Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 1
“I’m sorry, but you must hurry,” Naomi pleaded with the old woman. “You must leave before my husband returns.”
Naomi rushed the old woman out of her house and handed her a small loaf of fresh dark bread.
“Thank you, Naomi,” the old woman said as she slowly moved one arthritic leg in front of the next. “You’re a lifesaver.”
Naomi stood in the doorway of her large stone house, looking at her neighbors walking on the main stone-lined road of Bethlehem. The cool breeze of the Judean Mountains softened the otherwise harsh heat of the Canaanite sun. But the setting summer sun did nothing to soften the grim faces of the Bethlehemites.
Naomi could see the outline of the ribs of young boys playing lethargically with the remains of what once must have been a ball of rags. Babies cried weakly against the bosoms of their mothers. Tired women held wicker baskets large enough to carry four times the sheaves of wheat they had managed to salvage from the remains of the day’s harvest. Naomi shed a tear as she had every day of the last three years, closed the door of the house and shut out the evidence of the deepening famine. She tidied up the room and double-checked that there was no sign of the dozens of neighbors that had come through her house that day. She knew Elimelech disapproved, but she could not help herself. These were her friends, her neighbors, her relatives. She could not refrain from sharing the unusual and growing blessing of food that her family was enjoying.
Elimelech walked in the door as he always did, sweating and face flushed from the exertion of the harvest. The red in his face matched the remaining red in his beard, though every year the red lost more territory to the spread of white. Though he came from a long-lived line, the signs of age weighed heavily on Elimelech. He was followed by his sons, Mahlon and Kilyon. Naomi always felt a short sweet pang of pleasure at seeing her strong handsome sons. Mahlon and Kilyon were both muscular and tanned from their work in the fields. The soft curls of bright red hair matched their short beards. Except for their appearance, Mahlon and Kilyon had widely different personalities. Mahlon was quiet and pensive, never comfortable amongst his fellow Judeans, but rather preferring the company of the farm animals. Kilyon was loud and brash, happy to tease his older brother at every opportunity.
“Can you believe it?” Kilyon asked his brother.
“It does seem unusual,” Mahlon answered. “It’s not the first time I’ve suspected this, but now I think we’ve confirmed it.”
“What’s going on?” their mother asked.
“We seem to have more grain than we gathered.” Elimelech cleared his throat.
“More!? Not less?” Naomi asked incredulously, thinking of all the grain she had been regularly siphoning away. “How is that possible?”
“I don’t know.” Elimelech ran his fingers through his long beard. “But besides planting, growing and harvesting more than anyone else, our grain also seems to be multiplying while in storage. I’ve already agreed to buy Amitai’s field in return for part of our grain. For all of his ingenuity he has not managed to grow a good crop. Why, Mahlon and his oxen can plow twice the number of our fields in half the time.”
“Perhaps we should share some of this blessing?” Naomi asked, knowing the answer.
“I’ve told you before, Naomi. We give our tithes and our priestly gifts and all of the various leavings of the field as per the Law of Moses. If we were to give more, we would be quickly overrun. Beggars would come from all around if they knew there were rich pickings here. No, Naomi. We must keep and save and invest what we have rightfully earned.”
“But Elimelech, our neighbors are starving while our granary is overflowing!” Naomi begged.
“Woman,” Elimelech said sternly. “I have spoken. We shall wash up and then we shall eat.” Elimelech and the brothers went to the back of the house to wash themselves.
There was a loud knock on the door which interrupted Naomi from looking at the place her husband had been. She opened the door and was startled to see a dark-haired clean-shaven middle-aged man. He wore a dark flowing robe that covered an athletic build. His handsome features were only marred by a condescending sneer that seemed permanently affixed to his face.
“Is this the home of the Prince of Judah, Elimelech son of Nachshon the Brave?” the stranger asked with a surprisingly nasal voice.
“Who are you? Where are you from? What do you want?” Naomi asked, disliking the stranger immediately.
“My name is Sumahtrid. I have come from far. I wish to speak with your husband, Naomi, granddaughter of Nachshon the Brave.” Sumahtrid’s eyes misted over and his sneer got wider. “Yes, Naomi. Nachshon’s blood runs strong in your veins. I can sense it without even touching you. May I?” Sumahtrid asked without waiting for an answer. With the pointy nail of his index finger, the black-robed man quickly pierced Naomi’s arm, drew blood, sucked on the bloody fingernail and then forced himself into the house, past the bewildered Naomi.
“Ah, what power,” Sumahtrid commented as he licked his fingernail. A most powerful bloodline. My master was foolish to have underestimated the boy.”
“Who are you?” Elimelech asked threateningly as he reentered the room, with Mahlon and Kilyon behind him.
“Prince Elimelech.” Sumahtrid bowed formally. “I have come from a great distance to meet you and your sons. I am here now merely for informational purposes.” Sumahtrid approached Mahlon with hunger in his eyes.
“Watch his nail!” Naomi warned, having recovered from Sumahtrid’s entrance.
Sumahtrid attempted to jab Mahlon’s arm but Mahlon grabbed the stranger’s arm before he could draw blood. Sumahtrid grinned at the contact, cocked his head back and said to no one in particular:
“Gifts! Gifts! This family is blessed with gifts, yet they do not know!”
Sumahtrid laughed a cruel laugh as one enjoying his enemy’s misery.
“Listen to me, son of Nachshon,” Sumahtrid looked deep into Elimelech’s eyes. “I am a seer, a prophet, a sorcerer and much more. I have visions. I have seen visions of your future. It is grim and it is as it should be. Though there is much uncertainty in my visions. Much left unanswered and much at risk. I hoped by seeing your family it would give me clarity. But all I see is the power and the danger.”
“What are you ranting about? Get out of my house or I will throw you out.” Elimelech took a step towards the sorcerer, his arm still held firmly by Mahlon.
“Your family cannot harm me. Yet I shall depart, for I have accomplished my mission. But I will leave you with one warning. Beware the Moabite,” Sumahtrid turned his misty gaze upon Mahlon. “Beware her quiet charm. She will doom all your people.”
Sumahtrid twisted his arm out of Mahlon’s grasp and ran for the door, cackling as he jogged through the streets of Bethlehem.
“Well, that was fun!” Kilyon exclaimed after an awkward silence. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hungry.”
* * * * * *