Warrior Prophets Chapter 14
Seeing his briefly adopted city of Ashkelon brought Akavish pangs of pain and remorse. He remembered killing the Canaanite defenders as he assisted his grandfather, Krafus, in disabling the defenses and opening the gate to the fortified city. He remembered his father’s callousness towards him. Big Larus was not only ungrateful for Akavish delivering the city to him, but had smacked him in a most demeaning fashion. Only his pet, Risto, showed Akavish love and appreciation.
The little monkey clutched Akavish’s left shoulder, as always. Akavish had decided to enter the city at night, unannounced, just as he had on the night his sea-faring tribe invaded Canaan and conquered Ashkelon.
Akavish scaled the eastern wall this time. The Philistines had no fear from that direction and left no guards upon the eastern ramparts. He thus jumped when a voice spoke to him from the darkness of the night.
“Welcome home, youngster.”
“Krafus!” Akavish greeted his old mentor. “What are you doing here?”
Akavish could make out spry Krafus sitting on the floor of the rampart, his back resting against the balustrade as he picked his teeth with the tip of his throwing knife.
“I was expecting you.”
“How did you know I would return? How did you know it would be here and now?”
“Young cubs often return home to rest from the hunt. How I knew to wait here for you tonight of all nights? I cannot reveal all my methods to you just yet.”
“How is father?”
“He also expects you.”
“And what will be the manner of my welcome?”
“As you might expect.”
“Lovely. How goes his rule over the Canaanites?”
“Surprisingly well. These Canaanites are mercenary in their allegiances, to god or ruler. After you left, Laras killed the King of Ashkelon and most of his family. He spared the oldest daughter and made her his new wife. So congratulations are in order for you as well, on your new mother. The Canaanites do not object to Laras’ rule. It seems they are even happier with Laras than with their previous King. Nonetheless, he is easily angered. Do you still wish to see him?”
“I must. We must attack the Israelites. They are a menace and I think only the combined strength of all the Philistines will stop them.”
“Beware, young prince. We have all heard stories of the young Philistine boy who fought at Gibeon with stars of death. Laras was not pleased nor did he take pride in those stories.”
Akavish walked past old Krafus, towards where he knew the King’s residence must be.
“I did what I had to, and so I will do now. I do not fear him.” Akavish turned his neck towards Krafus, without looking at him.
“You should,” Krafus responded to Akavish’s receding back. “There is no greater danger to a son than an angry father.”
Akavish found the guarded entrance to his father’s new home. The guards, recognizing Akavish, let him pass uncontested, with no word, except for an evil smirk on their faces. They looked at him, Akavish thought, as an unruly child about to be spanked. Well, this child has sharp teeth, Akavish thought, patting the metal stars inside his garment.
“Enter, my son,” was the answer to Akavish’s knock on the heavy wooden door.
Big Laras was as large and imposing as ever. He sat behind a table too low for his massive body and was on a wooden chair that creaked under his muscular bulk. His long broadsword lay sheathed at his side. He was studying a papyrus scroll. A lone candle on the table illuminated the room.
“The wayward son returns,” Laras stated, not looking up from the scroll.
“I did not feel welcome or wanted,” Akavish responded to the implied accusation.
“What makes you think that has changed?”
“Nothing. I was foolish to return.”
“You are foolish, period.”
“I’m sorry to have disturbed you.” Akavish turned and walked back to the door.
“What do you want!?” Laras banged his large fist on the table.
“From you? Nothing.” Akavish turned to face his father. “Just perhaps that I would have been sired by another.”
“This is how you speak to me!?” Laras stood up and unsheathed his sword.
“I’m not afraid of you.”
“Than you are more foolish than I imagined. You have forgotten who is master.” Laras approached Akavish with drawn sword.
Risto jumped off Akavish’s shoulder to hide in the safety of the shadows. Akavish threw four stars, one at each of Laras’ limbs. Laras swatted three of them away with his sword. One penetrated his defense and embedded itself in Laras’ left leg. It did not slow Laras down. Akavish readied four more stars but was shocked to see the tip of Laras’ sword flying at his head. Akavish ducked. The sword clattered against the stone wall behind Akavish. By the time Akavish looked up again, Laras held his thin neck in a choke-hold with a single hand. Laras raised Akavish and smashed him against the wall, never loosening his grip on his son.
