Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 25 – Hidden Weapons

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 25

Hidden Weapons

Dirthamus hated everything. He hated the warm sun that blinded his sensitive eyes. He hated the merry chirping of birds that assaulted his ears. He hated the caress of the dry wind as he hobbled into the Israelite city of Aroer in the Tribe of Simeon.

I will kill that donkey, Dirthamus thought, and then its master. As soon as I get back.

The old wizard looked at the impoverished residents of Aroer. It had been the same in every Israelite city he had been forced to traverse: thin, hungry-looking people, tattered clothing, and stooped backs. Eighteen years of oppression have done its work. Dirthamus smiled, the Israelite anguish a small amelioration for his discomfort. But the children, he noticed, still had a bounce in their step, still contained an irrepressible energy he found highly offensive.

“Where is the home of Galkak?” Dirthamus stopped one boy with his walking stick.

“Galkak? Never heard of a Galkak.” The child ran off and the wizard sensed that the boy spoke the truth.

Dirthamus approached the busy city marketplace. Merchants sold scraps of food and material to residents who possessed just a few copper pieces. People seemed to congregate more for the company than for any commercial purpose. The wizard noted some barter, small eggs for dark bread, a worn shawl for some meager vegetables.

He approached a cabbage vendor, a man in his thirties.

“Where is the home of Galkak?” the wizard wheezed.

“Galkak?” The vendor scratched his stubby chin. “Name sounds familiar, I can’t say I know.” Dirthamus read the vendor’s mind and saw that he too spoke the truth.

I need to find older residents, the wizard thought. Galkak probably hasn’t been here for many years.

“Where is the home of Galkak?” Dirthamus grabbed a middle-aged man walking by, the wizard’s talon-like fingers clutching the man’s bicep.

“Who wants to know?” the man looked at Dirthamus through narrow eyes.

“I command you, in the name of Emperor Eglon, to tell me where the home of Galkak is!” the wizard raised his raspy voice.

“Galkak hasn’t been here in ages. He’s probably dead. Go look in the cemeteries, old crone.” The man loosened himself from Dirthamus’ grip and sped away.

Dirthamus read the man’s mind and was pleased to find he had lied. He was even more pleased to find the location of Galkak’s home in his mind.

The wizard limped excitedly to a modest stone house off the city center. He rapped his stick against the wooden door.

“Hold your horses,” an old female voice called from inside.

Moments later the door opened. A tiny woman with short white hair and glazed eyes stood in the doorway, peering sightlessly past the wizard.

“Where’s the fire?” she asked, leaning on her cane.

“Are you Galkak’s mother?” Dirthamus asked.

“Who wants to know?”

“An old friend.”

“You don’t sound like any of his old friends. What’s your name? Where are you from?”

“So you are his mother, and he is Israelite. When is the last time you saw him?”

“Now you listen here, young man. My Galkak never had such rude friends, who didn’t introduce themselves or answer my questions. His friends were Boaz and Amitai and Ehud and those other boys from the militia, brave souls all of them. You sound more like a scoundrel to me.”

“He was with the militia?” Dirthamus gasped. “Friends with Ehud? He is a deceiver of the highest order!”

“You’re no friend of his!” Galkak’s mother shouted and whacked him on the head with her cane.

“Stop!” Dirthamus cried. “I am the Emperor’s advisor. You shall suffer for this.”

The blind old woman whacked Dirthamus again. He tried moving but his yelping guided her aim. She whacked him again and again until he fell to the ground, a bloody, crying, crumpled man. She finally kicked Dirthamus in the face. He groaned and fainted.

“That’ll teach you to mess with my family,” Galkak’s mother spat, shuffled back into her house and slammed the door behind her.

