozen youths, reached the edge of the tall mountains overlooking the Jordan valley. They could see the City of Palms, the ruins of Jericho and the expanse of the valley until the river.

Lerim looked at the rising sun expectantly and blessed God for the hot cloudless day.

“This can work,” he said to his followers as they removed their copper tools and polished them again.

“I would have expected more firstborns. And many more children. I don’t see any children.” Bagdon said to Galkak as they saw the Israelites approaching. They both sat on their mounts, Galkak with four thousand of his men behind him.

“Perhaps they are coming in stages,” Galkak suggested.

“And what is that they are carrying? Tools? What for?”

“Bagdon, you are Israelite. You know how they are so fond of their tools. Why, I knew an Israelite blacksmith that slept with his hammer every night.”

“I am Israelite only by birth, but something is not right,” Bagdon said. “This is not an innocent group coming for a census – this is an attack force!”

“Nonsense,” Galkak insisted. “So they ride hard. You are becoming paranoid and jumping at shadows. This is how you will lead the Empire?”

“Perhaps you are right,” Bagdon said doubtfully. “Let us be patient and see what happens. In any case, we can easily quash such a feeble force.”

The Israelites reached the Moabite forces stationed by the river crossing and smashed into them. Hoes, hammer, scythes and axes tore into the Moabite soldiers. The Moabite force fell apart under the surprise attack. Bagdon spotted Ehud at the lead.

“It’s Ehud! It is an attack!” Bagdon yelled. “Moabites! Destroy that Israelite force! Now!” Bagdon charged forward.

“Amalek! Ammon! Attack Moab now!” Galkak called out.

Bagdon whirled his stallion to face Galkak.

“What do you mean by attack Moab!? Galkak, you must be confused. You mean Israel! Tell your men to attack Israel!”

“No,” Galkak said with a slight smile. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”

Galkak’s men hacked at the Moabites from behind.

“Traitor!” Bagdon pounced on Galkak with his sword. Galkak defended himself from Bagdon’s violent attack. “No matter!” Bagdon said. “We still outnumber you. We shall destroy you and the Israelites in one shot. Then we shall truly be the only power in the region.”

“I’m just happy to keep you occupied while my men destroy a leaderless and confused army.” Galkak smiled as he parried Bagdon’s blows, all the time keeping an eye on the progress of the battle.

“You are wasting my time.” Bagdon disengaged from Galkak and surveyed the battle. The fighting was concentrated by the river crossing. The Moabites from all over the valley were closing in on the Israelites. Galkak’s men had taken the Moabites by surprise, but now the Moabites with their superior numbers were fighting back. Moabites, Amalekites and Ammonites were falling left and right. Only the Israelites, with their crude tools, seemed to suffer the least casualties.

Bagdon looked closely and then understood why.

Ehud.

Ehud was off his horse and was fighting with a canniness and accuracy that Bagdon would not have believed possible. Ehud had already picked up two swords from fallen Moabites and was ducking under blows, stabbing those approaching from behind and wrecking havoc throughout the Moabite line. Then Bagdon caught a glimpse of a man speeding around the Moabite troops, laying them low. The famed Boaz, Bagdon realized. Boaz had more grey than red on his head, but he still managed to incapacitate the best Moabite soldiers. Explosions of smoke racked the Moabite line and another grey red-head led an Israelite charge against the confused Moabite soldiers. That must be Amitai, Bagdon thought. The old militia has reassembled. But we still outnumber them. We still have the advantage of training, of arms, of mounts. Even with Galkak’s treachery. But Ehud is the key. If I can stop him, I can end this quickly, Bagdon decided as he called a squadron of soldiers to him and marched towards the whirling Ehud.

Mahlon burst into the quarters of the Empress. She sat morosely, Ruth and Orpa on either side of her.

“Quick, Empress, princesses, you must leave the palace!” Mahlon said, holding a torch in his hand.

“Can we not mourn in peace!?” Empress Neema asked.

“There is no time,” Mahlon insisted. “The palace is on fire!”

“Fire? There is no fire. What are you talking about?”

Mahlon touched the torch to the bed of the Empress which quickly caught the flame. In moments there was a roaring fire.

“There’s your fire,” Mahlon said. “It would be a shame for you and your daughters to die with the rest of the city. The Tyrant is dead and soon your Empire will crumble at the hand of God’s prophet. Go back to Moab. Go back where you belong. I will burn the stables last, so if you hurry you can still find some mounts.”

“Goodbye, Princess,” Mahlon looked at Ruth. “I know this is painful, but perhaps we are saving you for a better destiny than to become an Egyptian puppet. Think of yourself as free from your prison now. Farewell. I do not think we will meet again.”

