Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 6
“That kid,” Mahlon whispered urgently to Kilyon, their mother still grasping Elimelech’s corpse. A pool of sticky blood was under Elimelech’s body. There was a child-sized hole in the thatched roof above them, where Beor had fallen through and stabbed their father. “We need to find him.”
“He’s some sick pup,” Kilyon whispered back. “He sliced my hand when we arrived this morning.”
“He stole my pouch in the market and led me on a wild chase,” Mahlon retorted. “There’s something not right. I’ll stay with Mother. You see if you can track him. If not, call the city guard and inform them. They need to know and then we need to arrange for Father’s burial.”
“Right.” Kilyon nodded and hurried out of the house. He looked up and down the stone-paved road as dusk set in. Some torches were lit on the main road of Kir Moav, causing a flickering of shadows to fall on the poorly lit side-street.
Kilyon saw merchants and townsfolk heading to their homes after a day of work, but no sign of the deadly little child. Kilyon reached the main road and headed towards the gate of the city. Four soldiers were on duty, watching the flow of travelers in and out of the city. Both empty and full carts left for nearby farmsteads. Anyone traveling further had already left earlier in the afternoon. Kilyon grabbed the closest guard.
“There’s been a murder!” he announced.
“Where? Who?” the guard asked.
“In our home. My father. Elimelech, Prince of Judah.”
“The Judean Prince?” The guard’s eyes opened wide. “The King will want to hear of it. You two remain here.” The guard pointed at two of the guards. “Kramu, you inform the palace. I will go with the son to the scene of the crime.”
“How unfortunate,” King Jalet said as he paced the small house of Elimelech’s family. Mahlon and Naomi had covered Elimelech’s body and cleaned the blood to the best of their ability. The packed-earth floor still had stains of deep red that shone under the torchlight. Naomi sat in a corner of the house, oblivious to the discussion. Jalet, with three of his soldiers, addressed Mahlon and Kilyon.
“A child, you say, fell from the roof.” Jalet pointed at the hole. “How unusual. I have heard reports of some wild orphan running loose in the city, but I thought him mostly harmless. We cannot watch every vagabond or peddler that comes to our city, no matter how young. Still, this is an unexpected event. I will conduct a funeral with royal accoutrements for the Prince.”
“That is most kind of you,” Mahlon said. “But we would prefer to bury our father as per our own customs. Is there some field or cave that we can purchase as a burial plot?”
“Yes, yes. Of course. As you wish. Right outside the city, east of the main road. I have land that may be suitable. I will show it to you in the morning.”
“Thank you, your Majesty.” Mahlon and Kilyon bowed to Jalet.
“While I am here, I am anxious to hear your reply to my offer of Eglon’s daughters. It is still in effect.”
Mahlon and Kilyon looked at each other. They looked at their father’s fresh corpse covered in shrouds and at their mourning mother, no longer aware of the world around her. They nodded imperceptibly.
“We accept,” Mahlon answered. “We will marry the daughters of Eglon.”
“That is a wise choice, my sons.” Jalet smiled. “I already feel kinship towards you. You will be my stepsons-in-law and you shall have the many privileges and pleasures of the palace. We should organize the wedding already. Shall we make it for tomorrow? Or the next day?”
“Please give us a week, your Majesty,” Mahlon asked. “We will need a week to mourn our father.”
“Agreed!” Jalet clapped the brothers on the shoulders. “We will meet tomorrow to arrange the plot for your father and then we will look to the future. Until then!”
Jalet took one last look at Elimelech’s body and shrugged as he and his soldiers entered the night of Kir Moav.
Naomi was barely aware of existence. All she felt was a terrible loss. People around her spoke and moved, but it held no meaning for her. She saw Mahlon taking charge and somehow that felt right. They were outside the walls of Kir Moav together with a royal entourage. Mahlon and Kilyon carried the wrapped body of Elimelech, which was no longer Elimelech. It was now just a dead body that had carried the spirit of her husband. The desert wind blew grains of sand into their face. It felt like needles upon her skin. The physical pain gave her a semblance of life.
They stood in front of a shallow cave. Mahlon and Kilyon dug deeply into the walls of the cave with the Moabite-borrowed shovels. Naomi noticed Ruth and Orpa looking somber. Mahlon and Kilyon placed the dead body in the fresh grave and then blocked up the entrance to the cave with large boulders. He was gone, as if he had never been; the two strong sons the only evidence that an Elimelech had existed.
They returned to their blood-stained house, a ray of sunlight shining through the hole in their roof. They sat on the ground, alone. Naomi and her two sons. No neighbors came to console them. No relatives asked about their needs. It was a foggy existence – days and days of silence, with the single exception of a visit from Ruth and Orpa on the third day.
Ruth and Orpa arrived with parcels of food. Mahlon and Kilyon started to talk. They told their brides-to-be about Elimelech. They remembered the leader, the stern father, the protective husband. They did not know of his utter failure and massive loss in the battle against the Benjaminites. They were not aware of his failure to support Ehud against Eglon. They did not judge his cowardice in abandoning Judah at its time of need. They merely polished the fragments of memory they had, leaving behind the detritus and disappointment that was the true Elimelech.
