Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 14
Invasion of Canaan
“My father told me of your history,” Eglon said from atop his chariot. “He told me how your Moses stood here, here on our plains of Moab, which we have now re-conquered. After forty years, after leading your people out of Egypt, Moses could see the land, almost touch it, but never to cross over, never to reach that promised land. How sad.”
Riding next to Eglon were Ehud and Blimah, the former on a brown stallion and the later on a tan mare. They moved across the plains of Moab with three thousand of Eglon’s troops, approaching the Jordan River. Galkak rode on his white mare on the other side of Eglon. Next to him was the covered wagon with Dirthamus inside. Zakir and Empress Neema remained at Rabbath Ammon.
“Yes,” Ehud answered. “It was Moses’ last wish, but was not fulfilled. Joshua brought us in and now you will undo all of his work.”
“Undo?” Eglon raised his eyebrow. “I will not undo the settlement of the tribes of Israel. I will merely rearrange the power structure. Your stiff-necked tribes will be more orderly, more compliant under a firm and unified rule.”
“As you wish,” Ehud answered.
“Yes. And now I wish to do what the great Moses himself could not.” Eglon removed his sword from his scabbard and was rewarded with silence from his troops. “To cross the Jordan!” He announced in his deep rumbling voice.
Three thousand swords flew out of their scabbards with a sharp metallic cascade. The men cheered as Eglon sped his chariot to the river crossing. Horses and men splashed in the softly flowing stream, low in the late summer.
“Hah! We did it!” Eglon shouted happily on the western bank of the river. “We have crossed the Jordan uncontested!”
Soldiers raised their swords into the air and patted each other on the back.
“What’s he so happy about?” Blimah whispered to Ehud. “There’s no one here to fight him. Of course he was going to cross it without a problem.”
“Hush,” Ehud whispered back. “It’s symbolic. The last army to cross the Jordan was Joshua’s and he went on to conquer over thirty small kingdoms of Canaan. The tribes of Israel destroyed entire peoples and regions. Eglon wants to conquer all of our lands now. He sees himself as outdoing both Moses and Joshua.”
“Where shall we go now, my dear advisor?” Eglon asked Ehud.
“The first target in our path is Gilgal, the old encampment of the Tribes of Israel,” Ehud answered.
“Will they fight?”
“Does it matter? There are only a handful of Benjaminites who live there now. Even if they do fight, you could overrun them quickly.”
“Gilgal is the only settlement on this plain?”
“Yes, our people prefer the mountains.”
“Then let us ride and remove the small thorn from this strategic location. Soldiers of the Empire!” Eglon raised his sword. “We march!”
Eglon’s army marched northward, parallel to the river, until they saw the simple stone and wooden houses of Gilgal. Once, hundreds of thousands of Israelite tents had filled the plain, but now only a few dozen houses stood, most of them vacant.
Half a dozen Benjaminites stood at the edge of the town watching the army approach. When they saw the soldiers of Eglon and realized they weren’t friendly, they disappeared into their homes, grabbed their families and possessions and fled northward, away from the approaching army.
“This will be easier than I thought!” Eglon chuckled. “Galkak, take a company of men and station them at Gilgal. We shall go on to our next target. Catch up with us when you can.”
“Yes, Boss.” Galkak motioned to a company commander and galloped ahead with him and his men to Gilgal. Eglon took the bulk of the army back south.
“What is our next stop, prophet-man?” Eglon asked.
“Naaran. It is on the Arava Road, due west. It leads to the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, the two that were most depleted by our civil war and, up until then, the strongest tribes. If those tribes should capitulate it will take the fight out of the others.”
“What is that rubble in the distance?” Eglon asked.
“The remains of Jericho,” Ehud answered.
“Jericho? How fantastic! We must see it,” Eglon drove his chariot towards the destroyed city. The entire army followed.
They reached a city of rubble. Stones of all sizes were strewn about the remains of a city, as if a juvenile giant had kicked over the walls and then played with stones, throwing them indiscriminately in all directions. A thin green moss grew under the shade of the larger stones.
“Why was it never rebuilt?” Eglon asked Ehud.
“Joshua commanded that we shouldn’t and cursed anyone who would. He stated that whoever rebuilds Jericho would live to bury his own children.”
“Still, the Israelites made a mistake in not rebuilding in the area. This plain commands the western bank and the mountain ascent. I shall build my new capital here. Well, not right here on the ruins. I don’t want to invoke any curses – I have a future dynasty to worry about. There,” Eglon pointed at a grove of palm trees south of the ruins of Jericho, “I shall build a city by those majestic palms. And from there I shall rule my empire.”
