Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 11
“I am feeling inspired,” Eglon stated from atop his chariot, in front of two thousand troops. “Are you feeling inspired, Galkak?”
“Um, sure boss,” Galkak rode on a white mare next to Eglon. He took another swing from his wine skin. “Your wine always inspire me. This is Judean, right?”
“Yes, an excellent vintage, my dear vassal. Don’t go drinking it all away before the sun has even climbed these hills of Amon.”
“Doncha worry, boss,” Galkak burped and patted the packs on his horse, “I have a few other skins stashed for emergencies.”
“You are incorrigible, my friend, but I guess we all must be allowed our vices. But where was I? Yes! Inspired! The gods are with me! Everything has gone according to plan. No, even better than planned! I was informed by my agent that the timing of the Reuvenites was perfect. Elimelech is dishonored and broken and Ehud is on the run. Perfect!”
“But what does that do for us, boss? We’re marching on Amon. The Israelites are the other way.” Galkak motioned at the dense forest and then backwards, west past the Jordan River.
“Ah, yes. The Amonites are the last piece of the puzzle. We shall gather them and then we shall be unstoppable against the weakened Israelites. Ha! Oh, I wish I could chuckle evilly! I just don’t have the skill. You try, Galkak. Give an evil chuckle.”
“Heh, heh, heh,” Galkak cackled evilly.
“Excellent, Galkak! That was most excellent. I feel much better now.”
“I aim to please,” Galkak hiccupped.
A Moabite scout galloped rapidly through the Amonite forest towards the King and his army. Eglon raised his hand. The entire army came to halt. The cavalry in the front raised their spears. The supply wagons stopped in their tracks. The foot soldiers readied their swords.
“Your Majesty,” the scout said breathlessly. “We are found out. The Amonites know we are coming. The gates are closed and their army is on alert. A full deployment of soldiers is manning the walls day and night. They have prepared for a siege.”
“Hmm,” Eglon rubbed his smooth chin. “This complicates matters. I was hoping for another quick and painless victory. I spoke too soon about the gods’ inspiration. We have lost the element of surprise.”
“I’ll take care of it, boss,” Galkak volunteered.
“Whatever do you mean, King of Amalek?”
“Gimme a day, some gold and that old windbag, Dirthamus, and I’ll conquer the city for you.”
“Now is not the time for your jests, my vassal. How do you propose to do such a thing?”
“Leave it to me. Just make sure to show up tomorrow with the full army and they’ll submit like sheep to the knife.”
“Truly? Galkak, you are full of surprises! I knew I was inspired to make you King of the Amalekites. Let us discuss it with Dirthamus.”
Eglon and Galkak dismounted and walked to a nearby covered wagon. They entered the dark and musty mobile tent to confront the cadaverous frame of Dirthamus.
“What is this action I see in your mind, Eglon?” Dirthamus hissed.
“The Amonites know we come. Our dear Galkak has a plan that involves you,” Eglon answered.
“Blasted Amalekite!” Dirthamus spat at Galkak’s feet. “Why is your mind closed to me? I do not like uncertainty.”
“Must be all the drinking, you old pile of bones,” Galkak smiled. “It’s protectin’ me from your getting your tentacles into my thick head.”
“Thick indeed,” Dirthamus answered darkly. “What is this plan of yours? How will you conquer the Amonites?”
“I don’t want to spoil the surprise. You just come along like a nice pet now and do as you’re told and the big boss here will be able to stroll into Rabbath Ammon without breakin’ a sweat.”
“I don’t like this,” Dirthamus said. “I have always suspected you, Galkak. You do not even look Amalekite. There is something you are hiding in that befuddled brain of yours.”
“Nonsense, Dirthamus,” Eglon said. “You worry too much. Galkak has been an excellent chap. Loyal, insightful and entertaining. What more can I ask for in a vassal? If he does this thing for me and delivers Rabbath Ammon into our hands, he will have proven himself beyond all doubt. I order that you stop this bickering, Dirthamus, go along with King Galkak of Amalek and you will follow his every command as if it were my own. I tell you, I am inspired. The gods are whispering to me that Galkak will succeed and the Amonites will be in our hands. Am I clear, Dirthamus? The gods are with me!”
