Category Archives: Elimelech

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 6 – Bittersweet Weddings

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 6

Bittersweet Weddings

“That kid,” Mahlon whispered urgently to Kilyon, their mother still grasping Elimelech’s corpse. A pool of sticky blood was under Elimelech’s body. There was a child-sized hole in the thatched roof above them, where Beor had fallen through and stabbed their father. “We need to find him.”

“He’s some sick pup,” Kilyon whispered back. “He sliced my hand when we arrived this morning.”

“He stole my pouch in the market and led me on a wild chase,” Mahlon retorted. “There’s something not right. I’ll stay with Mother. You see if you can track him. If not, call the city guard and inform them. They need to know and then we need to arrange for Father’s burial.”

“Right.” Kilyon nodded and hurried out of the house. He looked up and down the stone-paved road as dusk set in. Some torches were lit on the main road of Kir Moav, causing a flickering of shadows to fall on the poorly lit side-street.

Kilyon saw merchants and townsfolk heading to their homes after a day of work, but no sign of the deadly little child. Kilyon reached the main road and headed towards the gate of the city. Four soldiers were on duty, watching the flow of travelers in and out of the city. Both empty and full carts left for nearby farmsteads. Anyone traveling further had already left earlier in the afternoon. Kilyon grabbed the closest guard.

“There’s been a murder!” he announced.

“Where? Who?” the guard asked.

“In our home. My father. Elimelech, Prince of Judah.”

“The Judean Prince?” The guard’s eyes opened wide. “The King will want to hear of it. You two remain here.” The guard pointed at two of the guards. “Kramu, you inform the palace. I will go with the son to the scene of the crime.”

*

“How unfortunate,” King Jalet said as he paced the small house of Elimelech’s family. Mahlon and Naomi had covered Elimelech’s body and cleaned the blood to the best of their ability. The packed-earth floor still had stains of deep red that shone under the torchlight. Naomi sat in a corner of the house, oblivious to the discussion. Jalet, with three of his soldiers, addressed Mahlon and Kilyon.

“A child, you say, fell from the roof.” Jalet pointed at the hole. “How unusual. I have heard reports of some wild orphan running loose in the city, but I thought him mostly harmless. We cannot watch every vagabond or peddler that comes to our city, no matter how young. Still, this is an unexpected event. I will conduct a funeral with royal accoutrements for the Prince.”

“That is most kind of you,” Mahlon said. “But we would prefer to bury our father as per our own customs. Is there some field or cave that we can purchase as a burial plot?”

“Yes, yes. Of course. As you wish. Right outside the city, east of the main road. I have land that may be suitable. I will show it to you in the morning.”

“Thank you, your Majesty.” Mahlon and Kilyon bowed to Jalet.

“While I am here, I am anxious to hear your reply to my offer of Eglon’s daughters. It is still in effect.”

Mahlon and Kilyon looked at each other. They looked at their father’s fresh corpse covered in shrouds and at their mourning mother, no longer aware of the world around her. They nodded imperceptibly.

“We accept,” Mahlon answered. “We will marry the daughters of Eglon.”

“That is a wise choice, my sons.” Jalet smiled. “I already feel kinship towards you. You will be my stepsons-in-law and you shall have the many privileges and pleasures of the palace. We should organize the wedding already. Shall we make it for tomorrow? Or the next day?”

“Please give us a week, your Majesty,” Mahlon asked. “We will need a week to mourn our father.”

“Agreed!” Jalet clapped the brothers on the shoulders. “We will meet tomorrow to arrange the plot for your father and then we will look to the future. Until then!”

Jalet took one last look at Elimelech’s body and shrugged as he and his soldiers entered the night of Kir Moav.

*

Naomi was barely aware of existence. All she felt was a terrible loss. People around her spoke and moved, but it held no meaning for her. She saw Mahlon taking charge and somehow that felt right. They were outside the walls of Kir Moav together with a royal entourage. Mahlon and Kilyon carried the wrapped body of Elimelech, which was no longer Elimelech. It was now just a dead body that had carried the spirit of her husband. The desert wind blew grains of sand into their face. It felt like needles upon her skin. The physical pain gave her a semblance of life.

They stood in front of a shallow cave. Mahlon and Kilyon dug deeply into the walls of the cave with the Moabite-borrowed shovels. Naomi noticed Ruth and Orpa looking somber. Mahlon and Kilyon placed the dead body in the fresh grave and then blocked up the entrance to the cave with large boulders. He was gone, as if he had never been; the two strong sons the only evidence that an Elimelech had existed.