“Very pretty,” Ehud said tersely. Galkak returned, panting slightly.
“It shall be magnificent. Galkak,” Eglon called.
“Yeah, Boss?” Galkak said, still breathless.
“Find my architect and assign one hundred men to the labor. When we return from our conquest, I shall expect to see a city on this plain.”
“No problem, Boss. You want me to oversee this thing?”
“No, Galkak. I want your wily mind right next to me for the conquest. Despite Ehud’s assurances and assistance, I am certain his fellow Israelites will not submit easily. Dirthamus! Get out here. I want your opinion.”
The old sorcerer opened the flap of his covered wagon, shielding his eyes with his bony left hand.
“Yes, my liege,” Dirthamus rasped.
“What do you think of us building our new capital here?” Eglon asked.
Dirthamus closed his eyes and faced the ruins of Jericho. With his right hand he pointed at the rubble.
“I sense a strong power upon these ruins. It is a force we should be wary of. And there, at the edge of the ruins, it is strongest.”
“A part of the wall still stands!” Eglon said.
“It must be Rahab’s home in the wall,” Ehud said.
“Ah, yes, the traitor. I heard about her, and that she was quite beautiful. Is it true she married Joshua himself?” Eglon asked.
“Yes, they were very happy together,” Ehud answered.
“That reminds me. We must call for my Empress when our City of Palms is complete. Go on, Galkak. Fetch me the architect and let us commence planning the city before we proceed with our campaign.”
Galkak found the architect, a stocky middle-aged man with a shock of white bisecting his otherwise dark hair. He came with a long roll of papyrus, a thin reed brush and a small clay jar of ink. The architect and Eglon sat on the edge of the chariot. Eglon pointed and waved his hands and built palaces in the air as the architect furiously drew on his papyrus. Galkak ordered the troops to rest and refill their water skins from the Jordan.
Satisfied with the architect’s sketches, Eglon called the troops back to order.
“Up the Arava Road and to Naaran!” he commanded.
The army marched into the narrow ravine that climbed up the mountain. The soldiers were able to ride up to ten abreast or twenty soldiers walking side by side. Eglon rode in front, pleased with himself by the successful morning.
Craggy barren mountains guided them on either side as the army marched up the road.
“I don’t like it, Boss,” Galkak rode his mare in front of Eglon’s chariot to face him. “This is the perfect setup for…” an arrow in Galkak’s shoulder interrupted his sentence.
“Ambush!” Eglon yelled. He looked in horror at the arrow that would have hit him as Galkak fell from his horse. “Shields up!”
Thousands of shields went up as a rain of arrows fell on Eglon’s army. Arrows clanged and thumped into the shields.
Ehud got off his horse and dragged Blimah down as well. They crouched below the cover of their horses. The first volley of arrows from the mountains ceased. Dozens of Eglon’s soldiers lay dead or wounded, but the majority was unscathed.
“Archers!” Eglon yelled. “Return fire!”
Ehud and Blimah crawled to the fallen Galkak.
“Galkak!” Ehud turned the fallen king gently, careful not to move the protruding arrow.
“I’m okay. Not fatal,” Galkak murmured. “Just get it out of me. It hurts like hell.”
Ehud looked at the arrow in Galkak’s shoulder.
“You’re lucky,” Ehud determined. “It hit high and wedged against the bone. Hold on.”
Ehud pulled on the arrow and it slid easily out of Galkak’s shoulder. The shoulder started to bleed profusely.
“Quick, Blimah. Get me something to bandage the wound.” Ehud pressed his palm firmly on Galkak’s shoulder.
“Dirthamus has supplies in his wagon,” Galkak added.
Blimah ran to Dirthamus’ wagon and opened the flap. She saw Dirthamus on the floor of the wagon in a fetal position, his eyes closed tightly in concentration. He opened them when Blimah climbed into the wagon.
“Get out, woman!” he hissed.
“I need bandages. Galkak is injured.”
Dirthamus pointed at a corner of the wagon and closed his eyes again. Blimah grabbed a roll of cloth, a knife and left the wagon quickly. She ran back to Ehud and Galkak.
“Wine,” Galkak moaned. “Please, ol’ buddy. A little wine.”
“If I let go of your shoulder, you’ll bleed to death, you fool,” Ehud said. “Hold still for a few moments while we bandage you and then you can have your drink.”
Blimah expertly bandaged Galkak’s shoulder. When he was well-wrapped, Ehud searched for Galkak’s wine skin on his horse. He returned smiling and carrying an empty skin with an arrow through it.