“Yes, my liege,” Dirthamus answered.
“That’s the spirit!” Galkak patted the bony Dirthamus on the back.
“Do not touch me!” Dirthamus yelled.
“This is going to be a fun trip,” Galkak patted the cringing Dirthamus again.
Galkak trotted leisurely atop his white mare which was now pulling Dirthamus’ wagon. They were on the ancient King’s Road, approaching Rabbath Ammon from the south. Rabbath Ammon was the largest fortified city between Damascus to the north and Eglon’s Kir Moav to the south. They had left the forested ascent from Bet Hayeshimot and now traveled on the sparse mountain range parallel to the Jordan River. If Eglon could hold Rabbath Ammon, he would control the entire eastern side of the Jordan and one of the two main caravan routes between Egypt and Mesopotamia. If Eglon could control the second route, the one that traversed Canaan, he would have dominion over most of the world’s trade. But Eglon would have to conquer the Children of Israel first.
Galkak whistled merrily as he took a swig from his ever-present wine skin.
“Is that a Hebrew tune you are whistling?” Dirthamus asked from within his tent.
“Why, yes it is!” Galkak answered and continued whistling.
“I find it highly unusual that the King of Amalek should be whistling a tune of their sworn enemies.”
“I’m learning from Eglon. He always likes to know his enemy. I know a lot about the Israelites.”
“Is that so, Galkak? So you must look forward to our upcoming campaign to destroy the tribes of Israel.”
“Of course. It’s been a lifelong dream. I’m so lucky to have it fulfilled in my time,” Galkak said unenthusiastically.
“I hate them as well. I have waited long decades to squash those escaped slaves.”
“Slaves? That’s ancient history. How old are you?”
“I was there when Moses led them in the desert. I was with Bilaam, my master, when he tried to curse the Hebrews. I am not the first of my guild to serve the King of Moab. But I shall succeed where Bilaam and Balak failed. Balak wanted to curse the Israelites, but that is not enough. He feared battle with them, and rightfully so. The Israelites had just demolished the Emorite kingdoms. Moses was unstoppable and their god protected them. But now they are leaderless and their protection has been removed. We saw to that. We have encouraged their sins. We have encouraged their worship of our gods – of any gods, for the god of Israel is a jealous god and he hates infidelity.”
Galkak shivered in the desert sun.
“You really think it will work?” Galkak asked.
“Undoubtedly. Eglon is much more conniving than his grandsire ever was. He is patient. He makes wonderful use of allies and pawns. And the gods truly seem to be on his side. His time has come.”
“Well, I’m glad I’m on his side then,” Galkak drank from his skin again as the walls of Rabbath Ammon came into view.
The walls were thirty feet tall with ramparts of ten feet. The city itself was enormous, standing like a dark mountain on the lighter sandstone of the plateau. The city was hundreds of years old, harking back to the times of Abraham. It was founded by Amon, the son of Lot, after the apocalyptic destruction of Sodom. Galkak spotted their flag coming into view above their massive closed gate. It was a tan banner like that of the other nation descendent of Lot, Moab, also a desert people. Three elements adorned the flag. A golden sword flanked by a yellow sun and a blue river.
“What is the meaning of their flag, Dirthamus?” Galkak asked.
“The flag of Amon? It is the color of the desert they are born in. The sword needs no explanation. They sit between the river and the sun, for they are the first to greet the sun in its great journey through the sky.”
Galkak slowed down as he approached the ominous gate.
“Identify yourself!” the guard atop the gate of Rabbath Ammon called down to Galkak with his covered cart and a fresh wine skin in his hand.
“Me? I’m just a lonely spice merchant. I have fresh spices from Egypt!” Galkak pointed at his spice box and burped.
“What’s in the carriage?” the guard asked.
