Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 4 – Choice Neighbors

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 4

 Choice Neighbors

“They’re here!” Sumahtrid paced vigorously around his small, dank house. “This is terrible!”

Little Beor, on his short legs, kept up with Sumahtrid’s circling, thinking it a game and calling merrily after him, “Terrible! Terrible!”

“What are we to do?” Sumahtrid asked the room more than his young apprentice. “We cannot show our hand. We must tread carefully. What are the chances that they would marry? Perhaps it will be a short stay and they will not even meet. I still don’t understand why Elimelech came to Kir Moav of all places. But I must be calm, Beor. It is good that we are here to monitor things. We shall have to watch closely, and intervene when the time comes. Why are you following me like that? Stop it. Stop it!”

Beor looked up happily at his mentor, thinking he had won at the game, and chirped back, “Stop it! Stop it!”

 

She’s probably married to an Egyptian prince, Mahlon said to himself for the tenth time. Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon and Kilyon rode into the walled city of Kir Moav uncontested. Since the catastrophic defeat of the Moabite Empire to Ehud’s attack there had been an unspoken but uneasy peace between the diminished Kingdom of Moab under the rule of Jalet and the tribes of Israel. Commerce between the nations had returned with much better conditions for the Israelites than under Eglon’s rule. A steady flow of finished goods crossed the Jordan River from Israel to Moab. In the other direction, the mines of Moab furnished metals to the Israelites, especially copper.

What are the chances that Ruth is here? Mahlon wondered as he gazed at the height and thickness of the Moabite walls in the stark desert.

“We must find a residence first,” Elimelech announced.

Naomi, her face puffy from constant crying, said nothing.

“Mahlon, go to the market with your mother and see what the price of food is here. I’ve heard they may be getting supplies from Egypt. Kilyon and I will look for housing. We’ll find you when we’re done.”

Elimelech and Kilyon rode the wagon with their supplies down a residential street.

The houses were constructed of large pink stones with thatched roofs. Young children played in the road on the polished stones, grey from use. An elderly man approached the Judeans.

“Greetings, strangers.” The man bowed low. “May I be of service to you?”

“Why, yes. That is most kind of you,” Elimelech answered. “We are looking for residence.”

“The gods must be smiling upon you today,” the old man grinned toothily. “As fate would have it, I have a house I am vacating this very day, that I would be most pleased to rent to you. How long do you think you shall be needing it for?”

“The gods? How long?” Elimelech said confusedly. “I don’t know. At least for one harvest, perhaps longer.”

“Excellent!” the old man clapped his hands. “One harvest is excellent. That will be five silvers and I will charge you only four silvers for every harvest thereafter. Come, let me show you your new home.”

The old man grabbed the reins of the donkey-led wagon and walked a befuddled Elimelech a few feet away.

“Here we are,” the old man motioned to the door of his house. “Come right in. See for yourselves. We haven’t started packing, but now that you’re here, we’ll be out in no time at all. Come, make yourselves comfortable.”

Elimelech and Kilyon followed the old man, Elimelech limping on his injured leg. They entered a cozy house, where a pot of stew simmered over the fireplace.

“When did you decide you were moving?” Elimelech asked suspiciously.

“Oh, it was a very sudden decision. A business opportunity came up.”

“Really? What business are you in?” Elimelech asked.

“Um, I’m a herdsman.”

“And you’ll be taking your herd elsewhere?”

“Yes, yes. Greener pastures and all that. Anyway, do you have the money or are you one of those charlatans? I can find another tenant easily enough.” The old man crossed his arms and pouted.

“We have the money, and we will take the place.” Elimelech calmly took five silver coins out of his pouch.

“Excellent.” The old man counted the coins greedily. “Just give me an hour and we will clear our things.”

Elimelech and Kilyon exited the house. Kilyon saw boys playing ball down the road. A young boy examined their wagon intensely.

“Boy, come here. What’s your name?” Kilyon called to the little boy by the wagon.

“Beor.” The little boy approached, unafraid.

“Do you live around here? We’re going to be neighbors.” Kilyon put out his hand in greeting.

Beor put out his own hand and slashed Kilyon’s palm with a short blade he had concealed.

“Neighbors!” Beor yelled and scampered away.

“Ow!” Kilyon yelped and held his bleeding palm. “That little runt is mad!”

“Strange people these Moabites,” Elimelech commented. “Let’s find your mother and brother.”