They returned to their blood-stained house, a ray of sunlight shining through the hole in their roof. They sat on the ground, alone. Naomi and her two sons. No neighbors came to console them. No relatives asked about their needs. It was a foggy existence – days and days of silence, with the single exception of a visit from Ruth and Orpa on the third day.

Ruth and Orpa arrived with parcels of food. Mahlon and Kilyon started to talk. They told their brides-to-be about Elimelech. They remembered the leader, the stern father, the protective husband. They did not know of his utter failure and massive loss in the battle against the Benjaminites. They were not aware of his failure to support Ehud against Eglon. They did not judge his cowardice in abandoning Judah at its time of need. They merely polished the fragments of memory they had, leaving behind the detritus and disappointment that was the true Elimelech.

Naomi started to cry. She mourned the real Elimelech, her imperfect husband. His pride, his arrogance, his self-righteousness. He had been courageous, even when he was wrong. He had been stubborn. He had exercised leadership. He was a great man during difficult times whose judgment had been poor. He had such greatness in him, but it was never fulfilled, always twisted by his fears, his insecurities and his doubts. He knew he would never live up to the standard of his father and that had poisoned his mind and his heart. Naomi said all these things only to herself as she rocked back and forth on the floor and wept bitter tears.

*

“Congratulations!” King Jalet proclaimed to all the guests in the palace. “Congratulations to the young couples! May they fulfill the blessings of their esteemed ancestors and usher in a new era of peace between our nations.”

Naomi wandered amongst the guests, staying near the back of the hall. The sound of flutes and lyres filled the air, but did not penetrate her senses. She was in a daze. She was still upset with Mahlon and Kilyon for agreeing to the marriage. Mother-in-law of Moabites? Naomi thought to herself bitterly. Related to that Amalekite witch? Naomi looked at Queen Neema with open disdain. How low can I fall? Where did we fail, Elimelech? How did our children so quickly abandon our ways? Naomi did not eat from the banquet, but rather stood alone and friendless at the wedding of her sons.

*

“Congratulations, Prince Zipor,” Sumahtrid said to the young prince. Zipor sat at the end of a long table, biting lustily into his flank of meat.

“Thank you, Sumahtrid. I’m only the brother of the brides.”

“Yes, and this marriage weakens your position.”

“What do you mean?” Zipor stopped eating. “Father said the Israelites were no threat.”

“Your father is shrewd. The Israelites are not a threat to him – that is true. However, should they produce a child they will certainly be a threat to your reign.”

“I had not thought of that.” Zipor dropped his meat. “What can I do? I can’t kill them now. Perhaps after the celebrations.”

“No, no. Killing is too extreme. It is unnecessary and may upset the balance that your father has finally achieved with the daughters of Eglon. No, I have a simpler and less lethal solution. Listen carefully, my young prince.”

*

“So, Mahlon, Kilyon, my sons,” Jalet addressed the grooms at the head table, as the music played on. “It fills my heart with joy to see my step-daughters married and in bliss. You see, Neema. Look at what attractive couples they make. It was well worth the wait for such upstanding men, was it not? Now tell me, boys. What practical things can you do? I do not tolerate idleness by our menfolk.”

“I am very good with animals,” Mahlon said. “I was head of the royal stables in Eglon’s day and would be very happy to assist you with your animals.”

“Excellent!” Jalet clapped his hands. “We can use a good man there. What about you, Kilyon.”

“I’m a farmer. Um, I’ve also developed some novel ways to harvest faster.”

“Wonderful! We would certainly benefit from some help on our meager fields. Very good. After the wedding celebrations I will assign each of you to work. Good choice, Neema, I tell you. Wonderful choice.”

“May I interrupt, Father?” Prince Zipor approached, holding a tray with drinks.

“Of course, my son. Of course. What is it?”

“I would like to propose a toast to my new brothers-in-law.”

“How thoughtful!” Jalet beamed. “Good for you, Zipor. That is showing great character. Great initiative. The things that kings are made of. Go ahead.”

Zipor handed to Mahlon and Kilyon a goblet each and took one himself, placing the empty tray on the table.

“To Mahlon and Kilyon.” Zipor raised his goblet. “My new brothers. You know, it’s a drag sometimes having only older sisters. They can be such worry-warts and don’t have insights into a man’s world. I’m pleased to now have older brothers who can give me advice and guidance about the wider world. Welcome, brothers.” Zipor drained his goblet.