“The carriage? Oh, yeah. It’s my uncle. He’s an old nasty man that hates the sun, and anythin’ alive for that matter. You’re welcome to take a look, though he may bite your head off.”
“Go away, merchant!” the guard answered. “Have you not heard? The Moabites are soon to attack!”
“Attack? Here? Then let me in!”
“The gates are closed to all except important business. Spices are not critical.”
“Listen, man,” Galkak clinked some gold coins together making sure the guard could see them. “If you let me in, I’ll make it worth your while.”
“Open the gate!” the guard ordered.
Galkak could hear heavy beams being removed from the large oaken doors.
One wooden door opened slightly. Spears protruded from the door opening, followed by the head of the guard from the ramparts.
“What is your name?” the guard demanded.
“Where are you from?”
“I’m a Midianite merchant. Now let me in before those Moabites come. Here, for your troubles.” Galkak placed a golden coin in the palm of the guard’s hand.
“I need to inspect your wagon,” the guard said as he weighed and felt the gold in his hand.
“If you must, but I warn you, he’s quite horrible.”
The guard stuck his head in the tent wagon.
“Let us in, you weak-minded fleabag,” Dirthamus commanded.
The guard removed his head quickly.
“You were right. He really is scary. Why do you keep him with you?” the guard asked.
“He has a lot of money and if I take care of him I’ll inherit it when that piece of rotting meat finally dies,” Galkak answered with a resigned expression.
“Good reason. One more coin for the old man,” the guard put out his hand.
“Okay, but let us in already!” Galkak placed a coin in the guard’s palm.
“Welcome to Rabbath Ammon,” the guard announced and motioned Galkak to the door. “I hope you survive your stay.”
Eglon drove his chariot at the head of his army. He enjoyed the morning breeze as it flowed over the mountain range of Amon. As his army approached Rabbath Ammon, a lone figure on a white mare with Dirthamus’ wagon rode to them.
“Is that Galkak?” Eglon wondered at the strange rider.
The rider had three large palm branches strapped to his back. His face was painted in black and on his head he wore the skull of a bear with wild pink and white feathers attached to the skull. He was draped in a lion’s fur and carried a big stick with three small clay spheres on top.
“Hi, boss!” Galkak waved his stick making a loud and disturbing sound.
“Galkak! Why are you dressed in such a horrid way? How was your mission?”
“We’ll find out the answer to both shortly. Are you ready?”
“Yes. How is Dirthamus? I was concerned about the two of you together.”
“See for yourself. Old skin n’ bones is doin’ great.”
Eglon entered Dirthamus’ tent.
“Galkak is mad,” Dirthamus greeted Eglon.
“I have no issue with insanity. Will whatever he has in mind work?”
“Undoubtedly. I would not make an enemy of that man. You chose well when you elevated him. But he has drained me and there is much to do now that you have arrived. He will instruct you.”
Eglon exited the tent and returned to his chariot.
“What is the plan, King Galkak of Amalek?”
“We will march upon Rabbath Ammon slowly and noisily. Instruct the troops to bang their spears and shields or make noise whenever I shake my stick.”
“Will the walls fall?” Eglon asked incredulously.
“I’m not Joshua and this ain’t Jericho, but they’ll be terrified. When the gates open, you’ll know what to do, boss.”
“Men!” Eglon turned around and addressed his troops in a booming voice. “King Galkak of Amalek, though strangely attired, shall lead our conquest of Rabbath Ammon. He requests that when he shakes his mighty war staff you are all to bang your shields, spears and weapons and make a ruckus, as if the very minions of Sheol were at your feet. Though I do not understand his tactics, he has my full faith and trust. I believe in him and in our victory. May Kemosh watch over us and give us victory today. For glory!”
“For glory!” the men chanted and marched towards the fortified city.
Every several paces, Galkak raised his staff and shook it. The entire army thundered noise as two thousand soldiers banged their weapons and yelled at the top of their lungs. Galkak grinned broadly each time. When they were just outside of arrow range, Galkak ordered a stop.
“Are you ready, you old sourface?” Galkak called to Dirthamus in his tent.
