Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 17
Ruth finds herself in the clutches of the Philistine King of Ashkelon while Boaz and Ehud pursue her trail and get some help.
Amitai sat on the bench of his porch, the summer sun feeling good on his old bones. He reminisced about old battles and old comrades. He lived in the town of Socheh, at the western edge of the tribal portion of Judah, on the low hills between the mountain and the plain. He looked up to the Judean Mountains to his east and thought of his cousin Boaz, and the news that Vered had died. We’re getting old, Amitai thought. We’re dying. I will console Boaz after our own celebration today.
“Amitai!” his wife Zelda screamed, interrupting his thoughts. “Come here and take these rinds out of my house.”
“I’m coming woman, I’m coming. You don’t have to yell.” Old Amitai hobbled out of his chair, his gnarled hand holding a sturdy walking stick.
“A warrior, Captain of the Militia, and now I’m relegated to taking out garbage,” Amitai mumbled to himself. He entered his house, ignored his wife’s bustling activity and gathered the tough rinds of the melons Zelda had cut for their grandson’s wedding feast. Amitai took the rinds to the compost heap outside their stone house.
Two men on horseback galloped right up to Amitai, kicking up dust as they stopped abruptly and dismounted.
“Ehud? Boaz!?” Amitai gasped. “What are you doing here? I was just thinking of you. I’m sorry about Vered. But shouldn’t you be sitting in mourning? What’s the matter?”
“There’s no time to explain,” Boaz answered rapidly. “We are in pursuit of a kidnapper. He has taken a woman that is under my protection. They are heading into a Philistine city. I need your help. Get your equipment and come with us.”
“What is the meaning of this?” Zelda bellowed from the porch of the house. “My husband is not going anywhere. We have our twelfth grandson’s wedding celebration today and Amitai is too old for any more adventures. For that matter, so are you, Boaz. Leave the rescuing to younger men. Ehud here can probably still play at these games. Come, Amitai. I have more rinds for you.”
“Amitai, I need you,” Boaz pleaded. “It is a matter of life or death, and time is of the essence. Their auras are getting fainter and soon I won’t be able to track them. Please, old friend.”
“I’m coming,” Amitai answered with a smile. “One last mission. Give me a minute to get my equipment. I have some new devices I’ve been working on. Even the Philistines won’t know what hit them.”
“Where do you think you are going?” Zelda stood upright, blocking Amitai from entering their house.
“Out of my way, woman!” Amitai shoved Zelda with his free hand. “Didn’t you hear the man? We’re in a hurry. I have more important things to do than to throw out melon rinds.”
“Amitai!? What about the wedding?” Zelda cried.
“Enough of weddings. There’s a woman’s life at stake and all you can think about is yet another wedding?” Loud noises escaped from inside the house as Amitai organized his devices. He exited the house with a heavy satchel behind his back. “I’m ready. I’ll get my horse from the shed and we can be on our way.”
“Amitai?” Zelda asked as her husband mounted his grey stallion. “When will you be back?”
“Who knows? Tonight? Tomorrow? Next year? Never? A soldier never knows where his orders will take him. Goodbye, my love. Give a kiss to the bride and groom for me. Let’s go!”
The three old warriors rode west, into Philistine territory.
“Come back soon, my love,” Zelda whispered to her husband’s back.
“Orpa!” Ruth jumped out of the bed and hugged her sister. “I thought I’d never see you again! What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in Kir Moav.”
“Sumahtrid kidnapped me a few moments after I left you.” Orpa let go of Ruth. “He brought me here to Ashkelon and sold me to King Perath. Sumahtrid promised the King that I would produce the mightiest warriors to ever walk the earth. They see us as little more than breeding animals. And tonight will be your turn. But I will make the most of this. I will ingratiate myself to him as Mother did to Jalet and to our father before that. I will be Perath’s Queen and not merely a concubine.”
“I don’t understand.” Ruth looked at Orpa, not recognizing her sister’s determination. “We haven’t been able to have children for ten years. What makes them think we will all of a sudden become fertile?”
“It was Sumahtrid.” Orpa laughed harshly. “He gave our husbands potions to keep them impotent, lest the daughters of Eglon have progeny from the descendants of Nachshon the Brave. Apparently, that would be the end of his world. But I am already with child. I can feel it.”
“How do you know? Ruth asked, shocked. “It couldn’t have been more than a few days ago.”
“I feel it.” Orpa grabbed her flat stomach. “I feel the power, the beginning of a life, a very strong life. I fear what this child will become. But I will make the most of it. If I am to be the mother of a grand warrior, then I will play the part. There is no sense resisting, Ruth. Together, you and I might wield greater control over Perath.”
“I have no intention to be used as some common wench,” Ruth stated.
“That’s what I thought as well, and I resisted with all my might.” Orpa showed Ruth her scarred wrists, caked over with dried blood where manacles had cut into her skin. “But for me it is too late. I don’t know how you can escape this fate.”
