Warrior Prophets – Chapter 28: Monkey Business

Warrior Prophets Chapter 28

Monkey Business

“Hurry up over there,” grey-haired Raskul called ahead irritably to the front of the line. He leaned heavily on his cane. “We don’t have all day. Some of us have important matters to discuss with the Ancient One.”

Raskul stood on a line snaking up a mountain. The line was composed mostly of ill or impoverished people. He recognized most of the nationalities: Moabites, Ammonites, Midianites, Edomites and even a rare Egyptian. All had come to this lone mountain on the southeastern edge of the great Sea of Salt. Yered, the Ancient One, with his magical monkey, had gained a reputation for being a miracle worker. He was also known for providing good, if sometimes cryptic, advice.

They moved slowly. Finally, Raskul saw that it led to a shallow cave where Yered sat on a large stone, cross-legged, with the small magical monkey on his shoulder. The Ancient One wore long white cotton robes, stained here and there with remains of mead. He had no hair on his bronzed head, except for two thin lines of white tuft that were his eyebrows. The monkey had luxurious black and white fur and his eyes shined with intelligence. Instead of a right arm, a long wooden contraption, with a fake wooden hand at the end, was affixed to the monkey’s shoulder.

“In line, next, please,” Yered called.

“Ancient One,” a young man limped to him on one healthy leg, supported by crude crutches. “My leg was cut off in a fight with the Israelites. I have heard that you can help bring it back.”

“Finder of lost limbs, I am not. Foolish to fight against Israelites, you are. Fortunate to be alive, you are. Achira the Moabite, see. Fake limb he can construct. Best he is. Expensive. Worth it. Three coppers for advice.” Yered extended his hand and the young amputee dutifully dropped three coppers in his dark wrinkled hand.

“In line, next, please,” Yered called.

Only two people now stood between Raskul and Yered. A middle aged man and an old woman. Raskul was finally able to see the Ancient One properly. He noticed the tight yet wrinkled sun-tanned skin on the wiry figure. He could not take his eyes off of the shiny golden teeth and wondered how he might steal them.

“Ancient One,” the thin middle-aged man in rags approached Yered. “I keep losing at the bone games. What advice can you give me?”

“Question foolish, man foolish, time you waste. Gambling must stop. One copper.”

“What? For that? I wait on this endless line for hours, that is all you say and you still want me to pay? You’re a fraud.” The man turned away.

“Risto,” Yered nodded at the monkey. The monkey jumped onto the man’s head, curled his tail tightly around the man’s neck, deftly took five copper pieces out of the man’s pouch and jumped smoothly back onto Yered’s shoulder.

“For wasting Risto’s time, that is,” Yered told the coughing man. “More, further argument or time wasting shall cost.”

The man walked away without another word, keeping his eyes on the monkey until he was out of sight.

“Ancient One,” the old toothless woman hobbled towards him. “I have a terrible pain in my joints, and the roots that used to ease the pain no longer work. Can you help me?”

“Help, we can. Expensive, it is. Twenty coppers for medicine.”

“Twenty coppers!?” the old woman exclaimed. “How do I know it will work?”

“In line, next, please,” Yered called.

“Okay, okay. I’ll pay you. Here it is.” She counted out twenty pieces into the Yered’s hand.

Risto, the monkey, jumped onto Yered’s lap, opened a panel in his wooden arm and chittered excitedly at Yered.

“Alkanel, you suggest?” Yered addressed Risto while pointing at the long hollow container in the monkey’s wooden arm. The container was divided into multiple partitions, each with a small amount of crushed herbs.

“The anise, perhaps,” Yered continued.

Risto chittered passionately.

“No,” Yered said forcefully. “The solution to everything, buckthorn is not. I know celandine, you like. For joint pain, silverweed best is.”

Risto chittered pointing his healthy finger angrily at the herb compartments.

“Fine. Thyme and silverweed,” Yered concluded.

Risto nodded, satisfied and took a pinch of herbs out of two of the compartments.

“Wait,” the old woman put up her hand. “What magic is this, from a monkey’s false arm?”

“Magic not,” Yered answered. “Medicine. Herbs of healing. In monkey’s arm, fresh and potent his vitality keeps it. Effective for hard-to-find herbs, it is. Very valuable. Expensive therefore.”

Yered removed a large fresh fig leaf from a pile next to his stone, placed the herbs in it and folded it tightly closed.

“When reach home, herbs in large jug of water mix. One mouthful of that water, morning and night drink. Good luck.”

“Thank you, Ancient One. Thank you.” The old woman departed holding the folded fig leaf as if it was gold.

“In line, next, please,” Yered called.

Raskul approached, shaken by the receptions he saw the Ancient One give, yet determined to ask his question.

“Ancient One,” Raskul said. “I have an enemy. A powerful enemy. But I don’t know how to defeat him.”

“Curious. By his enemies, man may be measured, unless unnecessary one he is foolish to make.”

“This enemy betrayed me. After I led him faithfully and cared for him, he double-crossed me and left me to fend for myself against a band of ruffians. I was fortunate to escape with my life. I have had no peace or success since that day. I always fear that he will hunt me, or kill me. But now I may have an opportunity to exact my revenge. He is to marry and I would spoil his happiness.”

“Ah, when least expected revenge is sweetest. From me what do you seek?”

“I don’t know how to beat him. He is unnaturally fast, can sense where his enemies are, and can predict their moves. I have seen him best a band of cut-throat brigands single-handedly. How can I hurt such a man?”

“Hmm, like a boy I once knew, description sounds.”

“Will you help me or not?”

“Fifty coppers.”

“What if your advice is unsatisfactory?”

“In line, next, please,” Yered called.

“Fine, fine. Here’s your money.” Raskul grudgingly counted out the pieces from his pouch. “How does one best such an enemy?”

“As a friend, come.”

“That’s it? That’s what my fifty pieces gets me?”

“No complaint policy, or Risto more will take,” Yered said. “Curious. Who this enemy is?”

“Boaz ofJudah. He is to be married next week inBethlehem. And perhaps you are right. He always put on airs of being merciful. I shall come as a friend to share in his joy.” Raskul’s words dripped with malice as he bowed to Yered and departed.

Yered looked at Risto and saw old wounds and memories in his eyes. Risto chittered urgently.

“Yes, Risto. Attend the wedding we must.”

* * * * * *

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