Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 12
Dinner of Conquerors
“Ehud!?” Eglon and Galkak echoed in unison.
“Yes, I’m certain that was the man’s name,” Zakir, King of Amon, answered as he sat next to his old throne.
“That is incredible!” Eglon banged on the armrests of Zakir’s former throne chair and sat up. “How did he get here? How did he know of our attack and that we would win? I must see him right away.”
“He is here with a woman – his wife,” Zakir added.
“A wife? For Ehud? Oh, I must meet the woman that would marry that stolid man. Call for them both immediately. No! On second thought, it should be a more festive occasion – a dinner! Zakir, you shall arrange a sumptuous meal for us and make sure the Israelite and his wife are in attendance. I want you there too, Galkak. I shall call for Princess Neema as well from Bet Hayeshimot. It shall be a marvelous event!”
Neema of Amalek galloped on her chestnut mare together with her entourage. The six men, three of them Moabite, three Amalekite, escorted the Princess to King Eglon. Neema’s rich burgundy dress flowed on either side of her horse. Golden threads laid an intricate pattern on the silky fabric. Her raven tresses flew in the air.
The men talked about the accounts of the battle and the stories of King Galkak’s powers in striking down the Amonites. The tales grew in the telling. One account had Galkak growing horns from his head, transforming into a gigantic monster and bringing lighting down from the sky. Neema was pleased to hear of Galkak’s success and the honor it gave Amalek. It made their men feel more like equal partners in the Moabite campaign. Neema was happy with Galkak as King, especially as he let her do what she wished and did not interfere in her attentions upon Eglon. Captain Rhogag or General Harpag would have been overbearing, controlling. It was good Eglon left them at the Amalekite capital. Galkak didn’t seem to care – that strange unusual man – she knew no Amalekite like him.
However, Neema was most pleased by the summons from Eglon. He has finally thought of me without my having to throw myself over the man, she ruminated. This is a good development. I shall now put all my effort into becoming his consort. What power! I shall be his Queen and together rule the entire region!
Her thoughts were interrupted by the walls of Rabbath Ammon. She was impressed by their massive solidity and the fact that Galkak had taken it without shedding one drop of blood. As she entered the gate she recognized Amalekite soldiers together with Moabite troops. They were talking amicably with Amonite regulars, comparing weapons and recounting old skirmishes. Eglon may yet succeed, she thought, as they approached the palace.
“My darling, you look beautiful, a feast for the eyes,” Eglon put out his hand as Neema approached him on the throne. Eglon sat heavily in the large chair, with a new set of white robes. His golden belt, necklace and armbands reflected the warm light of the torches and braziers of the throne room. His ponytail of bright red hair had been combed meticulously. Eglon took Neema’s hand and kissed it in the royal fashion. Neema sat herself on the chair next to the throne.
“Congratulations, my liege,” she purred, “on your miraculous conquest of the great city of Rabbath Ammon. You shall go down in the annals of history as Eglon the Magnificent!”
“Thank you, my dear. It was your Galkak really who did all the work. He, and poor Dirthamus, whom he drained as a drunk squeezes his wine skin. The rest of us just showed up and enjoyed the show. It was quite incredible really.”
“Ah, Eglon. You don’t give yourself enough credit. I know it is you who has given the inspiration. It is your brilliance, your cunning, that Galkak is emulating. The victory is yours!”
“Well, it seems my victory was prophesied. Guess who will be joining us for dinner? Ehud of Benjamin!”
“Ehud? How is the Israelite here?”
“Shush, my dear,” Eglon stood up and placed his finger on her lips. “You shall discover all shortly.”
Neema kissed the finger and put it in her hand.
“I hear and obey,” she said, as Eglon led her to the dinning hall.
“My liege,” Zakir greeted them and motioned at a table set for seven, with wooden plates, copper cups and silver knives. “Dinner is served as per your command, and the Israelites are here.” Zakir pointed at Ehud and Blimah sitting at the far end of the table.
Ehud, in his simple blacksmith’s tunic, stood up from his chair. Blimah, in a worn but clean white dress, stood up as well.
“Ehud, my brother!” Eglon declared. “Come and embrace us!”
Ehud walked cautiously to Eglon and placed his arms around the much larger man. Eglon lifted the shorter Ehud in a bear hug.