Mahlon and Kilyon followed suit. Both grimaced lightly and coughed at the taste of the wine.

“Thank you, Zipor,” Mahlon said, coughing again. “That is most kind of you. Interesting flavor, this wine. Where is it from?”

“Local vintage and a special recipe.”

“Very considerate,” Kilyon said, as a tear trickled down his eye. “You’re one tough kid if you can handle this wine.”

“If only you knew.” Zipor waited until he was sure the brothers had finished their goblets and then excused himself.

“Come, my husband,” Orpa said, pulling Kilyon from his seat. “I’ve had enough of all these speeches. Let’s dance.”

“I’m with you.” Kilyon got up quickly, accidentally stepping on Orpa’s foot.

“Ow! You oaf!” Orpa screamed. The music stopped. “You Israelite brute. Don’t you Hebrews know how to walk? I think you broke my foot! On my wedding day! You’ve ruined my wedding!” Orpa stormed out of the hall, limping on one foot.

Jalet motioned for the music to continue. Sumahtrid, Zipor and Naomi all smiled at Kilyon’s obvious embarrassment – each for different reasons.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source:

Book of Ruth, Chapter 1:

3 And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. 4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpa, and the name of the other Ruth; and they dwelt there about ten years.

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 4 – Choice Neighbors

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 4

 Choice Neighbors

“They’re here!” Sumahtrid paced vigorously around his small, dank house. “This is terrible!”

Little Beor, on his short legs, kept up with Sumahtrid’s circling, thinking it a game and calling merrily after him, “Terrible! Terrible!”

“What are we to do?” Sumahtrid asked the room more than his young apprentice. “We cannot show our hand. We must tread carefully. What are the chances that they would marry? Perhaps it will be a short stay and they will not even meet. I still don’t understand why Elimelech came to Kir Moav of all places. But I must be calm, Beor. It is good that we are here to monitor things. We shall have to watch closely, and intervene when the time comes. Why are you following me like that? Stop it. Stop it!”

Beor looked up happily at his mentor, thinking he had won at the game, and chirped back, “Stop it! Stop it!”

 

She’s probably married to an Egyptian prince, Mahlon said to himself for the tenth time. Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon and Kilyon rode into the walled city of Kir Moav uncontested. Since the catastrophic defeat of the Moabite Empire to Ehud’s attack there had been an unspoken but uneasy peace between the diminished Kingdom of Moab under the rule of Jalet and the tribes of Israel. Commerce between the nations had returned with much better conditions for the Israelites than under Eglon’s rule. A steady flow of finished goods crossed the Jordan River from Israel to Moab. In the other direction, the mines of Moab furnished metals to the Israelites, especially copper.

What are the chances that Ruth is here? Mahlon wondered as he gazed at the height and thickness of the Moabite walls in the stark desert.

“We must find a residence first,” Elimelech announced.

Naomi, her face puffy from constant crying, said nothing.

“Mahlon, go to the market with your mother and see what the price of food is here. I’ve heard they may be getting supplies from Egypt. Kilyon and I will look for housing. We’ll find you when we’re done.”

Elimelech and Kilyon rode the wagon with their supplies down a residential street.

The houses were constructed of large pink stones with thatched roofs. Young children played in the road on the polished stones, grey from use. An elderly man approached the Judeans.

“Greetings, strangers.” The man bowed low. “May I be of service to you?”

“Why, yes. That is most kind of you,” Elimelech answered. “We are looking for residence.”

“The gods must be smiling upon you today,” the old man grinned toothily. “As fate would have it, I have a house I am vacating this very day, that I would be most pleased to rent to you. How long do you think you shall be needing it for?”

“The gods? How long?” Elimelech said confusedly. “I don’t know. At least for one harvest, perhaps longer.”

“Excellent!” the old man clapped his hands. “One harvest is excellent. That will be five silvers and I will charge you only four silvers for every harvest thereafter. Come, let me show you your new home.”

The old man grabbed the reins of the donkey-led wagon and walked a befuddled Elimelech a few feet away.

“Here we are,” the old man motioned to the door of his house. “Come right in. See for yourselves. We haven’t started packing, but now that you’re here, we’ll be out in no time at all. Come, make yourselves comfortable.”