“Yes, you oaf. Let us be done with it,” Dirthamus opened the flap of his tent and covered his eyes from the painful sun.
Galkak shook his staff again. The army roared noise. A thousand eyes looked at the loud Moabite army from behind their tall walls. Galkak rested his staff. An ominous quiet followed.
“Listen to me, you bunch of lily-livered flea-bitten excuses for men!” Galkak bellowed to the soldiers of Amon. “We’re here to kill you! We’re gonna gut you like pigs. We’re gonna cut out your entrails and make you eat ‘em. We’re gonna skin you alive. We’re gonna take your women and eat your children. We’re gonna do every nightmarish thing you’ve ever dreamt of and some that you haven’t. We’ve got the power. We can kill you without even having to touch you. There is only one hope for you. Surrender. Whoever surrenders will be spared. No answer? That’s fine. Watch now as I strike you down!”
Galkak pointed his staff at a tall Amonite soldier on the ramparts to the left of the gate. Galkak shook his staff and the Moabites blasted sound across the distance. The tall soldier fell on the spot, writhing in pain. Galkak pointed at another soldier, with the same effect. Soldier after soldier fell, each writhing in pain on the ramparts of Rabbath Ammon amongst the rumbling of the Moabite army.
Galkak rested his staff.
“Have you had enough?” he called out. “That was just a small taste of our power. If you open your gate now, you shall all be spared; otherwise I’ll smite you all!”
Galkak shook his staff again. The Moabite army reverberated noise across the mountainside. Galkak pointed at select soldiers and they too fell to the floor.
“Surrender! Surrender!” was heard from Rabbath Ammon. “Open the gate! Open the gate! We don’t want to die!”
The gate creaked open. Galkak rested his staff. Silence pervaded the world. A cheer went up from within the city. The gate opened fully.
Galkak removed his costume and winked at Eglon.
“It’s yours now, boss. I’ll see you inside. You should check on Dirthamus and make sure he’s still alive.”
“How? What? Where are you going?” Eglon asked in utter confusion.
“I’m going to pay my actors. I’ll see you at the party!” Galkak rode to the city.
“Captain!” Eglon called to the nearby officer. “Take half the men into the city. Hold the gates and the ramparts. Disarm the Amonites and hold their king for me. Retain order, remain firm, but don’t hurt anyone you don’t need to. You know the drill. I’ll be there when I can.”
Eglon ran to Dirthamus’ tent. The old man was unconscious on the wooden planks of the wagon.
“Water! Bring me water!” Eglon yelled. “And some reviving salts, quick!”
A soldier returned with a water skin; another came with smelling salts. Eglon lifted the bony creature and gave him some water. He then placed the smelling salts under Dirthamus’ nose. The old man gagged to consciousness and pushed Eglon’s hand away.
“Get that repugnant odor away from me,” Dirthamus said weakly.
“What happened? How did Galkak know you had fallen? How did he strike those men down?” Eglon asked.
“Mad. I told you the man was mad,” Dirthamus chuckled dryly. “It was all a sham. The man is a charlatan of the highest order. He has learned much from you as to deception. You may even be able to learn a thing or two from him.”
“How did he do it?” Eglon pressed.
“Not now. See to the city. Galkak is a gambler of the highest order and this scheme can fall apart at a moment’s notice. Secure the city before something goes wrong. I am fine. I will recover, no thanks to that wily vassal of yours. Go.”
Eglon left Dirthamus and rode his chariot to the city. He was pleased to see his men holding the gate and the Amonites unarmed and passive. He rode to the palace to meet his next vassal. Galkak caught up with him. He had washed his face and was in his normal merchant’s robes.
“By Kemosh! You did it, Galkak!” Eglon gushed.
“Of course, boss. Did you have any doubts?” Galkak grinned.
“Not anymore. But how did you do it?”