“It is wondrous to see you again, Ehud,” Eglon said.
“Always pleasant, your Majesty,” Ehud responded.
“And who is this delectable creature at your side? Rumor has it that you have taken a wife.” Eglon eyed Blimah.
“I am Blimah, wife to Ehud,” Blimah raised her chin.
“Indeed you are. How is marriage working for you, blacksmith? I had been loath previously to even deal with womenfolk, but Princess Neema here of Amalek has softened my heart. Perhaps you, Blimah, and Neema will be friends? How domestic! I love it! Let us be seated.”
Zakir directed Eglon to the head of the table and sat himself to Eglon’s right. He pointed to Neema to sit on the other side of Eglon. Blimah sat next to Neema, and Ehud next to Blimah. There were two empty seats remaining next to Zakir. Zakir ordered the servants to bring the food.
A team of servants exited the kitchen with wooden trays of food. They brought a steaming vegetable broth in small wooden bowls.
“We are not hungry. Thank you,” Ehud declared.
“I have heard of the strange Hebrew food restrictions,” Zakir said. “We also have fresh fruits and vegetable, if you prefer.”
“That is most kind and understanding of you,” Ehud nodded.
Zakir snapped his fingers and a tray of fresh grapes, figs and pomegranates were set between Ehud and Blimah. Two servants carried a large tray with a roasted lamb on a bed of barley. Ornate ceramic jugs of wine and mead were placed on the table. A stack of fresh pitas was brought out together with a bowl of olive oil. Eglon unabashedly grabbed a shank of lamb in his big hands and tore into it hungrily. Neema and Zakir placed slices of the meat on their wooden plates and ate, intermittently dipping their pita into the olive oil. Ehud and Blimah picked at the grapes.
“I apologize for my delay,” Dirthamus limped heavily into the room. “Galkak is not in his room or in the palace.”
“Where is that drunkard?” Eglon banged the table, shaking the jugs of wine and mead. “Zakir, order your men to search the taverns. He may have drunk himself into a stupor and ended up unconscious under some hay cart. Turn this city upside-down until you find him. I shall not lose the Conqueror of Rabbath Ammon so easily.”
Zakir left the table as Dirthamus sat down noisily.
“Galkak?” Ehud whispered to Blimah. “I know a Galkak.”
“Curious,” Blimah whispered back.
“Ah, my lovebirds, no whispering, please,” Eglon requested, as he took another large bite of the lamb. “Ehud, I’ve been told that you predicted my victory. Pray tell how you came by that information, and what else of value you may be aware of.”
“God told me,” Ehud said simply.
“Which god? Have you become a priest now, through whom the gods speak?” Eglon asked, chewing loudly.
“There is only one God, your Majesty. The God of heaven and earth, the God who took our people out of Egyptian bondage, the almighty God. The things you worship are false. They are lifeless, soulless, man-made devices. Inventions of mortal imaginations. I speak to the creator, the immortal, the infinite God of my ancestors. He told me of your victory, for He knows all. Nothing is hidden from him. Not even the thoughts of man.” Ehud looked meaningfully at Dirthamus who flinched at the sudden attention and held his hand to his forehead.
“Ho! Easy man,” Eglon raised his greasy hands. “I respect all gods, including the Hebrew one. What else does he tell you?”
“That you will shortly attack Israel and that we shall be under your dominion.”
“He does!? See Dirthamus! I told you it was divinely ordained! And the one man I thought could stop me is delivering the news. Darling,” Eglon grabbed Neema’s hand, “this is the fulfillment of my dreams!”
“Do not delude yourself, Majesty, that it is through the strength of your armies or the righteousness of your cause that God grants you this power,” Ehud warned. “You are merely a tool of the almighty, a rod of chastisement against the Children of Israel. We have been false in our worship of God. My brothers have been cruel and violent. We held heathen idols in our hands as we paid lip service to the God of Abraham. God has had enough. But beware, Eglon, King of Moab. If you prove to be cruel, if you show no mercy or compassion in your rule, then you shall suffer the fate of Pharaoh of Egypt. You shall suffer the fate of Kushan of Aram whom Othniel of Judah utterly destroyed when the Arameans held dominion over the tribes of Israel. You are not the first whom God has given dominion over us for our sins, and you shall not be the last.”