The Judeans did not hear a furious Sumahtrid admonishing Beor from the house across the road: “Beor, how many times have I told you not to play with your victims…”

 

Mahlon and Naomi rode their donkeys down the main road to a bustling central market. They dismounted, tied their donkeys to a public stand and entered the market on foot. Past the market they could see the imposing structure of the pink-stoned palace of Kir Moav.

Naomi revived as she encountered the smells and noises of the marketplace. There was a broad array of spices: ginger, cassia, turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon. There was some grain and even some fresh bread. Everything was expensive, but not at the famine prices of Israel.

“Where is your grain from?” Mahlon asked one of the vendors.

“Egypt and some from Ammon too.” The vendor looked at Mahlon strangely. “You’re not from here, are you?”

“No. We’re Judean,” Mahlon answered.

“You don’t say.” The vendor took an involuntary step back. “Except for salesmen, we don’t get too many of you here.”

“There is a famine by us and we’ve sought fresh fields.”

“Then you’ve come to the right place.” The vendor took a step closer. “Business has been very good lately. Our mines are at full production and commerce is strong. Even the Midianites have been conducting legitimate business with us and we get regular visits from Damascus and beyond. My friend, because you’re new here, I’ll give you a special price on the grain.” The vendor offered them wheat at twice the rate other vendors had quoted.

“That’s generous. Thank you.” Mahlon smiled and moved on.

“Well, there’s more grain here than in Bethlehem,” Mahlon said to Naomi. “I think we’ll be better off here.”

“You don’t understand, Mahlon,” Naomi responded, her eye catching the fabric vendors down the road. “We have left our home, our ancestral land, our people. We have turned our backs on our brothers and sisters at their time of greatest need. We were making a difference in their lives and now we have abandoned them. To live amongst these idol-worshipers? How is this better?”

Naomi stopped at a fabric vendor showing rolls of colorful silks and cottons: sky-blue cotton with lines of dark green and pure white, yellow silk that shone like the sun with pink edges. Naomi saw color combinations that she had never imagined.

“These are beautiful!” Naomi held the soft fabric in her hands. “Where are these from?” she asked the vendor.

“My lady is obviously a woman of very great taste. These are from Sheba. They have a new process for weaving the threads so the fabric appears seamless – like one piece. I have a seamstress inside who can cut and sew a dress for you while you wait.” The vendor motioned further into the shop where an array of even more colorful fabrics beckoned.

“Mahlon, wait for me here. I’ll be just a moment.”

Mahlon tapped his foot impatiently as his mother entered the vendor’s shop. Naomi’s mouth opened in awe at the rainbow of colors that surrounded her. A woman with tightly woven red hair and a simple dress was busy expertly cutting and sewing fabric.

Naomi looked at the fabrics and then at her own simple Judean dress. She felt pangs of guilt at the luxury she was contemplating. She held a rich purple fabric that flowed like water in her hands. The price of this fabric could feed a Judean family for a month, she thought. She then fell to her knees and cried.

“What am I doing here?” she sobbed, fresh tears running through the path of the old ones. Why am I amongst these heathens? Naomi thought miserably. How can we remain here when our people are starving? What will happen to my boys? Heaven forbid if they marry one of these idol-worshipers. Naomi shuddered at the thought.

The seamstress, startled by the client’s reaction, put down the fabric she was cutting, got down on one knee and patted Naomi gently.

“Don’t cry, mother,” the seamstress said gently. “Ashban will give you a fair price. You are fortunate you came into the store of one of the few honest merchants. I’ll make sure you get a good price. It’s nothing to cry about.”

“Oh, that is sweet of you to care, but that is not why I cry. I cry for I am away from my people and I fear for those I left behind and perhaps more so for my sons that we have brought here. We do not belong in this place.”

“Where are you from, sweet mother, that you would cry so over your home?”

“I am from Judah, where there is now a famine. My husband has brought us here, to spare us, and what choice do I have but to follow him?”

“From Judah?” the seamstress stood up, raising Naomi by the hands. “I will make sure that you and your family are taken care of. You see, a Judean was kind to me once, and I shall never forget it.”

“What is your name daughter, that you are so kind and considerate?”

“I am Ruth, daughter of Eglon, once Emperor of Moab.”

Naomi’s skin tingled all over. She did not know if it was excitement, fear or something stronger, but she knew that this woman would change her life forever.

* * * * * *

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