Elimelech and Kilyon followed the old man, Elimelech limping on his injured leg. They entered a cozy house, where a pot of stew simmered over the fireplace.

“When did you decide you were moving?” Elimelech asked suspiciously.

“Oh, it was a very sudden decision. A business opportunity came up.”

“Really? What business are you in?” Elimelech asked.

“Um, I’m a herdsman.”

“And you’ll be taking your herd elsewhere?”

“Yes, yes. Greener pastures and all that. Anyway, do you have the money or are you one of those charlatans? I can find another tenant easily enough.” The old man crossed his arms and pouted.

“We have the money, and we will take the place.” Elimelech calmly took five silver coins out of his pouch.

“Excellent.” The old man counted the coins greedily. “Just give me an hour and we will clear our things.”

Elimelech and Kilyon exited the house. Kilyon saw boys playing ball down the road. A young boy examined their wagon intensely.

“Boy, come here. What’s your name?” Kilyon called to the little boy by the wagon.

“Beor.” The little boy approached, unafraid.

“Do you live around here? We’re going to be neighbors.” Kilyon put out his hand in greeting.

Beor put out his own hand and slashed Kilyon’s palm with a short blade he had concealed.

“Neighbors!” Beor yelled and scampered away.

“Ow!” Kilyon yelped and held his bleeding palm. “That little runt is mad!”

“Strange people these Moabites,” Elimelech commented. “Let’s find your mother and brother.”

The Judeans did not hear a furious Sumahtrid admonishing Beor from the house across the road: “Beor, how many times have I told you not to play with your victims…”

 

Mahlon and Naomi rode their donkeys down the main road to a bustling central market. They dismounted, tied their donkeys to a public stand and entered the market on foot. Past the market they could see the imposing structure of the pink-stoned palace of Kir Moav.

Naomi revived as she encountered the smells and noises of the marketplace. There was a broad array of spices: ginger, cassia, turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon. There was some grain and even some fresh bread. Everything was expensive, but not at the famine prices of Israel.

“Where is your grain from?” Mahlon asked one of the vendors.

“Egypt and some from Ammon too.” The vendor looked at Mahlon strangely. “You’re not from here, are you?”

“No. We’re Judean,” Mahlon answered.

“You don’t say.” The vendor took an involuntary step back. “Except for salesmen, we don’t get too many of you here.”

“There is a famine by us and we’ve sought fresh fields.”

“Then you’ve come to the right place.” The vendor took a step closer. “Business has been very good lately. Our mines are at full production and commerce is strong. Even the Midianites have been conducting legitimate business with us and we get regular visits from Damascus and beyond. My friend, because you’re new here, I’ll give you a special price on the grain.” The vendor offered them wheat at twice the rate other vendors had quoted.

“That’s generous. Thank you.” Mahlon smiled and moved on.

“Well, there’s more grain here than in Bethlehem,” Mahlon said to Naomi. “I think we’ll be better off here.”

“You don’t understand, Mahlon,” Naomi responded, her eye catching the fabric vendors down the road. “We have left our home, our ancestral land, our people. We have turned our backs on our brothers and sisters at their time of greatest need. We were making a difference in their lives and now we have abandoned them. To live amongst these idol-worshipers? How is this better?”

Naomi stopped at a fabric vendor showing rolls of colorful silks and cottons: sky-blue cotton with lines of dark green and pure white, yellow silk that shone like the sun with pink edges. Naomi saw color combinations that she had never imagined.

“These are beautiful!” Naomi held the soft fabric in her hands. “Where are these from?” she asked the vendor.

“My lady is obviously a woman of very great taste. These are from Sheba. They have a new process for weaving the threads so the fabric appears seamless – like one piece. I have a seamstress inside who can cut and sew a dress for you while you wait.” The vendor motioned further into the shop where an array of even more colorful fabrics beckoned.

“Mahlon, wait for me here. I’ll be just a moment.”

Mahlon tapped his foot impatiently as his mother entered the vendor’s shop. Naomi’s mouth opened in awe at the rainbow of colors that surrounded her. A woman with tightly woven red hair and a simple dress was busy expertly cutting and sewing fabric.

Naomi looked at the fabrics and then at her own simple Judean dress. She felt pangs of guilt at the luxury she was contemplating. She held a rich purple fabric that flowed like water in her hands. The price of this fabric could feed a Judean family for a month, she thought. She then fell to her knees and cried.