“So serious, Ehud,” Eglon placed his hands on his belly, dirtying his new white robe, and laughed heartily. “It is time to celebrate. This latest victory and the one to come. This political talk must be boring to the ladies. Tell me, Blimah, are your meals with Ehud always so serious?”
“We have rarely dined with so frivolous a monarch,” Blimah answered.
“A sharp one, eh? Very well then, blacksmith’s wife, I shall get to business. Ehud, will you support me in my upcoming campaign against the tribes of Israel or will you stand against me.”
“There is no sense in resisting the inevitable. I shall be on hand to make it easier for my brethren.”
“I’ll take it as a yes! Excellent!”
Zakir ran into the dinning hall.
“What is it?”
“I have found Galkak, but he begs to excuse himself from the dinner. He says he is feeling ill and sends his apologies,” Zakir explained.
“Nonsense! He is a hardy warrior and a leader of men. Tell that rascal that he better get here this instant or I shall make sure he never finds a drink again in my entire kingdom. Go!”
Zakir ran back out.
“You know Galkak?” Dithamus asked Ehud.
“I have had dealings with a Galkak in the past. It may be another with the same name,” Ehud said. “Why do you ask?”
“He is a mysterious man that is hard to read, we would welcome any knowledge of his past,” Dirthamus said.
Galkak walked in, led by Zakir.
“That was a cruel threat, boss,” Galkak said as he sat down next to Dirthamus.
“Why are you avoiding us?” Eglon asked.
Ehud’s mouth hung open at the sight of Galkak.
“Hi, Ehud,” Galkak waved shyly.
“You are the King of Amalek, the brilliant conqueror of Rabbath Ammon?”
“You know each other? How?” Eglon demanded.
“I used to sell spices to his family, boss. I’m a mercenary when it comes to sales. I’ve sold spices not just in Amalek, but also to the Hebrews, Egyptians, Philistines and even Phoenicians. It was just chance that had me back home in Amalek when you conquered our city,” Galkak looked meaningfully at Ehud.
“He lies!” Dirthamus pointed his bony finger at Galkak. “I do not need to read minds to see that it is not the truth. Ehud knows him some other way. I can see it in his eyes. Tell us the truth!”
Ehud held his breath and then smiled.
“Your King Galkak is modest indeed,” Ehud said. “I know him from my days in the Israelite militia, when we fought off raiders and bandits from each of your lands. We fought Midianites, Moabites, Amonites, Philistines and,” Ehud pointed at Galkak, “Amalekites. Galkak was the most unpredictable fighter we came across. No one was safe when Galkak was in the area. Whenever mead or wine was missing, we could be sure Galkak was responsible. He would steal wagons filled with mead. We would chase him for miles along the border of Canaan, only to lose the wily fellow.”
“That is the Galkak I know. He speaks the truth, soothsayer,” Eglon said to Dirthamus. “Enough of your suspicions. Galkak has proven himself beyond all doubt and now the word of the prophet of the Hebrew god has affirmed what we already knew. I am more interested in conversing about our guests. So tell me, lovely Blimah, how will you feel about the coming occupation of your land?”
“How would you feel about my placing a dagger between your ribs?”
“Ooh, that is no way to address your future monarch. The consequences may not be to your liking.”
“I do not fear you, Eglon. I have been threatened by powerful men before and they are all the same. You seek power like a narcotic. You are addicted to command. In the end your own ego will be your downfall.”
“I think I do not like you, my dear. What say you, Neema? Is this how a woman speaks.”
“No, my love,” Neema caressed his arm. “How dare she address your magnificence so venomously? She has a vile tongue. If she were my subject, I would cut it out.”
“And your honey-coated tongue hisses sweet pleasantries into his ear. You are worse than he is, Neema. You wish to seduce your way to power.”
“That is enough!” Neema slapped Blimah across the face. “I will not tolerate such insult!”
“The truth stings,” Blimah said as she rubbed her red cheek.
“Blimah, please,” Ehud asked.
“I think I have lost my appetite, my dear friends,” Eglon stood up from the table. “I suggest we end our meal here. Ehud, I would like to see you alone in the morning to discuss our next move, in a more convivial setting.”