Malia polished the stone god in the early morning. In her worn robes and with her long blonde hair covered tightly under her shawl, she scrubbed away at the idol. The idols were right outside the gates of Gilgal across from the great quarry. Major portions of the nearby mountain had been cut away systematically. It was first dug by the Canaanites, later by the Israelites and most recently by Israelite slaves under Moabite supervision. Malia spat into the rag and wiped away the dirt and grime that accumulated on the man-sized statues over the course of the month. It was her hateful task. The garrison commander of Gilgal had ordered her to clean the stone carvings once a month, every month on the day of the full moon. Gilgal, the only Israelite city on the Jordan plain, had once been the camp for all the tribes of Israel, when Joshua had conquered the land. From Gilgal they could see to the south the grand City of Palms, new capital of the Moabite Empire, though the Moabite ancestral lands lay even further south and east across the river.

She had finished polishing the third god and was about to start on the fourth and final god at the gates of their city, when she saw them. The princes of Israel. What a sorry lot, she thought. The dozen princes of Israel together with another dozen men and as many wagons. Every year they came through Gilgal, on their way to Eglon, bringing the symbolic Tribute. The princes looked sad, dejected, even fearful. Then she saw Ehud and was filled with hope. She saw the look of determination, of cunning on his face, and another look she had not seen on him in years past: murder.

“They shall be here shortly,” Eglon told Bagdon. “It is probably best that you not be here when the Princes arrive. Prince Avod is after all still your father. Perhaps just exchange pleasant greetings with him when you pass him, and tell him you are on an errand for me. You should be in place when they return through Gilgal.”

“Yes, my liege,” Bagdon responded. “This mission will be carried out most efficiently. I will take the best archers of the army with me.”

“Remember, Bagdon. I only want Ehud dead. And kill him in front of the gods of Gilgal. That will demonstrate to the Israelites the gods’ displeasure with him, and will encourage the Princes to follow our commands.”

“Agreed. Galkak is also scheduled to arrive today with the full complement of Amalekite and Ammonite forces. We shall deploy them throughout the valley tomorrow to prepare for the execution of the firstborns.”

“Excellent, my general, my son. Proceed.”

Galkak trotted ahead of the combined armies of Amalek and Ammon. He had convinced King Zakir of Ammon of Eglon’s duplicity and Zakir swore his soldiers to the command of Galkak. The Moabite forces still outnumbered them three to two but Galkak hoped for the element of surprise.

“Harpag,” Galkak called his general. “Bivouac our forces outside the City of Palms on the plain of the valley. I think this time we aren’t goin’ to accept the Moabite hospitality.”

“Understood.”

“Good. I’m goin’ ahead to meet the Tyrant and see how things stand. If for whatever reason I don’t make it back, you’re in charge. Wait until the Israelites arrive before you attack Eglon’s forces.”

“Good luck.”

“We’re gonna need it.” Galkak rode into the city. He reached the royal stables and was greeted by Mahlon.

“Today is the day, son of Elimelech,” Galkak addressed Mahlon as he dismounted. “Are you ready?”

“I’ve been talking to the horses. Most of them have agreed to help me.” Mahlon took the reins of the horse and stroked its neck.

“Excellent. That can make the difference between victory and defeat.”

“Galkak, I have something else to tell you. Shortly after you left, Dirthamus came looking for you and then demanded to go to the tribe of Simeon. He suspects you’re Israelite and went to confirm.”

“That’s bad. Has he returned?”

“No. I sent him with a special donkey.” He pointed at nearby Chamra who wagged her short tail at the attention. “She made sure he had a difficult journey.”

Galkak looked at the donkey with admiration and stroked her bristly hide. “Good thinking, Mahlon. Now I better get to the Tyrant before the Tribute arrives.”

Ehud, extra wary, was the first to spot the approaching Moabites upon the Jordan plain. The river bubbled untroubled by mortal cares to his left. Bagdon led two dozen soldiers on horseback.

“Greetings Princes. Greetings Father,” Bagdon declared when they met.

“Bagdon,” Prince Avod was the only one to answer.

“I apologize that I will not be present for the Tribute, but I am on a small but urgent assignment for the Emperor. I hope all is well.”