“Fear and greed.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Of course you do, boss. Dirthamus helped me find the greedy, weak-willed soldiers of Amon. I gave ‘em a gold piece each to collapse when I’d point my staff at ‘em and promised ‘em another two gold pieces if they really did it. I used Dirthamus’ mind-influence power to spread fear in the city. We spotted the army’s leadership and instilled fear in ‘em as well as in Zakir, the King of Amon. Now, I had Dirthamus put terror in the hearts of the troops whenever they saw their fellow soldier collapse. That crone was working really hard there at the end, between ratcheting up the general fear and instilling panic in the soldiers on the ramparts. I take it he’s okay?”
“I found him collapsed in his tent, but we revived him.”
“Good. I’d hate to lose such a mean fellow.”
“Galkak, you are precious. Now let’s see how Zakir of Amon will receive us.”
Eglon and Galkak stopped at the entrance to the palace. Moabite guards stood at attention.
“Everything in order?” Eglon asked.
“Yes, my liege,” a soldier answered. “The Amonites have offered no resistance and we heard the King of Amon is waiting in his chambers to surrender personally to you. Our men are guarding him.”
“Excellent, excellent!” Eglon rubbed his beefy palms together.
Eglon and Galkak climbed the stairs of the palace. Every fifty feet stood a Moabite soldier at attention. Eglon beamed with pride. They entered a large antechamber. To the right was a massive statue. The statue had the torso of a man, made out of brick and clay and the metallic head of a bull, with large pointed bronze horns. Great openings in the torso revealed a roaring fire underneath the statue.
“Ah, great Moloch,” Eglon bowed reverentially to the idol. “We shall be kind to your people and put them to a great purpose. We shall feed children to your fire to satiate your appetite and to celebrate this bloodless victory.”
“Children?” Galkak asked.
“Of course children. Moloch does not desire adults, though I have heard there are some priests that will make exceptions. His preferences are newborns, though I understand the priests will sometimes wait a few years before taking a child from their parents. Not my favorite god,” Eglon whispered, “but I never take my chances with gods – I worship them all. Let’s find Zakir.”
Eglon and Galkak entered Zakir’s audience chamber. Two Moabite guards nodded as they walked through the doors. Zakir, a short grey-haired man with a neatly trimmed beard, fell from the throne to the ground when he spotted Eglon.
“My liege!” Zakir exclaimed while still bowing. “I and my people are yours. Just spare us from the wrath of your sorcerer. We have never beheld anyone so powerful. We have never even heard of such a power. Please spare us and be merciful!” Zakir whimpered.
“Rise Zakir, King of Amon,” Eglon motioned. Zakir stood up.
“Do not be afraid,” Eglon said as he sat on the throne of Amon. “Comfortable. I approve. Come, Zakir, sit here beside me. You too, Galkak.”
Zakir and Galkak sat themselves on less ornate chairs on either side of the throne.
“Zakir, it pleases me that you have shown judicious judgment and refrained from battling us. I wish to conserve the strength of Amon, as well as your rule – under my dominion, of course. Do you accept such terms?” Eglon asked.
“Yes! Of course, my liege! This is more than I could have hoped for. Your compassion and wisdom know no bounds. I hereby pledge my allegiance to you and shall ever place myself and my people at your service.”
“That is good, Zakir. Now meet my other vassal, King Galkak of Amalek. He and his people have benefited greatly by accepting my dominion. Together we shall form a grand alliance!”
“I am thrilled to meet the King of Amalek, but what is the purpose of our alliance?”
“Nothing less than to conquer and destroy our mutual enemy, the Israelites, and to dominate the trade routes of Canaan.”
“Israelites? What a coincidence. You know that our relations with them have been tense at best, but yesterday, one came to our city, warning of your attack, insisting that you would conquer the city and demanding to meet you once you had arrived.”
“You don’t say! There is an Israelite here that warned you, predicted my victory and is now waiting to meet with me. Who?”
“He said his name was Ehud.”
* * * * * *
Eglon gathered the nations of Amalek and Amon for his attack upon Israel.
Zakir, according to archeological records, is the name of an Amonite king.
Kemosh and Moloch are the names of gods that Moab and Amon worshipped.