“What am I doing here?” she sobbed, fresh tears running through the path of the old ones. Why am I amongst these heathens? Naomi thought miserably. How can we remain here when our people are starving? What will happen to my boys? Heaven forbid if they marry one of these idol-worshipers. Naomi shuddered at the thought.

The seamstress, startled by the client’s reaction, put down the fabric she was cutting, got down on one knee and patted Naomi gently.

“Don’t cry, mother,” the seamstress said gently. “Ashban will give you a fair price. You are fortunate you came into the store of one of the few honest merchants. I’ll make sure you get a good price. It’s nothing to cry about.”

“Oh, that is sweet of you to care, but that is not why I cry. I cry for I am away from my people and I fear for those I left behind and perhaps more so for my sons that we have brought here. We do not belong in this place.”

“Where are you from, sweet mother, that you would cry so over your home?”

“I am from Judah, where there is now a famine. My husband has brought us here, to spare us, and what choice do I have but to follow him?”

“From Judah?” the seamstress stood up, raising Naomi by the hands. “I will make sure that you and your family are taken care of. You see, a Judean was kind to me once, and I shall never forget it.”

“What is your name daughter, that you are so kind and considerate?”

“I am Ruth, daughter of Eglon, once Emperor of Moab.”

Naomi’s skin tingled all over. She did not know if it was excitement, fear or something stronger, but she knew that this woman would change her life forever.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 3 – Dangerous Charity

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 3

 Dangerous Charity

“Excuse me. Pardon me,” Vered requested mildly, as she pushed her way through the crowd around Naomi’s house. She couldn’t believe how large the crowd was, barely two hours into the day. She recognized most of the people as her fellow residents of Bethlehem. However, there were several from other Judean towns and there were some that she didn’t even think were Judean at all.

Vered had long ago lost her height and her bright red hair. But she had not lost her verve and strength of purpose and made her way through the hungry beggars outside Naomi’s door. Wearing her short white hair bundled under her tan scarf and a simple tan dress, she passed an anxious old man at the door and entered Naomi’s house.

“Oh, Vered,” a frazzled Naomi greeted her, handing her a tray with freshly baked bread. “Thank God you’re here. If you could give out this batch, I’ll take the next one out of the oven.”

Vered looked in astonishment at the trays of fresh bread throughout the house.

“Where did this come from? When did you make all of this?” Vered asked incredulously.

“What? I don’t know,” Naomi answered absently, as she removed another loaf from the brick oven with the bread paddle. She burned her hand lightly as she touched the metal edge of the paddle, trying to keep the fresh bread from falling off. Her hands and arms were filled with small blisters. “I haven’t slept. I’ve been baking the entire night. Just when I think I’ve run out of dough, there’s more. And there are more and more people to feed.”

Vered gave a loaf to the old man she had passed, and then to a young girl behind him, to a widowed young woman after her and to every person that appeared at Naomi’s door. She looked out the door to view the sea of people around the house.

“Elimelech is going to find out,” Vered said to Naomi. Naomi was busy kneading more dough as Vered gave out another tray’s-worth of bread.

“I know,” Naomi said. “I don’t know what to do! He was right and he’s going to be furious. But I can’t stop. I can’t waste this blessing.”

“Elimelech is a great man. Perhaps he’ll understand,” Vered suggested.

“No. Elimelech is blind to the blessing. He has given up and only looks inward. We must feed these people and get them out before sunset, before he returns from the fields with the boys.”

“Maybe Boaz can talk to him. Boaz could convince him that you’re doing the right thing,” Vered said hesitantly.

“That is sweet of you to offer, dear. But if your husband were to approach Elimelech, it would only make matters worse. Elimelech is very proud and much wounded.  It would make him even madder. No. Let’s feed these poor souls and hope for the best. If I don’t collapse from all this work, I’ll fall apart from worry. But I have no choice. What would my grandfather have done? What would Nachshon the Brave do?”

 

“I swear there’s more grain in the field today than there was yesterday,” Elimelech said as he wiped the sweat off his brow. He stood with his sons in the middle of his vast fields, reaping the summer harvest.

“How is that possible?” Mahlon asked.

“Who cares?” Kilyon replied. “It gives me more to cut. You think you’re so good with the oxen, watch me with the scythe. Here’s a new move I came up with.”

Kilyon jumped into the thick stalks of wheat and twirled around with the scythe held out. A ring of sheaves fell around him.