Mahlon exited the burning room, with Eglon’s family fast behind him. The women headed towards the stable. Mahlon headed deeper into the palace to see what else he could burn.

Ruth looked at his receding back and somehow knew, I will see you yet again Mahlon son of Elimelech, prince of Judah.

Davneh was afraid. Every time he stabbed a Moabite. Every time he almost died. He was no soldier. He didn’t have Perad’s strength or Ehud’s amazing skill. Davneh was filled with cuts and bruises. He was tired. The initial excitement from the first attack had worn off. He had fallen behind Ehud and now Moabites were attacking them from the sides and the rear. More Israelites were falling. There seemed to be an endless number of Moabites just waiting their turn to try and kill them. One large Moabite reached Davneh and raised his sword for a killing stroke. Davneh no longer had the strength to move or defend himself. Suddenly, a flash of light struck the Moabite in the eyes, blinding him momentarily. Davneh blessed God for the reprieve and stabbed the large Moabite.

Lerim jumped for joy.

“It worked!” he cried out. “It’s working! I blinded him!”

Lerim had taken pieces of copper from the smithy. Pieces from old pots, scraps from oil lanterns and together with his friends they had polished them to a mirror-like shine. From their vantage point of the mountains, they were able to reflect the strong desert sun into the eyes of their enemies.

“Yes!” shouted another boy, as he successfully blinded another Moabite about to stab an Israelite. The Moabite was then killed in turn.

The tactic was proving successful and helping the battle. Best of all, they were out of harm’s way. However, Bagdon’s sharp eye noticed the phenomena and traced the source to the jumping boys on the mountain. He sent a squadron of soldiers towards the boys.

The City of Palms was on fire. The few non-combatants under the leadership of Empress Neema fled south, away from the battle. Mahlon rode Chamrah towards the battleground. He looked awkward riding on a donkey beside the soldiers on their large warhorses, but he trusted Chamrah with his life.

Moabite soldiers looked back in distress to see their city burning. Mahlon looked at the Jordan River, dark with blood. He noted the advantage the Moabites had over the Israelites with their cavalry.

Stop! Mahlon ordered all the horses his mind could reach. Dozens of horses stopped suddenly, sending their riders flying forward. Bagdon and his men fell off their horses, paces away from Ehud, who was still at the forefront of the battle.

“Arrows on Ehud!” Bagdon commanded his men from the ground. A dozen archers placed their arrows in their bows and aimed at Ehud.

“Fire!” Bagdon ordered.

Galkak, on his stallion, jumped into the line of fire. Eight arrows hit the horse and four arrows hit Galkak. Galkak fell off his horse. Ehud saw Galkak fall and ran towards him.

“Perad, Amitai,” Ehud called and pointed. “Bagdon.”

The two warriors with their men branched off from the main Israelite force and attacked Bagdon’s group. Bagdon looked around. Few remained standing from any of the armies, except for the Israelites. Thousands upon thousands of corpses littered the battleground. Moabites, Amalekites and Ammonites lay as puppets whose strings had been violently ripped, their blood mingling in the flowing Jordan. Only the Israelites remained as a force, angry and ready for more blood. Bagdon did not understand how they were defeated so thoroughly. A few farmers, that’s all it was, Bagdon thought in confusion. And that traitor, Galkak. If it weren’t for Galkak, curse him, we would have won. Curse that Amalekite.

Big Perad and grizzled Amitai closed in on Bagdon menacingly. Then a painful light blinded Bagdon. That’s enough, Bagdon decided. We cannot take anymore.

“Retreat!” Bagdon called out. “Retreat, Moab. We will live to fight another day!”

Bagdon ran away from the approaching Israelites.

“Galkak,” Ehud held the fallen man.

“I ain’t gonna make it this time, Ehud,” Galkak said, two arrows in his chest and one in his stomach.

“You saved my life,” Ehud said. “You saved all of us. We’ve won. We are free of the yoke of Moab. We are free to be ourselves.”

“That’s good. I was tired of pretending.”

“Galkak, is there anything we can do for you? Any last wish? A message to your family?” Ehud asked as he felt Galkak’s spirit ebb.

“I could really use a drink,” Galkak said and then died in his friend’s arms.

Davneh’s one joy in life had been working in the smithy. He was not very smart, nor very brave. He was not particularly attractive and no girl had deemed him a worthy groom. Even in the smithy, he was only good as a helper. He never felt that he accomplished anything beyond cleaning the smithy or stoking the fire. He never did anything important or worthwhile. But he belonged. That was the only reason he had joined the battle, because of Ehud and Perad. Part of him wished he could have been excused, like young Lerim.