“You will not change your ways or allegiance?” Avod asked knowing the answer.

“Good day to you Father, Princes. It was lovely chancing upon you.” Bagdon replied and trotted off with his men.

“I am sorry for you, Avod,” Elimelech said softly.

“I wish it was my head Ehud had cut off all those years ago,” Avod sighed. “That I should live to see my own flesh and blood betray us…”

“There is nothing to be done now about Bagdon. He has chosen his side,” Ehud said. “I just hope we have enough people on our side when it comes to fighting and not a whole lot of fence-sitters.”

“Your plan is mad,” Elimelech said.

“If you will not help, then stay out of the way,” Ehud warned.

“And suffer the consequences of your failure? I told you before I am tired of fighting. I shall suffer whatever fate God has in store for me.”

“Enough, Elimelech. Your talking depresses me and I do not need my own brethren weakening me.”

“So we are still brothers?” Elimelech asked with some surprise.

“We have always been. It is you that forgot. I shed a tear for every brother I slayed. I argued against our fighting, but I do not wish to rehash old history. We are brothers. And that is what I fight for. If more of us remembered that, if more of us remembered our God and believed in him, victory would be assured.”

“I finally realize why we never got along,” Elimelech said. “You remind me of my father. He had so much faith. I could never understand it. I could never have as much faith. And you know what the danger is, Ehud? Most people don’t have that faith either. And then you find yourself alone. Ahead of the pack. Because no one is strong enough to follow you. My father, Nachshon, had a once in a lifetime event, where his faith showed the way, where he jumped into the sea and it split. I think it must have been a close thing and, even so, the age of miracles has passed. We are just shadows of our fathers.”

“Elimelech, go ride in the back and after we bring the Tribute go straight home. Do not talk to anyone. Let Naomi console your broken heart. Your presence will only serve our enemies.”

Elimelech let the other princes and their retinues pass him. He rode in the back silently, head bowed down.

They reached the City of Palms and the royal stables. Servants were ready for them and unloaded the wagons. Elimelech embraced Mahlon stiffly when he saw him. Mahlon gestured to Ehud to join them.

“Bagdon is laying an ambush for you,” Mahlon whispered.

“Where? Who? When?” Ehud asked urgently.

“I don’t know where, but they just want to kill you, Ehud, not the princes. It will be some time after you leave here.”

“Good work. How did you find out?” Ehud asked.

“The horses have big mouths,” Mahlon answered.

Ehud and the princes made their way to the audience chamber. Eglon was on his throne, as big and heavy as ever, wearing crisp white robes with necklaces, belts and armbands of gold. Empress Neema sat to his left in a regal gown of gold and silver thread. To her side sat Princess Ruth and Princess Orpah, similarly attired. To Eglon’s right sat Galkak, King of Amalek, looking fidgety, holding his hands under his legs and biting the inside of his cheek.

Ehud and the princes knelt in front of Eglon. Moabite servants brought the trays of Tribute and placed them on the floor in front of Eglon: fruits, vegetables, grains, wines, oils, skins, garments, tapestries, pottery, glassware, metalwork, the best of the assorted production of the tribes of Israel were given as a gift to the Moabite Emperor.

Eglon looked at the Tribute and smiled slightly.

“A bit better than last year,” Eglon commented. “The tapestry is a nice touch. Is that Judean, Elimelech?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” Elimelech answered, still kneeling.

“Very well, you may rise,” Eglon commanded. The princes rose slowly.

“Ehud, what is this I hear of growing discontent amongst the Israelites? Am I not a benevolent ruler, father to my people? Do I not feed them, protect them and look out for their every interest? I do not appreciate hearing such complaints.”

“I shall attempt to quiet any complaints against you,” Ehud said.

“That’s it? You do not take up their cause? You do not cry for mercy? What are you hiding Ehud?”

Ehud felt the cold metal of the short sword hidden under his robe on his right thigh.

