Warrior Prophets Chapter 24
The Tomb of Moses
“I could have sworn I saw the cave on this ridge,” Raskul exclaimed as he gnashed his teeth. He, Boaz and Amitai climbed Mount Nevo on the eastern bank of the Jordan. They had left their mounts at the foot of the mountain. They could see the rubble of Jericho across the river, far below. Moss and weeds grew over the broken, abandoned city.
“There!” Amitai’s sharp eyes pointed at a ledge several hundred paces higher. “Do you see an opening there? Perhaps that is it?”
“Let’s keep climbing,” Boaz ordered. “It’s recorded that Moses could see the land all around, so he must have been close to the top of the mountain.”
“Moses must have had long legs to climb this pathless mountain. I’m a merchant, not a goat,” Raskul complained. He sat on a large rock and crossed his legs as he massaged his left knee. He kicked at the soft dirt with his sandal. “I’ll wait for you here.”
“Then I take it our arrangement is over?” Boaz said. “We are free of your ‘guidance’ and you of our protection.”
“You’re here, aren’t you?” Raskul fumed. “You wouldn’t have made it here without me.”
“We probably would have been here sooner and with less hassle,” Amitai interjected.
“Watch your smart mouth, boy,” Raskul raised his walking stick. “I’m not so old that I can’t give you a whack on your head.”
“We are of course indebted to you for your accompaniment,” Boaz raised his hands placating Raskul. “But I suspect we are better off parting ways and absolving each other of our promises.”
“You will not get off that easily, sonny-boy. You promised to protect me until we found the Tomb of Moses. I will sit here comfortably until you find the tomb. You can then take me to it, so I will see it with my own eyes, and then we can discuss a new arrangement. I’m not some mountain ram to go prancing around seeking this elusive cave. Have some respect for an old man.”
“The condition for our protection was your leading us to the tomb faithfully,” Boaz replied. “We have yet to find it and you have been less than faithful. In fact, you’ve been nothing but a major nuisance, delay and distraction. We are clear of our promise to you. Goodbye, Raskul.”
“Okay, okay,” Raskul walked after Boaz and Amitai. “If you wanted me to accompany you so badly, you just had to say so. No need to get insulting. I will not be so easily parted from my sworn protectors.”
“Are you deaf as well as dumb?” Amitai asked. “We’re finished with you, Raskul. Go back to your snake pit and leave us alone.”
“How rude! I thought you Israelites claimed to be the paragons of morality and goodness. This is how you treat your humble servant? What injury have I caused you? You ungrateful wretches. I cared for you as a lioness for her cubs. Those delays were not my fault. Those items that went missing were not my fault. I don’t know how they ended up in the hands of those merchants; they must have fallen out of your backpacks. It’s not a coincidence that I knew them. I know many people from many nations.”
“Hello, Raskul,” a commanding voice bellowed from in front of them. A big, dark burly man climbed down the mountain accompanied by a dozen swarthy Midianites, all with curved swords. A dozen other Midianites closed quickly on Boaz, Amitai and Raskul from behind.
“Trasha,” Raskul greeted the Midianite leader nervously. “What a coincidence to meet you here. What brings you to this scenic mountain range?”
“The two healthy specimens you brought us, of course. How did you describe them? ‘Strong, young, but not too bright.’ That’s exactly what we look for in prospective slaves.”
“Trasha, I’m hurt that you would accuse me of such a thing.”
“I’m sure the silver in your pocket is easing your conscience.”
“You sold us!?” Boaz turned to Raskul.
“I’m sure this is a misunderstanding that can be easily remedied. I suggest we go along with Trasha and his men and work this out.”
“Does your treachery know any bounds?” Boaz accused Raskul.
“Yes, Raskul.” Trasha smiled. “It’s very naughty of you to betray your friends like that. But don’t feel bad,” Trasha addressed Boaz and Amitai. “We shall take our silver from Raskul now that we have you.”
“What!?” Raskul exclaimed. “You would cheat me of fairly delivered merchandise?”
“It’s an ancient Midianite custom. We never pay for what we can take by force. Isn’t that right, boys?”
The Midianite men grunted in agreement, grinning and raising their swords higher.
“See,” Trasha nodded approvingly. “We are devout in the practice of our traditions. You can consider us holy men. Now will you descend with us peacefully, or shall we have to hurt you a bit first?”
