Warrior Prophets Chapter 5
Detour to Jerusalem
“Wake up,” Caleb whispered.
“What’s going on?” Boaz whispered back groggily, “I just fell asleep.”
“We’re surrounded,” Caleb said.
Boaz sat up abruptly. They had found shelter for the night in a small cave a day’s journey away from their camp in Gilgal.
“Who is it?”
“They’re not Israelites, and they’re not those treacherous Gibeonites, so that only leaves other Canaanites.”
“What do they want?”
“I suspect either to interrogate us, kill us or most likely both.”
“There are at least fifty of them, all well armed. I think I shall have to distract them while you make for Gilgal.”
“I can’t leave you, Caleb.”
“You must, Boaz. Joshua must be informed of the Gibeonite deception and of the sorcerer in their midst. I will exit the cave shooting and turn west. Once there is a wide enough opening, run and don’t look back. When no one can see you, circle around the mountain and head back to Gilgal. Grab a handful of stones as well. It was an oversight not to teach you the sling.”
Caleb notched three arrows to his bow and knelt by the cave opening. He spotted half a dozen men climbing the hill to their position.
“We know you are there, Hebrews,” one of them called from forty paces away. “The king of Jerusalem has offered a handsome reward for a live captured Israelite. Three hundred silvers! Come along and we shall not hurt you. You are only worth a tenth as much dead.”
Caleb’s answer was an arrow through the man’s throat and that of two companions. Before the Canaanites could return fire, Caleb notched two more arrows in rapid succession and downed two more Canaanites.
“Now!” Caleb commanded. “Run, Boaz, and don’t look back!”
Boaz sped through the opening in the ring of Canaanites closing in on Caleb. He heard the ‘whoosh!’ of arrows flying through the moonlit night. He heard the sounds of arrowheads penetrating flesh and of bodies falling on the rocky mountainside.
A Canaanite appeared by a boulder ten feet in front of Boaz. Without slowing his pace, Boaz flung a smooth stone at the Canaanite’s head. The man fell on the pale moonlit shrubs. As Boaz ran past a large olive tree a rock slammed into his forehead. The last thing he remembered before passing out was a Canaanite voice wishing greedily, “I hope I didn’t kill him.”
Boaz awoke to a kick in the stomach.
“Wake up, Hebrew,” a grating voice commanded.
Boaz did not move. He felt the cold stone floor under his body. His head was poorly bandaged. He could feel blood dripping down his forehead. His hands were tied behind his back. He kept his eyes closed and focused on the people in the room. I should have used my Sight before getting smashed in the head, he thought ruefully.
Right in front of him he sensed a cruel man. His orange aura hinted at a man who sought to inflict pain on others. Beyond the orange-hued aura sat a complex personality with swirling colors. A steely blue of command, a bright red of anger and a growing yellow of fear. There were other colors and emotions that Boaz did not understand.
“I know you’re awake, Hebrew,” the grating voice said and kicked again. Boaz instinctively twisted. The foot sailed over Boaz’s body. The man lost his balance and precariously hopped on one foot until he planted the second foot firmly back on the ground.
“The child is quick, Basten,” the seated man said.
“Yes, my king.” Basten grabbed Boaz by the back of the neck with beefy hands, picked him off the floor and stood him in front of his king.
“What is your name, child?” the king asked.
Boaz opened his eyes and looked around. He noticed the cold stone chamber with narrow slits for windows. The dim morning light that entered the room shone on the man sitting in front of him. The man was middle-aged with thinning brown hair, and little beady eyes that looked intently at Boaz.
“Who are you? Where am I?” Boaz asked back.
“You don’t know? I am the king of Jerusalem and you are in my palace. Now answer my question before I poke some holes in you.” The king played absently with a long sword. “What is your name and what are the Hebrew plans?”
“My name is Boaz. Our plans are to conquer all of Canaan, and we shall do so.” Boaz stood straight.
“Your people are doing more than conquering. You are killing everyone in your path. Is it your God fighting for you? Can Joshua draw miracles at whim? Is he such a powerful sorcerer?”
What does he want from me? Boaz thought. He is scared. I can sense that. He wants to find some way to beat us, to survive, to stay in power. I just need to get out of here.
“It is difficult to talk with this heavy bandage on my head and my hands tied like this.”
“How inconsiderate of me. You are, of course, right. Basten, clean up the boy, give him some food and drink and bring him back for more serious discussion. Boy, I hope you will be more forthcoming upon your return.”
Basten squeezed Boaz’s neck and led him out of the chamber. They walked through a narrow corridor and down steps. At the bottom of the staircase they entered a large kitchen with a roaring fire in the corner. Two women were at work in the kitchen. One was kneading dough on a large wooden table and the other was stirring a pot over the fire.
“Merta, attend me,” Basten ordered the plump woman by the fire.
“Shut your trap, Basten. If I overcook this stew, the king will have my head.”
“Merta, if you don’t attend me, I shall be the one to have your head.”
“Tell it to your mother, Basten. Your tough man act doesn’t impress me. When you leave your mother’s skirts and make your own home you can tell me about your manliness. Until then, stop talking. I shall be with you in a moment.”
Merta stirred the pot further and then removed it from over the fire, placing it on three stones adjacent to the roaring flames.
“There,” Merta stated, satisfied. She approached Basten and Boaz. “Now what have we here? Another victim of your games?”