“I think God may be trying to send you a message,” Ehud suggested.
“Nonsense. God never interferes with a man’s drinkin’ – that would be immoral! Check under my pack. There should be another skin there.”
Ehud found the skin and raised it victoriously.
“Shields up!” Eglon yelled as another volley of arrows rained down upon them from the mountains. An arrow pierced the new skin.
“No!” Galkak cried. “Quick, bring it here!”
Ehud ran to the prone Galkak and gave him the leaking skin. Galkak unstopped the skin and raised it to his mouth. Just a few drops fell on his face.
“Cruel, cruel!” Galkak sobbed.
“We’re getting killed here and all you can think about is your drink?” Blimah asked incredulously.
“I take my drinkin’ seriously. Ehud, there should be a third skin under the harness. Please get it for me.”
“Let’s wait for this volley to subside.”
Another dozen soldiers had fallen to the onslaught of the mountain arrows.
“Dirthamus!” Eglon called. “Get out here! What’s going on? Who’s attacking us?”
Dirthamus scurried out of his tent and ran to the side of Eglon’s chariot where he stood with a large copper shield over his head.
“It is Israelites,” Dirthamus said. “Judeans, to be specific. One of them is known to us – Prince Elimelech.”
“Elimelech! I thought we had crushed and dishonored him. How is he here?”
“He never gave up,” Dirthamus answered, “but was only able to convince a few dozen of his brothers of our impending attack.”
“That seems to be enough. Our arrows can’t reach them and they can attack us with impunity. Galkak, how are you? You took an arrow meant for me. I shall never forget that. Can you move?”
“Yeah, Boss. But I need a drink really badly.”
“Here,” Eglon grabbed a skin from his chariot and threw it at Galkak. Galkak caught it with his good arm, unstopped it and drank thirstily. He emptied the skin and burped loudly.
“Ahh, much better,” Galkak sighed. “I can take on a whole army now. What are we goin’ to do?”
“We have to get off this road and take the fight to them. Galkak, you take half our men and climb the mountain to the right. I’ll take the rest to the left. I’ll meet you back on the road when we’re done. Ehud, you come with me. Dirthamus, accompany Galkak. Go!”
The army split into two and proceeded to climb the mountains on either side of the road. The Israelites continued to fire upon the invaders, but to less effect. The arrows stopped and Eglon’s troops spotted Israelite soldiers climbing away.
“They may have laid traps,” Eglon warned his men. “Proceed carefully.”
It was slow and arduous work for thousands of men to climb the rocky uneven terrain. They passed a series of dark caves. One of the Moabite captains approached Eglon.
“Should we check the caves, your Majesty?” the captain asked.
“No, it would be a distraction. We have routed them. Let us return to the road, but keep a scout force upon these mountains ahead of us. Captain, you lead the scouts. I will take the main force back to the road. I’d love to get my hands on that Elimelech. I would not have him walk away the victor of this fracas.”
“It does not matter,” Ehud said. “You have the overwhelming force and there is little he can do to stop you.”
“Nonetheless, he has a strong spirit. I do not want him to rally the tribes together. He has irrefutable proof of our intentions now. We must proceed quickly with our conquest. Let us get off this mountain.”
Ehud together with Blimah followed Eglon and the soldiers down the mountain.
“Ehud,” Blimah whispered.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I need to relieve myself.”
“What? Can’t you wait?”
“I’ve been waiting since we crossed the Jordan. I haven’t had a chance since then. I’m not like you men who relieve themselves wherever you want. I need some privacy and there hasn’t been any, surrounded here by three thousand men. I can go into one of the caves here. Let’s find one and you guard the entrance.”
Ehud and Blimah fell back from Eglon, struggling down the mountain.
They noticed a dark opening above them, partially shielded by some shrubbery.
“Will that do?” Ehud pointed at the cave entrance.
“Yes. Let’s go.”
Ehud and Blimah moved away, unnoticed by the mass of troops negotiating the treacherous descent back to the road.
“Make it quick,” Ehud said as they reached the cave entrance. Blimah gave him a stern look and entered the cave. Ehud stood with his back to the cave and watched Eglon’s army reassemble on the road below.
“Ehud,” Blimah called him from inside the cave.
“What’s the matter now?” he asked.
There was no answer.
Ehud unsheathed his sword and entered the dark cavern. He was grabbed roughly from either side, punched in the face and his sword taken. In the dim light he could make out the reflection of a knife held against Blimah’s pale throat and the wild eyes of the knife’s owner, Elimelech.
“Now you die, traitor!” Elimelech whispered.
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