“Boaz.” Ruth somehow sensed his thoughts, searching for her. “He will come for me. He’s with Ehud and some other warrior.”
“Ehud? Our father’s murderer? And who is this Boaz? How do you know this?”
“I too can feel things, sister.” Ruth placed her palm over her heart. “I have met Ehud. He is a holy and somber man. I do not blame him for killing father, for father was indeed evil and Ehud acted on the commands of God. And Boaz, Boaz is Elimelech’s nephew, also a grandson of Nachshon, as Mahlon and Kilyon were. But Boaz is more. He is kind yet strong; wise and generous. He is what Mahlon might have been had he lived and left Kir Moav.”
“You like this Boaz.” Orpa smirked.
“Boaz? I admire him. But he is much older and just recently widowed. No, I am just grateful for his kindness, protection and concern. He saw me kidnapped. Sumahtrid attacked them. He probably wants Boaz dead as well if he’s a descendant of Nachshon. But he will come. I know it.”
“How will three men release you from a fortified castle in the middle of the Philistine’s strongest city?”
“They are not ordinary men. They are men of the Hebrew God.”
“She is there.” Boaz pointed at the palace on the eastern edge of the walls of Ashkelon. He sensed Ruth’s aura as a beacon on a distant shore. The palace was the tallest structure within the strong city walls and gave the King a commanding view of the city and for miles around. The King could see the walls of Ashdod to his north and Gaza to his south. Boaz, Ehud and Amitai rode towards the city of Ashkelon and its massive northern gate.
“The sea!” Amitai exclaimed as they glimpsed the water less than a mile beyond the city walls. The setting sun reflected upon the waves with shades of orange and purple. “It has been so long since I’ve seen the sea. God, how wondrous are your creations! Blessed be the Lord who created the Great Sea!”
“Amen,” Boaz and Ehud answered. The threesome tied their horses outside the walls and approached the gate together with a steady stream of merchants and visitors. Phoenician sailors unloaded cargo from the port and carried heavy baskets, jugs and sacks. They brought spices from Sidon, Egyptian grain from Zoan and precious iron from the Aegean. A fat merchant sat on a crimson sedan chair, on the shoulders of four black slaves chained to the chair who were struggling to carry the corpulent man up the ramp into the city. The merchant stuffed grapes into his mouth and spat the seeds at unwary passersby, giggling at their annoyed reactions.
The convoy of people entered the large tunnel within the wall of the city. The three Israelites entered unmolested, though their long beards and fringed garments received curious glances, as such traditional Israelites were not frequent visitors of the Philistine cities.
“Oh! I can get such good supplies here!” Amitai gushed as they exited the tunnel and entered the lively marketplace. “Will we have time to shop?” Amitai asked as he pointed at the stalls selling rare metals.
“I don’t think so,” Boaz responded, his gaze focused on the palace towering over the rest of the city, its walls red from the evening sun.
“Oh, Boaz, please! I’ll be quick. Look! A lodestone! Do you know how hard it is to get one of those? Please!”
“Okay, okay.” Boaz smiled at his old friend. “But be quick about it. We have a rescue to plan. We can come for serious shopping another time.”
Amitai shuffled loudly, walking stick clattering on the cobblestones, until he reached the vendor. They haggled excitedly until Amitai, grinning broadly, walked back with the prized lodestone in his hand.
“This is from Anatol!” Amitai waved the lodestone. “It has the most unusual properties. It was worth the trip just for this!”
“Um, Amitai, are you forgetting something?” Boaz asked gently.
“Yes, yes, of course. Princess to rescue, castle to storm. I’ve figured out how we can do it, though I still don’t understand why you want to save Eglon’s daughter. And what about that sorcerer you mentioned? He sounds like a particularly dangerous character.”
“The sorcerer is gone,” Boaz confirmed after closing his eyes and opening them quickly. “I can no longer detect his aura nor that of his companion. They left Ruth here and have departed.”
“That makes it easier then,” Ehud said, rubbing his neck as he remembered Sumahtrid’s men of barley who had attempted to suffocate him. “What’s your plan, Amitai?”
“First we’ll want a distraction, a big distraction.” Amitai pointed to the far end of the marketplace. “That wall is perfectly positioned and that balustrade is ideally cantilevered to give a balanced seismic reverberation at the exact sympathetic harmonic to engender a multi-dimensional contortion in the fabric of the rampart continuum so as to provide a cacophony of material distortions, audiological disturbances, visual conundrums and an overall sensory assault that should serve the purpose of frightening the population and which will confuse the armed forces, and give our rescue the chance of ultimate success!”
Ehud and Boaz looked at each other in utter incomprehension.
“Now I understand why you wanted to stop for him,” Ehud said to Boaz.
“He is very handy in a tight spot. Go on, Amitai. What else do you have in mind?”
“We get ourselves captured, of course.”
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