“No. It’s a Hebrew we captured.”
Merta stepped back and looked at Boaz as if he were a fox that had invaded her hen house.
“Is he dangerous?” she asked nervously. The second woman stopped her kneading.
“He bleeds like a man, and is as willful as any child I know. I expect he will die as normally as any other once the king is finished with him.”
“What do you want me to do?” Merta asked.
“Help me clean his wound and bandage it again, and give the boy something to eat.”
“Our enemy? The Hebrews that are killing every Canaanite they see? My cousin lived in Ai. They massacred her and her six young children. They are merciless.” Merta looked daggers at Boaz.
“He is under our roof for now. Besides, this boy is more useful alive than dead. Come.”
Basten tore the dirty bandage off Boaz’s head. Boaz let out an involuntary yelp as scabbing ripped off his forehead. Fresh blood trickled down his face. Merta took a cloth and soaked it in a basin of dirty water. She quickly wiped Boaz’s head and face. She found a dry cloth and tied it snuggly around Boaz’s head. Basten untied Boaz’s hands and showed Boaz a large dagger.
“Don’t try anything funny, boy, or I’ll get started on those holes the king mentioned. Sit by the table.”
Boaz obediently sat on a three-legged wooden stool by the table. Merta placed a cup with some liquid in front of him and scooped out some of the stew onto a plate.
Boaz picked up the cup and smelled the liquid.
“What is this?”
“Picky, aren’t we?” Merta answered distastefully. “It is barley mead.”
Boaz sipped at the mead and grimaced at the strong taste. He drank some more.
“Hurry up,” Basten barked. “We don’t have all day.”
He’s right, Boaz thought. I need to get moving. He looked at Basten, holding his dagger. I need to get the angle just right.
Suddenly, Boaz banged on the edge of his plate. The hot stew went flying into Basten’s face. Basten roared in surprise, dropped his dagger and removed chunks of meat and carrot from his face. Boaz lunged for the dagger and sliced at Basten’s hamstrings. Basten fell to his knees as Boaz bolted out of the kitchen.
A few steps down the stone corridor took Boaz outside the palace and into the plaza of the city. Looking back, he saw a large two-story stone structure built into the wall of Jerusalem. The rest of the city was made of other smaller houses built into the wall and squat one-story stone homes.
“Get him! Get the Hebrew kid!” someone yelled from the palace.
Boaz spotted the gate to Jerusalem busy with morning merchants. The gate was twenty paces deep, bursting with people. Two guards stood on either side of the exit, both with shields and swords. The guards saw him and moved determinedly to intercept. Boaz knew his dagger skills would be no match for two adult swordsmen. He found some stones on the floor. He unwrapped the bandage from his head and prepared a makeshift sling. Caleb wanted me to learn to use the sling, Boaz thought. Now’s my chance.
Boaz’s first throw went wide off the mark. It whizzed by one soldier and hit a wine jug on a merchant’s ox-driven cart. The jug shattered, spilling wine inside the gate. The second throw also missed the soldier, hitting a hapless donkey on the rump. The donkey brayed and kicked backwards, hitting a burly blacksmith in the chest and sending him flying into a crowd of merchants entering the city.
By now, there was a large commotion in front of the gate. People were yelling, “Hebrews! We are under attack! They will kill us all!”
This isn’t working, Boaz thought as the two soldiers ignored the growing panic and got closer. Boaz saw two other guards from the outside of the gate starting to close the heavy oak doors of the city. No time, Boaz feared.
When the soldiers were ten paces away he threw Basten’s dagger, which spun in the air towards them. The soldiers ducked, and that’s when Boaz ran. He sped around the soldiers and darted toward the mob at the closing gate. Boaz reached a velocity that let him run on the inside wall of the gate, parallel to the ground, and then dive through the doors before they closed with a heavy clang.
Boaz rolled to a soft landing and stood up quickly. He looked around to get his bearings. He saw the walled city of Jerusalem towering above him. It reminded Boaz of the walls of Jericho, except that Jerusalem was much more imposing, sitting as it did on a hilltop, commanding the view of the mountain roads.
A Canaanite soldier grabbed Boaz from behind, clamping steel-like arms around his chest. The soldier suddenly fell with an arrow through his neck.
Caleb called from behind a tree. “Hurry, Boaz, this way.”
Boaz reached Caleb at the tree and hugged him tightly.
“Caleb! I thought you were dead! The last thing I remember was getting knocked in the head and a whole army of Canaanites archers attacking you. How did you survive? How did you find me?”
“That’s a story for another time, Boaz. In the meantime, we must make haste back to Joshua. He still doesn’t know about the Gibeonites and the sorcerer.” Caleb pointed Boaz in a northeast direction and together started jogging back to their camp.
“How was your stay in Jerusalem?” Caleb asked as they made their way across the mountain road.
“Mostly hospitable, good drink, though I did not try the stew.”
Caleb looked at Boaz quizzically. “Let us get off the road. The Jerusalemites are not the only ones preparing for war. It seems that all the cities in the area are gearing up for war and I caught mention of them allying together to fight us.”
“Is that bad?”
“An alliance of all the cities, with all of their soldiers, fighting us in the open, in land that has long been theirs and that they know intimately? It will be a battle to remember.”
Boaz was not sure if that was a good thing.
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