Boaz closed his eyes in response. He remembered Caleb’s training. He remembered how he had used Isaac’s Vision to perceive the aura of his enemy. He saw the aura of the Midianites in front and behind him. They were a sickly green of greed and a dark red of blood lust. On his left was Raskul with a maelstrom of colors; green greed, yellow fear, orange anger, purple pride and pale shame. Boaz did not give himself the time to analyze. On his right, Amitai was a steely blue of courage with a soft mauve of apprehension.
“At my signal,” Boaz whispered, “hit the ground and cover your eyes. Then follow me to the high ground.”
“What is your answer Israelite?” Trasha asked impatiently.
Boaz opened his eyes. “My forefathers were slaves for too long to want to repeat the experience. We decline your kind invitation.”
“You have verve, Israelite,” Trasha laughed. “Perhaps I’ll keep you as a personal slave. Ever since your people leftEgyptthere has been a regional shortage of slaves. Do you know how much I can get for a healthy slave? And an Israelite one? That would be a prize.”
“This discussion is no longer amusing,” Boaz raised his sword. Amitai mirrored the move. “Either move aside or die.”
“The dumber ones always choose the hard way,” Trasha said to his men. “Take them, with no limb loss!” Two dozen Midianites closed in on Boaz and Amitai. Raskul made himself very small and curled up next to a large stone.
“Now,” Boaz barked.
Amitai fell onto the ground and covered his eyes with his arm.
Boaz closed his eyes and stabbed his sword into the soft ground of the ridge. He rapidly spun in place as his sword made a deep circle in the ground. The movement shot a whirlwind of dirt towards his attackers, blinding them.
Boaz somersaulted in midair, launching over the attackers ahead of him and slicing at the Midianites with his blade. By the time he landed uphill of his attackers, three had fallen dead.
“Get uphill and use your arrows,” Boaz ordered Amitai. Amitai ran past the opening Boaz created, as the surrounding Midianites spat dirt and rubbed at their eyes.
Boaz attacked the Midianites closest to the edge of the ridge, kicking several over the ledge and slashing at the rest, and then kicking them over as well. Within the space of a few moments half of the Midianite marauders had been slaughtered.
Amitai calmly picked off any Midianite approaching Boaz. Boaz approached the ones inward from the ridge that had cleared their eyes and regrouped. One of them had taken out his bow and arrow, shooting at Amitai and forcing him to take cover.
“You are a most formidable fighter!” Trasha exclaimed. “You could lead an army! Let me arrange it and I promise you riches beyond your dreams.”
“Stand down or die,” was Boaz’s only response.
“How do I know you won’t just kill us?” Trasha asked.
“You don’t. Vile creatures can never understand honor,” Boaz accused as if it were a death sentence.
Chilled, Trasha dropped his sword. The half-a-dozen other Midianites followed suit.
“Now leave this mountain and make sure never to come within sight of me. If I see you again, I will kill you. If I hear that you or any Midianite attacked an Israelite, I will hunt you down and kill you.”
“You will hold me responsible for all Midianites? That is an impossible task.”
“Yes. Do you seek fairness? I can save us both the effort and kill you now.”
“You are persuasive. What is your name?”
“My name is ‘The one who killed Trasha the Midianite, because he was too dull to save himself.’ Now leave before I decide to take that name.”
Trasha ran down the mountain, followed by his men. Boaz walked towards Raskul still hiding by the rock near the edge of the ridge.
“Boaz, that was masterful!” Raskul stood up and opened his arms wide. “You’ve saved us all.”
“Leave, Raskul.” Boaz leveled his sword at Raskul.
“What? Me? Your trusted guide and companion? You don’t believe that liar Trasha. Midianites are known for their deception.”
Boaz slashed at the pocket of Raskul’s garment and caught the silver pieces that dropped out with the edge of his sword. He placed the silver in his palm.
“This is all you received for us?” Boaz asked. “I would have thought we’d be worth more than six silver pieces.”
“That’s my money!” Raskul reached for the silver.
Boaz raised his sword again. Amitai approached, arrow notched and pointed at Raskul’s heart.
“What are you waiting for?” Amitai asked. “This snake sold us to slave-traders.”
Raskul backed away from the threatening duo. He tripped on a stone and fell backwards, head first, over the edge of the mountain. Boaz dropped his sword, dived for Raskul and grabbed him by the ankle before Raskul disappeared from sight.
“Boaz, Boaz! Please don’t let me go!” Raskul cried. “I’m sorry. I know I’m a miserable lout, but please, spare me. Have mercy!”
“Just drop him,” Amitai said. “If you let him live, he will just backstab us again or get us into other trouble. Is it worth saving his life just to jeopardize ours again?”
“I swear! I swear by all the gods! By everything I hold dear, I will never harm you, betray you, or even think of betraying you again.”