“How’s that?” Kilyon grinned. “You saw how quickly I cut them? I figured it would take me half the time it takes you.”

“Maybe,” Mahlon answered. “But look how much you left behind. You’ll have to do the inner circle again.”

“We have so much wheat, what do we need the inner circle for? I just want to do it quickly and get out of here.”

“The rest of the world is starving and you want to leave wheat behind?” Elimelech asked sharply. “What’s wrong with you Kilyon?”

“Watch me again, father. Watch how quickly I can cut. I tell you this is going to be a new way to harvest.”

Kilyon jumped into another thicket of wheat and twirled himself and his scythe rapidly. Suddenly, the sharp metallic head of the scythe dislodged from the wooden handle and went flying towards Elimelech. Elimelech tried to jump out of the way, but his old body no longer had the reflexes of youth. The sharp edge of the scythe cut a long gash across Elimelech’s thigh and then fell to the ground. Elimelech yelped in pain.

“Kilyon! What have you done!?” Elimelech screamed as he pressed on his thigh, trying to stem the flow of blood.

Kilyon looked with mouth ajar at his pole, with the absent head of the scythe, and then at his father and the scythe-head on the ground. He ran towards his father. Mahlon was already at his side, having ripped a piece of his tunic off to made a crude bandage for their father’s leg.

“Take me home,” Elimelech commanded, grimacing in pain. “Your recklessness could have killed someone. What good is all this blessing now if we can’t harvest? To waste a blessing is worse than being cursed.”

“I’m sorry, father,” Kilyon said as he got under Elimelech’s arm. Mahlon was already supporting him from the other side.

“You’re not nearly sorry enough. There will be repercussions, my son.” Elimelech winced as his sons carried him, never realizing how right he was.

 

Naomi and Vered worked tirelessly. They took turns kneading, baking and handing out fresh loaves to hungry Israelites. Vered recognized people from the nearby tribes of Simeon and Benjamin and even from Ephraim, a full day’s journey away. The crowd only seemed to grow as the sun reached its midday height.

“What is this!?” Elimelech’s voice roared over the din of the patient mob. The sea of people parted, letting Elimelech through. Elimelech hopped on one leg, the other bandaged, with fresh blood seeping through the bandage. He was supported on either side by Mahlon and Kilyon.

“Why are you all here? What do you want from me?” Elimelech asked the crowd.

“Bread. The house of Elimelech has bread,” one boy volunteered.

“Naomi,” Elimelech hissed through gritted teeth and hopped to the house. No one stood in the way of the angry husband.

“Naomi! What have you done!?” Elimelech bellowed, as Mahlon and Kilyon helped him into the house. Kilyon closed the door behind them.

“I’m sorry!” Naomi fell to her knees, tears streaming down her face. “You were right, I know. But we had all this flour and all this bread and they were so hungry. How could we not feed them?”

“Have you seen the mob outside? That is exactly what I feared. Exactly! Will you single-handedly feed the entire nation? It’s hopeless.”

“Elimelech, please listen,” Naomi cried. “A miracle has been placed on our doorstep. I’ve been feeding dozens, hundreds of people and the bread doesn’t run out. How can we stop?”

“Are you mad? Are you imagining things?”

“Elimelech, it’s true,” Vered interceded. “I’ve seen it myself. It’s a miracle. The flour doesn’t end. Your wife has been able to give a loaf of fresh bread to every single person who has come to your door.”

“Vered,” Elimelech addressed his nephew’s wife. “I will thank you not to get involved in our personal matters. Please leave my house.”

“Bread!” was chanted from outside the door. “Elimelech! Bread! Elimelech! Bread!”

“You see, Naomi?” Elimelech looked around wildly. “They will attack us like locust and still they will not be satisfied and we will be destitute. This is what you’ve brought upon us!”

“Bread! Elimelech! Bread! Elimelech!” The crowd banged on the door and pushed against the stone walls of the house. Dirt from the thatch roof fell as stones from the wall moved. Naomi got off her knees and grabbed a towel to cover the dough to make sure it did not get dirty.

“Stop!” Boaz’s voice called out from outside the house. “Are we in Sodom that we assault the house of our neighbors? Is this Givaah, where residents are attacked for their hospitality? Go home! The house of Elimelech will reopen its doors when it is ready to assist again. Go home!”

The crowd dispersed, shame-faced, looking downwards and hungry. Dirt from the roof stopped falling and people moved away from the house.

There was a polite rap on the door.