“I hide nothing, your Majesty,” Ehud lied blatantly. “I have learned there is no use complaining. Your will is of iron and my people are as chaff to you. I shall remind them to be thankful for their lives and all that you provide them.”

“That is appropriate. Now princes,” Eglon said. “You know of the census that is to be conducted tomorrow. All of your firstborns are to come to the valley of the Jordan where we shall count them, every last one of them. It is vital for the smooth functioning of the Empire that we have an accurate accounting of each family from each tribe and each of their firstborns. We will know if a family does not send their firstborn and rest assured that the recalcitrant family will be killed in its entirety. I will not run the chance of a miscount and throw our Empire into turmoil.”

“Be at peace, Majesty,” Ehud raised his hands. “The firstborns are already on their way. Those from the further northern tribes left a week ago and some may even arrive to the valley today. I would suggest alerting your officers that great numbers of firstborns will be arriving in the valley this afternoon already and will probably wish to make camp so that they will be available for the census first thing tomorrow morning.”

“They are coming. That is good. That is good,” Eglon said. “Very well then.”

“Stop!” Dirthamus screamed as he burst into the audience chamber.

“Dirthamus? Where have you been?” Eglon asked. “You look terrible. How dare you come here like that? Go clean up your wounds, get some fresh clothing and come back when you’re more presentable.”

“No, my liege! There is no time! That man! That man is a fraud!” Dirthamus pointed a scrawny shaky finger at Galkak.

“Galkak?” Eglon asked.

“Excuse me, Boss,” Galkak stood up. “The old man is clearly not well. I’ll get him cleaned up and bring him back when he’s rational.”

“No! Don’t touch me you filthy Israelite! I know who you are! It’s all been a sham! All these years! Eglon! Don’t believe him. He’s allied with-”

“Let’s calm down now.” Galkak clamped Dirthamus’ mouth. “You don’t want to say anythin’ you may regret when you’re sober. I know the symptoms better than anyone. He’s clearly been drinkin’ too much. I’ll take care of him, Boss. Don’t worry. I’m too fond of this curmudgeon to see him suffer from the drink as I did.”

Dirthamus struggled and punched Galkak, but the stronger man held his mouth in an iron grip and escorted him forcefully out of the audience chamber. Once in the hallway, Galkak let go of the wizard’s mouth and bent the old man’s arm.

“One wrong word and I’ll break your arm and then your scrawny neck,” Galkak whispered.

“You are Israelite,” Dirthamus hissed.

“What else do you know?”

“You are of the tribe of Simeon from the city of Aroer. You were in the militia with Ehud. Your entire reign has been a sham and you will die.”

“All true, but let’s see if we can keep the matter quiet a little longer. Now what should we do with you? I know. Let’s go to the stables.”

“I am not without power,” Dirthamus said.

“It has no effect on me.”

“Perhaps, but I can still influence others.” Dirthamus closed his eyes, concentrated and murmured as Galkak walked him to the stables.

Soldiers in the palace courtyard looked at the Amalekite King and the old wizard. Several of the soldiers stood transfixed and walked slowly towards them, their hands in front of them awkwardly. They chanted something. More and more soldiers marched slowly towards the duo as Galkak forced Dirthamus to the stable. Three dozen soldiers approached Galkak with their arms outstretched and vacant stares. He finally understood what they were chanting: “Kill Galkak.”

“Mahlon!” Galkak called as he entered the stable. Mahlon ran to him.

“What’s the matter?” Mahlon asked.

“Dirthamus bewitched the soldiers to kill me. I need help!”

“Get on your horse. I’ll try to hold them off.”

“No. There are too many of them.”

“You will die, Israelite.” Dirthamus smiled through the pain of his bent arm.

Galkak let go of the wizards arm and drew his sword, facing the approaching soldiers.

“Wait!” Mahlon exclaimed. “He’s not the only one that can influence others.” Mahlon closed his eyes and focused on the horses in the stable. He gave them one command: Attack!