Naomi started to cry. She mourned the real Elimelech, her imperfect husband. His pride, his arrogance, his self-righteousness. He had been courageous, even when he was wrong. He had been stubborn. He had exercised leadership. He was a great man during difficult times whose judgment had been poor. He had such greatness in him, but it was never fulfilled, always twisted by his fears, his insecurities and his doubts. He knew he would never live up to the standard of his father and that had poisoned his mind and his heart. Naomi said all these things only to herself as she rocked back and forth on the floor and wept bitter tears.
“Congratulations!” King Jalet proclaimed to all the guests in the palace. “Congratulations to the young couples! May they fulfill the blessings of their esteemed ancestors and usher in a new era of peace between our nations.”
Naomi wandered amongst the guests, staying near the back of the hall. The sound of flutes and lyres filled the air, but did not penetrate her senses. She was in a daze. She was still upset with Mahlon and Kilyon for agreeing to the marriage. Mother-in-law of Moabites? Naomi thought to herself bitterly. Related to that Amalekite witch? Naomi looked at Queen Neema with open disdain. How low can I fall? Where did we fail, Elimelech? How did our children so quickly abandon our ways? Naomi did not eat from the banquet, but rather stood alone and friendless at the wedding of her sons.
“Congratulations, Prince Zipor,” Sumahtrid said to the young prince. Zipor sat at the end of a long table, biting lustily into his flank of meat.
“Thank you, Sumahtrid. I’m only the brother of the brides.”
“Yes, and this marriage weakens your position.”
“What do you mean?” Zipor stopped eating. “Father said the Israelites were no threat.”
“Your father is shrewd. The Israelites are not a threat to him – that is true. However, should they produce a child they will certainly be a threat to your reign.”
“I had not thought of that.” Zipor dropped his meat. “What can I do? I can’t kill them now. Perhaps after the celebrations.”
“No, no. Killing is too extreme. It is unnecessary and may upset the balance that your father has finally achieved with the daughters of Eglon. No, I have a simpler and less lethal solution. Listen carefully, my young prince.”
“So, Mahlon, Kilyon, my sons,” Jalet addressed the grooms at the head table, as the music played on. “It fills my heart with joy to see my step-daughters married and in bliss. You see, Neema. Look at what attractive couples they make. It was well worth the wait for such upstanding men, was it not? Now tell me, boys. What practical things can you do? I do not tolerate idleness by our menfolk.”
“I am very good with animals,” Mahlon said. “I was head of the royal stables in Eglon’s day and would be very happy to assist you with your animals.”
“Excellent!” Jalet clapped his hands. “We can use a good man there. What about you, Kilyon.”
“I’m a farmer. Um, I’ve also developed some novel ways to harvest faster.”
“Wonderful! We would certainly benefit from some help on our meager fields. Very good. After the wedding celebrations I will assign each of you to work. Good choice, Neema, I tell you. Wonderful choice.”
“May I interrupt, Father?” Prince Zipor approached, holding a tray with drinks.
“Of course, my son. Of course. What is it?”
“I would like to propose a toast to my new brothers-in-law.”
“How thoughtful!” Jalet beamed. “Good for you, Zipor. That is showing great character. Great initiative. The things that kings are made of. Go ahead.”
Zipor handed to Mahlon and Kilyon a goblet each and took one himself, placing the empty tray on the table.
“To Mahlon and Kilyon.” Zipor raised his goblet. “My new brothers. You know, it’s a drag sometimes having only older sisters. They can be such worry-warts and don’t have insights into a man’s world. I’m pleased to now have older brothers who can give me advice and guidance about the wider world. Welcome, brothers.” Zipor drained his goblet.
Mahlon and Kilyon followed suit. Both grimaced lightly and coughed at the taste of the wine.
“Thank you, Zipor,” Mahlon said, coughing again. “That is most kind of you. Interesting flavor, this wine. Where is it from?”
“Local vintage and a special recipe.”
“Very considerate,” Kilyon said, as a tear trickled down his eye. “You’re one tough kid if you can handle this wine.”
“If only you knew.” Zipor waited until he was sure the brothers had finished their goblets and then excused himself.
“Come, my husband,” Orpa said, pulling Kilyon from his seat. “I’ve had enough of all these speeches. Let’s dance.”
“I’m with you.” Kilyon got up quickly, accidentally stepping on Orpa’s foot.
“Ow! You oaf!” Orpa screamed. The music stopped. “You Israelite brute. Don’t you Hebrews know how to walk? I think you broke my foot! On my wedding day! You’ve ruined my wedding!” Orpa stormed out of the hall, limping on one foot.
Jalet motioned for the music to continue. Sumahtrid, Zipor and Naomi all smiled at Kilyon’s obvious embarrassment – each for different reasons.
* * * * * *
Book of Ruth, Chapter 1:
3 And Elimelech Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons. 4 And they took them wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpa, and the name of the other Ruth; and they dwelt there about ten years.