“It is I, Boaz,” a firm voice announced.

Mahlon opened the door for him.

“Thank you, Boaz,” Elimelech greeted him. “Your intercession is appreciated, though we could have handled matters well enough ourselves.”

“It looked like a riot from my side, uncle,” Boaz responded. “I feared that in a few more moments they would have broken the house down altogether. There were a lot of hungry people.” Boaz looked at the fresh loaves of bread throughout the house accusingly.

“We cannot feed everyone,” Elimelech answered the unasked question. “There will be more riots if we do. God will have to provide to each their allotted portion, as he did with the manna in the desert. I cannot bear this burden.”

“You know quite well the days of the manna are long gone. If you have been blessed with a surplus, uncle, I think you have a responsibility to share as much as you can. Will you gorge yourself on all this bread as our brothers starve to death?”

“Do not lecture me, nephew,” Elimelech said, standing taller. “I will not be held responsible to feed all the less fortunate, nor will I be made to feel guilty over my own good fortune. But I see that is no longer possible here. You and all our neighbors will look to me for support. All the tribes have probably heard of Naomi’s largesse and will come flocking to my door. We must depart. We cannot stay here.”

“Depart? Where will we go?” Naomi asked in confusion.

“I don’t know; certainly not within Judah. They will look to me as their prince and demand food when there is none to provide. The other tribes are not good either. They all know me and will make demands as well. We must go into exile. We must go someplace where we are foreigners and where there will be no expectations, no responsibilities. I am tired. I am tired of carrying the burden of my brethren, my people, on my shoulders. Woefully unqualified shoulders. I am not my father. I was never as wise or as brave as Nachshon.”

“Leave?” Boaz asked. “How can you leave?”

“You see, Boaz. Even you expect me to stay. You, who has seen all my failures from up close. You, a better leader than I ever was. You would still keep me as your head when I lost the right to such a title so long ago. No, Boaz. I must leave. I must leave now. Naomi, pack only what we can carry. Take our jewels, our valuables and our gold. Pack up the bread for our journey. Mahlon, ready the animals. We take them all. I will ride in the wagon. Kilyon will take me to the healer to deal with my leg and then we will leave.”

“I don’t believe this. Where are we going!?” Naomi sobbed.

“To the only other place and people that our family knows.” Elimelech looked at Mahlon. “We’re going to Moab.”

* * * * * *

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.

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 3 Chapter 1 – Elimelech’s Sin

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 1

 Elimelech’s Sin

“I’m sorry, but you must hurry,” Naomi pleaded with the old woman. “You must leave before my husband returns.”

Naomi rushed the old woman out of her house and handed her a small loaf of fresh dark bread.

“Thank you, Naomi,” the old woman said as she slowly moved one arthritic leg in front of the next. “You’re a lifesaver.”

Naomi stood in the doorway of her large stone house, looking at her neighbors walking on the main stone-lined road of Bethlehem. The cool breeze of the Judean Mountains softened the otherwise harsh heat of the Canaanite sun. But the setting summer sun did nothing to soften the grim faces of the Bethlehemites.

Naomi could see the outline of the ribs of young boys playing lethargically with the remains of what once must have been a ball of rags. Babies cried weakly against the bosoms of their mothers. Tired women held wicker baskets large enough to carry four times the sheaves of wheat they had managed to salvage from the remains of the day’s harvest. Naomi shed a tear as she had every day of the last three years, closed the door of the house and shut out the evidence of the deepening famine. She tidied up the room and double-checked that there was no sign of the dozens of neighbors that had come through her house that day. She knew Elimelech disapproved, but she could not help herself. These were her friends, her neighbors, her relatives. She could not refrain from sharing the unusual and growing blessing of food that her family was enjoying.

Elimelech walked in the door as he always did, sweating and face flushed from the exertion of the harvest. The red in his face matched the remaining red in his beard, though every year the red lost more territory to the spread of white. Though he came from a long-lived line, the signs of age weighed heavily on Elimelech. He was followed by his sons, Mahlon and Kilyon. Naomi always felt a short sweet pang of pleasure at seeing her strong handsome sons. Mahlon and Kilyon were both muscular and tanned from their work in the fields. The soft curls of bright red hair matched their short beards. Except for their appearance, Mahlon and Kilyon had widely different personalities. Mahlon was quiet and pensive, never comfortable amongst his fellow Judeans, but rather preferring the company of the farm animals. Kilyon was loud and brash, happy to tease his older brother at every opportunity.