A dozen horses charged out of the stable, jumped ahead of Galkak and intercepted the Moabite soldiers. One horse knocked Dirthamus to the ground. Horses kicked at the soldiers, sending them flying. Soldiers ran in all directions, escaping the wild horses. Galkak fought the handful of soldiers that escaped the barrage of horses. Dirthamus, behind Galkak, drew a knife from out of his robe. He crawled towards Galkak. Suddenly a donkey stood in his way.

“You!” Dirthamus yelled, recognizing Chamrah. “Besides Galkak, there was nothing else I wanted to kill since you abandoned me.” Dirthamus raised the knife with all his might and stabbed at Chamrah’s exposed neck. Chamrah moved with surprising speed, kicking Dirthamus hard in the head. Dirthamus flew deep into the stables, landing roughly on a pile of hay, never to wake up again.

Dumb human, Chamrah thought as she saw the Moabite soldiers regain their senses and stop their attack on Galkak.

The princes turned to leave the audience chamber.

“Ehud, stay a moment longer,” Eglon requested.

Ehud stepped towards the throne, the metal of his sword feeling hot against his bare leg. I could do it now, Ehud thought, but it’s too early.

“Ehud you know that I’m fond of you. I liked you years before I became Emperor, when you were a simple blacksmith. I knew you had leadership potential and I knew that you would be instrumental in governing the Israelites. It’s a hard job, for they are truly a stiff-necked people, but you have done your task well. I think of you as my friend and I think that you see me the same way.”

“I have always admired certain qualities of yours.”

“Good, then you know that what I do, I do for the good of the Empire and all my subjects. I just wanted you to understand before, before we part.” Eglon looked down, somewhat abashed.

“I understand, more than you may appreciate. I have stood by your side all these years, supporting your efforts. I shall be at your side until the very end.”

“You’re a good man, Ehud. Farewell.”

“Farewell, your Majesty.” Ehud bowed and left the audience chamber.

Malia had noticed the Moabite soldiers’ arrival, and she had watched them tie their horses within the gates of Gilgal. One soldier pointed at Malia and said to his fellow soldier, “I don’t understand why these Israelite women cover their hair. Our women let it show. It’s much more beautiful.” They’ll never understand, Malia thought. These Moabites have no concept of modesty. An Israelite would understand.

The soldiers came back out of the city gates and stationed themselves within arrow-reach of the gods. They hid behind large stones and shrubs and wherever they could find cover from the road. Malia had finished cleaning and polishing the stone idols and was now applying a coating of oil. It gave the gods a nice shine and kept the dirt off a little bit longer.

Then she saw the princes returning from the City of Palms. They rode harder and faster than during their journey south, unburdened by the Tribute and eager to return to their homes. Malia saw the Moabite soldiers draw their arrows. It’s to be an ambush, she finally realized, and I’m exactly in the wrong spot. Should I warn them? They’ll kill me and what good would that do? But if I stay here I’ll also die. I know what.

Malia took her shawl off and loosened her long blond hair. The hair fell down her back. Malia turned her head from side to side, her hair waving like a flag. Ehud raised his hand in the distance and the princes stopped. Malia covered her hair and calmly walked into Gilgal.

The princes trotted slowly towards the idols of Gilgal in front of its gate, looking from side to side. Ehud turned back and galloped to the City of Palms.

“Ehud’s getting away!” Bagdon jumped out from behind a rock. “After him!” he commanded. The Moabite soldiers ran towards the gate of Gilgal to get their horses.

“Brothers,” Elimelech said calmly. “Let us buy Ehud some time. Block the gate.”

The princes and their retinue rode to the gate and with two dozen horses blocked the Moabites from entering.

“Stand aside!” Bagdon ordered the princes.

“Are these the manners of a son of Israel?” Elimelech asked.

“I have no time for discussion.” Bagdon drew his sword. “Move so we can reach our horses!”