“The Canaanites must be pathetic indeed if they tell tales of your little flying trinkets. Tell me! Why did you come back? It wasn’t for love or loyalty.”
Akavish’s face turned blue from lack of breath. He tried to ply his father’s steel grip open with both of his own hands, with no success. Laras finally brought Akavish down to the ground, released his neck, but held him against the wall, holding his hand firmly on Akavish’s chest.
“Speak!” Laras commanded.
Akavish panted as he tried to catch his breath.
“I fought the Israelites and lost. My Canaanite allies were annihilated. I want you to unite the other Philistine tribes and challenge the Israelites. Otherwise, they will reach your doorstep as well, and then your brand new city will be lost. I saw them take on five Canaanite armies and destroy them without suffering a scratch. Joshua is the most powerful sorcerer I have ever heard of. I saw him stop the sun itself. I have never heard of anyone having such power.”
Laras released Akavish and walked back to his table.
“How did I raise such a fool? Why do you go seeking battles that are not your own? Are you so hungry for death? I am not concerned about the Israelites. This is neither the time nor the place for battle between us. They will have their hands full with the Canaanites on the mountains. It will be some time before they dare attack the coast, and if they do, they will find us challenging targets. I have analyzed reports of their battles, and especially of their losses. I have been in touch with the Amalekites, the first to confront and wound them forty years ago. I have just read of the Moabites and Midianites who brought down a great plague upon Israel, even while the great Moses was alive.” Laras pointed at the papyrus on his table. “I have even heard reports about the first battle of Ai, which was a rout for the Israelites. I know their weakness and we shall exploit it when the time comes.”
“What is their weakness? How will you fight them?” Akavish asked as he massaged his neck.
“I will not fight them. Whoever has tried a frontal attack upon the Israelites has failed. Their god is strong and protects them. But that is also their greatest weakness. Their god. Their god is demanding. No worship of other gods. No sleeping with other women. They are so strict, they even executed one poor sap and his entire family for his stealing some of the loot of Jericho, which Joshua had declared ‘holy’. All we need to do is entice them to sin against their god and his commands, as the Midianites did. The Hebrew god struck the Israelites down himself with a devastating plague.”
“How will you get them to sin?” Akavish wondered.
“I will befriend them. I will sell them our wares. I will send our most beautiful priestesses. I will show them the pleasure of our ways and teach them of our gods. Nothing will anger their god more than that. We may not even have to fight. Their god may do the work for us. Do not worry about the Israelites.”
“I am the fool?” Akavish asked incredulously. “If you had seen what I had seen, you would not be so confident. They are like a flood in a wadi during the winter rains. They wash over everything and destroy all in their path. They are unstoppable. Strong, powerful Canaanites attacked the Israelites with all their might, but they were as gnats attacking a giant. The Israelites sliced through the Canaanite defense as a sharp ax through wormy wood. They have warriors with superhuman speed and magical powers. Even their children are fearsome warriors.” Akavish shivered thinking of his last encounter with Boaz. “You are delusional if you think sitting quietly here and sending them pretty things will conquer them.”
Laras pivoted on his feet and slapped Akavish a great blow across the face. From the force of the impact Akavish fell to the floor, a large red welt spreading across his face.
“When will you learn respect?” Laras asked.
“When it is deserved.” Akavish answered.
Laras’ face turned red and he shook in anger.
“Leave now, before I kill you.”
“This is the love of a father?” Akavish picked himself off the floor.
“Are you deserving of love?” Laras retorted.
“Do I have to be deserving of love?”
“Yes. I cannot love someone disloyal or disrespectful.”
“Then I guess we deserve each other.” Akavish left the room without bothering to close the door. Risto jumped on to Akavish’s shoulder as he entered the shadows outside the room.
“So now you come back to me?” Akavish accused Risto. “Where were you when I needed you?”
Risto chattered back something unintelligible. It didn’t matter. Akavish was not listening in any case.
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