“Can you believe it?” Kilyon asked his brother.

“It does seem unusual,” Mahlon answered. “It’s not the first time I’ve suspected this, but now I think we’ve confirmed it.”

“What’s going on?” their mother asked.

“We seem to have more grain than we gathered.” Elimelech cleared his throat.

“More!? Not less?” Naomi asked incredulously, thinking of all the grain she had been regularly siphoning away. “How is that possible?”

“I don’t know.” Elimelech ran his fingers through his long beard. “But besides planting, growing and harvesting more than anyone else, our grain also seems to be multiplying while in storage. I’ve already agreed to buy Amitai’s field in return for part of our grain. For all of his ingenuity he has not managed to grow a good crop. Why, Mahlon and his oxen can plow twice the number of our fields in half the time.”

“Perhaps we should share some of this blessing?” Naomi asked, knowing the answer.

“I’ve told you before, Naomi. We give our tithes and our priestly gifts and all of the various leavings of the field as per the Law of Moses. If we were to give more, we would be quickly overrun. Beggars would come from all around if they knew there were rich pickings here. No, Naomi. We must keep and save and invest what we have rightfully earned.”

“But Elimelech, our neighbors are starving while our granary is overflowing!” Naomi begged.

“Woman,” Elimelech said sternly. “I have spoken. We shall wash up and then we shall eat.” Elimelech and the brothers went to the back of the house to wash themselves.

There was a loud knock on the door which interrupted Naomi from looking at the place her husband had been. She opened the door and was startled to see a dark-haired clean-shaven middle-aged man. He wore a dark flowing robe that covered an athletic build. His handsome features were only marred by a condescending sneer that seemed permanently affixed to his face.

“Is this the home of the Prince of Judah, Elimelech son of Nachshon the Brave?” the stranger asked with a surprisingly nasal voice.

“Who are you? Where are you from? What do you want?” Naomi asked, disliking the stranger immediately.

“My name is Sumahtrid. I have come from far. I wish to speak with your husband, Naomi, granddaughter of Nachshon the Brave.” Sumahtrid’s eyes misted over and his sneer got wider. “Yes, Naomi. Nachshon’s blood runs strong in your veins. I can sense it without even touching you. May I?” Sumahtrid asked without waiting for an answer. With the pointy nail of his index finger, the black-robed man quickly pierced Naomi’s arm, drew blood, sucked on the bloody fingernail and then forced himself into the house, past the bewildered Naomi.

“Ah, what power,” Sumahtrid commented as he licked his fingernail. A most powerful bloodline. My master was foolish to have underestimated the boy.”

“Who are you?” Elimelech asked threateningly as he reentered the room, with Mahlon and Kilyon behind him.

“Prince Elimelech.” Sumahtrid bowed formally. “I have come from a great distance to meet you and your sons. I am here now merely for informational purposes.” Sumahtrid approached Mahlon with hunger in his eyes.

“Watch his nail!” Naomi warned, having recovered from Sumahtrid’s entrance.

Sumahtrid attempted to jab Mahlon’s arm but Mahlon grabbed the stranger’s arm before he could draw blood. Sumahtrid grinned at the contact, cocked his head back and said to no one in particular:

“Gifts! Gifts! This family is blessed with gifts, yet they do not know!”

Sumahtrid laughed a cruel laugh as one enjoying his enemy’s misery.

“Listen to me, son of Nachshon,” Sumahtrid looked deep into Elimelech’s eyes. “I am a seer, a prophet, a sorcerer and much more. I have visions. I have seen visions of your future. It is grim and it is as it should be. Though there is much uncertainty in my visions. Much left unanswered and much at risk. I hoped by seeing your family it would give me clarity. But all I see is the power and the danger.”

“What are you ranting about? Get out of my house or I will throw you out.” Elimelech took a step towards the sorcerer, his arm still held firmly by Mahlon.

“Your family cannot harm me. Yet I shall depart, for I have accomplished my mission. But I will leave you with one warning. Beware the Moabite,” Sumahtrid turned his misty gaze upon Mahlon. “Beware her quiet charm. She will doom all your people.”

Sumahtrid twisted his arm out of Mahlon’s grasp and ran for the door, cackling as he jogged through the streets of Bethlehem.

“Well, that was fun!” Kilyon exclaimed after an awkward silence. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hungry.”

* * * * * *