“What is the rush? Can we not discuss this like civilized people?”

“Elimelech, I am warning you one last time. Get out of my way or I shall kill you.”

“Will you kill me too?” Avod asked his son and placed himself in front of Elimelech.

“If I must,” Bagdon responded.

“Then kill me now. To have a son willing to kill his own father in the name of Eglon is more than I can bear.”

“Father, let us be reasonable. I am merely following orders. Orders of the man you agreed and swore to serve. The man you gave me to, who raised me as his own son. I am to be married to his daughter, shortly. I am a man of great importance in the Empire and it is your sacrifice that has made it possible.”

“You are no son of mine.” Avod spat. “I curse the day you were born. God should have closed your mother’s womb that such an evil man should have come from my loins.”

Avod charged at Bagdon with nothing but a riding stick. Bagdon stabbed Avod as he approached. Avod fell off his horse, dead before he hit the gravelly ground.

“Your own father!” Elimelech yelled. The princes marched against Bagdon. The Moabite soldiers aimed their arrows at the princes, waiting for Bagdon’s command.

“Enough!” Bagdon pointed his sword at Elimelech. “Eglon does not want the princes dead, but I shall kill the next one that stands in my way. See, even my father cannot stop me. We shall enter the city. We shall retrieve our horses and follow that fugitive Ehud and if you stop me, the tribes of Israel shall become leaderless in one fell blow.”

Elimelech backed away from the gate as did the other princes. Bagdon and the Moabites entered Gilgal, retrieved their horses and rode out of the city.

“Will you not care for the burial of your father?” Elimelech asked.

“He was right, you know. I’m no longer his son,” Bagdon said without stopping as he went to fulfill his Emperor’s command.

Eglon had fallen asleep in the early afternoon on his throne, as usual. The Tribute had been removed to the storerooms, Neema and the girls were elsewhere in the palace and only two guards remained inside the audience chamber. They let Galkak in.

“Boss! Boss! Wake up! There’s been a terrible accident!” Galkak said.

“What? What happened?” Eglon stirred suddenly.

“It’s Dirthamus. I don’t know what happened. He must have gone crazy from the drink. I guess he couldn’t handle it. He ran into the stable and taunted the animals. He must have done something with his mind powers, because all the horses went crazy. One of them stomped him and he died from his injuries. I know how much he meant to you. I’m going to miss that old, twisted wizard.”

“That is indeed terrible. Dirthamus was a most valuable man. It will be hard to find a wizard of such power and experience.”

“Ehud of Benjamin is here seeking audience,” one of the guards announced.

“Ehud?” Eglon asked in confusion. “What is he doing here? Let him in. Let him in.”

Ehud entered breathlessly, his face red from exertion.

“Ehud, I did not expect to see you – so soon,” Eglon said.

“I have a matter of great secrecy to disclose to you,” Ehud said.

“Secrecy? Secrecy!? What secrecy?”

“A conspiracy against you.”

“A conspiracy?” Eglon looked at Galkak and then at the guards. “Everyone leave me. I will speak with Ehud alone.”

Galkak and the guards rushed out of the audience chamber.

“What is this conspiracy? Who is it? Is it Galkak? Bagdon?”

“Neither. God, our God, has spoken to me of you and has sent me to deliver a message to you.”

Eglon looked awe-stricken.

“Your God speaks through His prophet to me?”

“Yes.”

Eglon pushed his hands against the armrests of the throne. He slowly raised his massive weight off the marble chair. Finally, after moments of intense effort, Eglon stood at his full height.

“I shall stand to hear the word of your God,” Eglon said respectfully. “What does your God say?”

Ehud approached Eglon, his left hand under his robe.

“My God says that your reign is coming to an end. That you have overstepped your boundaries and have been excessively cruel to His children. For that you will die and His children released from your bondage.”

“That is not a pleasing message, Ehud.”

“I know, but nonetheless, it is my duty to deliver it.”

