Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 2
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.
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