“Your word is meaningless.” Boaz let go of Raskul’s ankle and grabbed it with his other hand. He hoisted Raskul up and dumped him unceremoniously on the soft ground.
“Go. I never want to see you or hear you again. Say a word, and I will skewer you right here. Go!”
Raskul scampered down the mountain.
“You are too kind,” Amitai said.
“Perhaps. The Midianites may not be so gentle with him if they meet up.”
“But that’s not why you let him go.”
“No. I let him go because I don’t want to kill unless I really have to.”
“Do you?” Boaz looked at his friend.
“Yes, I do. Come, let’s find that tomb and get off this inhospitable mountain.”
Boaz and Amitai turned and climbed towards the mountain peak.
“I give up,” Amitai threw his hands up as they reached the peak for the third time. “We’ve been up and down and over this mountain like a priest checking for lesions. Every time we think we see a cave entrance it turns out to be a mirage. Those rumors must be true. No one can find the tomb of Moses.”
Boaz sat on a rock near the summit ofMountNevo. He looked west towardsCanaan, saying nothing.
Amitai, noting his friend’s silence, sat next to him on the rock and looked out across the clear sky. He could see the shore of theGreatSeain the distance.
“Do you remember when we tried to stop Moses from climbing this mountain?” Boaz asked, still looking to the west.
“I’ll never forget that day,” Amitai said. “The way he was so gentle with us and then threw those gooseberries at us to occupy our hands and then jumped over us after we let go of him. He seemed relieved, even eager to move on.”
“Do you realize that this was Moses’ last sight before he died?” Boaz added. “He saw all the land that God gave us. South, west, north, east,” Boaz pointed. “And the promise has been fulfilled, mostly. A nation of escaped slaves now controls the land that we can see from here. Joshua has led us well.”
“What are you thinking?” Amitai asked.
“I’m thinking that Pinhas is wise, and knew what he was doing when he sent us on this wild quail chase.”
“Why did he send us then? I thought by seeking the tomb of Moses you would get guidance?”
“That is exactly what he said. He didn’t say that at the tomb we would receive guidance. I think he meant that just the process of seeking would provide guidance. He must have known that it can’t be found and he also must have known we would come across bandits of one kind or another and that I would be forced to fight.”
“Is that bad?”
“I’ve been mortified of fighting ever since I escaped the copper mines of Timna. When I fought as a child, it was instinctive. I was killing simply because I was placed in a place to kill. It was without thought and it was part of this grand, national, God-ordained process. I couldn’t do it anymore. Then, when we went to confront the two-and-a-half tribes, my instincts were all wrong and I was ready to fight with no cause. But now with these Midianites I had no choice. And I was good at it. Very good at it. I could have killed all of them had I wanted to. But I held back. It felt good to kill those evil creatures, but it felt equally good to be able to stop, and especially to not kill that leech, Raskul. I have never found someone so distasteful, except for Akavish of course. I would take the company of acerbic Ploni any day over Raskul. But I still couldn’t justify killing him when he was not an immediate or direct threat.”
“We may yet regret your mercy.”
“Perhaps, but now my mind is settled and my path is clear.”
“Really? Now what?”
“I have special training and skills that I should put to good use.”
“But the war is over.”
“Yes, but there are still bandits like Trasha and his friends roaming our lands. I aim to deal with them and secure our roads and villages.”
“What about Taliya, or some other princess that will want to marry you? Don’t you want to settle down? Work the land? How long will you hunt these ruffians for?”
“I don’t know. Until something more pressing comes my way.”
“I’m with you then.”
“Where you go, I shall go. Where you sleep, I shall sleep.”
Boaz lifted Amitai in a bear-hug.
“I’m glad I saved your life all those years ago. I never knew what a true friend I had.”
Tears rolled down Amitai’s face.
“Ribs,” Amitai gasped. “You’re crushing my ribs.”
Boaz gently placed Amitai back on the ground and let go.
“On second thought, maybe it’s safer to go home,” Amitai smiled.
“Come on,” Boaz slapped Amitai on the back. “Let’s hunt some Midianites.”
And the two friends ran downMountNevo, not noticing the cave entrance right next to them and the white-bearded spectre looking fondly down at them.
* * * * * *
Deuteronomy Chapter 34:
1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nevo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan; 2 and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the hinder sea; 3 and the South, and the Plain, even the valley of Jericho the city of palm-trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the Lord said unto him: ‘This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying: I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.’ 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. 6 And he was buried in the valley in theland ofMoab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day.