Ehud drew the sword from under his robe. With his right hand, Ehud clamped Eglon’s mouth shut. With his left hand, Ehud stabbed Eglon in the belly with all his might. The entire blade entered Eglon’s stomach and reached all the way to the spinal cord, killing Eglon instantly. Ehud needed all of his blacksmith’s strength to lower Eglon’s body back onto the throne. Ehud released the blade. Eglon’s fat covered the blade and even closed the incision. Except for a small tear of Eglon’s robe, there was no blood or sign of violence to the body. Ehud then noticed the smell of feces from Eglon. It happened to the dead at times.

Ehud calmly exited the audience chamber. The hallway was empty. Galkak must have drawn the guards away, Ehud thought, and silently thanked his battle partner. He locked the door to the chamber and made his way to the stable.

At the stable, he met an anxious-looking Mahlon.

“It is done,” Ehud announced.

“Now what?” Mahlon asked.

“When the fighting starts, you know what to do.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then all we need is for God to be with us.”

“I thought He was with us,” Mahlon said.

“We need to constantly earn it,” Ehud said as he rode to the city gate. He waited by the side of the gate, out of sight, until Bagdon and his soldiers galloped into the city. Then he rode north as fast as he could.

The two soldiers returned to the audience chamber and were surprised to find it locked. They smelled the odor from the chamber and it confirmed their suspicion. Eglon would often lock the chamber when he wished to relieve himself and would unlock it again when he was done. They waited the normal amount of time it took Eglon to relieve himself and then they waited some more.

“Something is not right,” one guard said.

“Maybe he’s having stomach problems,” the second guard answered. “It happens to him from time to time. That man will put anything in his mouth and then he wonders why his bowels hurt.”

“But this is much longer than ever,” the first guard said.

Bagdon came running down the hallway.

“I must see the Emperor, immediately!” Bagdon ordered.

“But he is relieving himself,” the second guard said.

“How long has he been locked up in there?” Bagdon asked.

“An uncommonly long time,” the first guard said.

“Any unpleasantness will be on my head. Open the door!” Bagdon commanded.

The guards opened the door and entered the chamber. Eglon had fallen to the floor and was obviously dead.

“Eglon! Father! Emperor! What happened?” Bagdon rushed to the fallen body, kneeling by its side.

“This is terrible!” the first guard exclaimed. “What shall we do? Who shall take over now?”

“How could this happen?” the second guard asked.

“Maybe he died from over-eating?” the first guard suggested.

“It must have been the weight that killed him,” the second guard said. “There are no marks on his body, no blood, nothing. He just died and fell. Now what?”

“I don’t know,” Bagdon said rising from atop his dead liege, “but I will fulfill his last commands. We have some Israelite firstborns to slay and an Empire to build.”

* * * * * *

Biblical Source: Book of Judges, Chapter 3

15 But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a saviour, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a man left-handed; and the children of Israel sent a present by him unto Eglon the king of Moab. 16 And Ehud made him a sword which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he girded it under his raiment upon his right thigh. 17 And he offered the present unto Eglon king of Moab–now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when he had made an end of offering the present, he sent away the people that bore the present. 19 But he himself turned back from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said: ‘I have a secret errand unto thee, O king.’ And he said: ‘Keep silence.’ And all that stood by him went out from him. 20 And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting by himself alone in his cool upper chamber. And Ehud said: ‘I have a message from God unto thee.’ And he arose out of his seat. 21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, for he drew not the sword out of his belly; and it came out behind. 23 Then Ehud went forth into the porch, and shut the doors of the upper chamber upon him, and locked them. 24 Now when he was gone out, his servants came; and they saw, and, behold, the doors of the upper chamber were locked; and they said: ‘Surely he is covering his feet in the cabinet of the cool chamber.’ 25 And they tarried till they were ashamed; and, behold, he opened not the doors of the upper chamber; therefore they took the key, and opened them; and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth. 26 And Ehud escaped while they lingered, having passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirah.

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