Now his entire body ached. He had never hurt so much in his life. Not when he had dropped the heavy smithy hammer on his toe, or when he had burned himself on the tongs that he had left by the furnace. He had gashes throughout his body and he could barely move. All he wanted to do was fall to the ground and die. But there were still Moabite soldiers about, wielding their swords expertly.

Davneh saw the famed Boaz nearby. He had grown up on stories of Boaz’s exploits and powers. Boaz was kneeling on the ground, murmuring.

“I’m too old for this,” Boaz wheezed. Boaz’s right arm was covered with the blood of his many victims and his legs wobbled as if they were about to collapse. He didn’t seem to notice the large Moabite approaching him from behind.

Davneh had no more voice left to warn Boaz of the Moabite. Instead, he ran at the Moabite with his last remaining strength and threw himself at the giant of a man. The Moabite skewered Davneh in mid-air. Boaz awoke to the movement, turned on the Moabite and stabbed him in turn.

Davneh fell to the ground and with his last breath said: “At last, something worthwhile.” He died with a tired smile on his face.

Bagdon ran hard and fast. He found his mount and rode it south, away from the battle. A lone man on a donkey stood in his way.

“You must be rejoicing, stable boy,” Bagdon said to Mahlon.

“Yes, we are finally free of cruel Moabite dominion.”

“Get out of my way and I won’t kill you,” Bagdon said.

“No. You need to answer for your crimes.”

“What crimes? I have always been and always shall be a loyal soldier of the Empire. It is you and all these others that are criminals.”

“You are blind, Bagdon. Even in defeat you do not realize the truth. Stand down and face the judgment of our people.”

“I’m not afraid of you, Mahlon. I was always a better fighter than you. There’s little you can do to me from your silly donkey.”

Bagdon slashed suddenly at Mahlon, cutting at his arm and knocking Mahlon off of Chamrah. Bagdon jumped off his horse and approached the fallen Mahlon, preparing a death-blow. Chamrah charged at Bagdon and bit his leg. Bagdon aimed for Mahlon again, but Chamrah stood in his way and neighed loudly. Chamrah then kicked Bagdon and chased him, nipping at his buttocks as the former general of the Moabite Empire ran away.

Lerim saw the force of Moabites scaling the mountain towards them. The battle looked like it was almost over, but now they needed to worry about their own survival. Running did not seem an option. Once the soldiers reached the top of the mountain, they would be able to catch the young Israelites easily.

The boys shone their polished copper pieces on the climbing soldiers. They tried to blind them exactly when they were reaching for that precarious ledge or about to step into a more secure foothold. They managed to blind a few soldiers at precisely the right moment and watched gleefully as they tumbled down the mountain, not to return. At others they simply threw rocks and large stones. In one case they were able to start a small avalanche that buried two Moabites.

Finally, one large Moabite crested the mountain ledge, sword in hand. Thirty boys pelted the soldier at once with fist and head-sized stones. Half a dozen other boys, with Lerim amongst them, took long branches and smashed the soldier at the same time. The Moabite went tumbling down the mountain, never to trouble anyone again.

The Israelites easily killed the remaining Moabites who were not as light-footed as Bagdon. Few Amalekites or Ammonites had survived the battle either. Many had tried to escape east across the river, but the Israelites held the river against them. Ten thousand corpses lay in the valley of the Jordan River, very few of them Israelite. The Israelites gathered their wounded and dead and headed back home. Ehud had Galkak’s body sent to his hometown of Aroer. He watched as the flames of the City of Palms died down, just leaving the charred remains of what had once been the capital of the Moabite Empire.

Perad found a cart, placed Davneh’s body on it and hitched their horses to the cart.

“What shall we do with the enemy’s dead?” Perad asked Ehud.

“Leave them. Let the vultures and the jackals feast. We will have enough work fixing what these nations have destroyed.”

“What work?”

“The work of freedom, the work of peace, the work of proper worship of God – it is all hard work. Come Perad, let us take Davneh home and get to work.”

Perad, Ehud and the rest of the Israelites left the valley of the Jordan River as the afternoon set in. The mountains of Moab appeared redder than usual in the setting sun.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source: Book of Judges, Chapter 3

26 And Ehud escaped while they lingered, having passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirah. 27 And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a horn in the hill-country of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the hill-country, and he before them. 28 And he said unto them: ‘Follow after me; for the Lord hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand.’ And they went down after him, and took the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, and suffered not a man to pass over. 29 And they smote of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, every lusty man, and every man of valour; and there escaped not a man. 30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.