“Your Majesty!” a Moabite guard entered the dinning hall. “An Israelite has just arrived at the city and claims he has urgent news for you.”
“Another one?” Galkak said. “What’s with the Israelites tonight?”
“Let him in,” Eglon ordered.
Gheda, in luxurious robes, walked into the dining hall. Blimah gasped quietly.
“Ah, Gheda the Levite, my most loyal servant. Come,” Eglon said. The two large men embraced and kissed each other on either cheek. “You have performed superbly, my most excellent agent. I’m sure you know our other guests, Ehud and his sharp-tongued wife, Blimah.”
“I know Ehud well, and have had the unpleasant experience of meeting Blimah. Congratulations on your wedding. My liege, why do you not kill them right away? I request the privilege of killing the woman myself. She has done me personal harm.”
“You!?” Blimah pointed at Gheda. “You are the agent of Eglon? You are the one who has betrayed our people, who encouraged the slaughter of tens of thousands?”
“At your service,” Gheda mock bowed. “Via King Eglon was the fastest route to power and leadership of the tribes of Israel. I am the Uniter. I shall lead Israel under the dominion of Emperor Eglon!”
“No!” Blimah grabbed a sharp silver knife from the table and threw it with all her might at Gheda. The knife embedded itself in Gheda’s throat. The fat man fell backwards, dead.
“So shall all your enemies fall, Lord,” Blimah whispered.
“Guards!” Eglon yelled, taking a step back from the dead Levite. “Guards!”
Four soldiers ran into the dinning hall.
“Take these two,” Eglon pointed at Ehud and Blimah, “and place them in the cells below. Woman, you will regret killing my agent.”
“Galkak,” Eglon ordered, “accompany them and make sure they are secured properly. The blacksmith is most ingenious and we need to take control of the situation.”
“Yes, boss. I’m on it.”
The guards took the prisoners to the cells below the palace. Ehud and Blimah were placed in a small cell with stone walls and a strong wooden door.
“Guards,” Galkak said, “leave me the keys. I’m gonna interrogate the prisoners a bit. I’ll lock up afterwards.”
“Shouldn’t we stay with you?” one of the guards asked.
“Do you forget who I am? My power? Do you want me to strike you down where you stand?” Galkak motioned with his hand.
“No, no, sir.” The guard gave him the cell keys and ran off with the other guards.
Galkak entered the cell and closed the door behind him.
“Wow, Ehud. I really like your choice of wife,” Galkak said.
Ehud got off the stone bench and embraced Galkak.
“Galkak you old rascal, how in God’s name did you become King of Amalek?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but the important thing is I have Eglon’s trust and know his plans. I hope to calm the old boy down.”
“I thought you were enemies?” Blimah asked, still on the stone bench.
“Enemies?” Galkak laughed. “Ehud was my commander in the militia. I’m Galkak of the tribe of Simeon at yur service.”
“You lied?” Blimah looked at Ehud angrily.
“I did not say a lie,” Ehud answered, “though I may have led them to believe something other than the truth.”
“Yes you did!” Galkak clapped him on the back. “Ehud was always a better liar than I was – he told the truth! Ha! You haven’t lost your touch. But what are you goin’ to do? Eglon is plannin’ on marchin’ the combined armies of Moab, Amon and Amalek on Israel. He’ll have over three thousand troops.”
“It is meant to be,” Ehud said.
“What? That’s all you’re goin’ to say? The head of our militia? The great warrior and strategist is just givin’ up?”
“Yes, but it’s very good that you’re here, Galkak. I need you to stay by Eglon’s side. Perhaps for a long time. The day will come when you will strike, but until then, play along. You are doing a fantastic job.”
“That’s an order!”
“Now tell me about this Dirthamus. He strikes me as a particularly dangerous man.”
“Yes, he is the man behind all of Eglon’s power. He’s a pupil of Bilaam. His sorcery is strong as is his mind-influencing ability, but not as strong as ours,” Galkak tapped his temple. “He’s been trying to read my mind since we’ve met, but I’ve kept it blocked to him. He’s very frustrated about that.”
“Good, keep an eye on him. Keep him unbalanced as you have. He is the linchpin and when the time is right, he will have to go.”
“I can’t wait. I hate his guts.”
“Patience. God operates on a different timeframe than us mere mortals. Patience.”
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