Category Archives: Book of Joshua

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 25: Ambush of the Ammonites

Warrior Prophets Chapter 25

Ambush of the Ammonites

Amitai stuffed dried leaves and twigs into the little pouch. He sat on the leaf-strewn ground of the forest, with the tall oaks above him and his supplies around him. He poured oil liberally into the pouch making sure it moistened the flint stone protruding slightly from the bottom of the fist-sized burlap bag. He added various other pieces of leaves, roots and bark. Satisfied, he tied the pouch tightly and proceeded to prepare another one.

“How many are you going to make?” Boaz asked his friend.

“As many as I can,” Amitai answered, not looking up from his work. “These little smoke balls have helped us much in the past. You never know when you’d like to disappear from enemy sight.”

“You worry too much. We’ve had one successful interception after another, with not even an injury, except for Gidal, who stubbed his toe on a root, if you want to count that. Our militia has become so popular I’ve had to turn recruits away. I can see enemies in the dark and from a distance.”

“Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. I’m going to give at least two of these to each of the men.”

“That’s over forty balls. Whatever makes you happy, Amitai. We’ll start marching at nightfall. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s attack. We’ve been building up to this for some time and it should put a stop to Ammonite attacks.”

Boaz closed his eyes and scanned his periphery with Isaac’s Vision. His men had the dull grey of tiredness, mixed with a strong blue of confidence and a bright orange of excitement for the coming battle. He noticed a lone figure in the trees above their position in the forest. It was an alert, anxious yellow of an enemy, an Ammonite. The Ammonite had followed them from a respectful distance throughout the night. Boaz extended his vision to Nurad, the town they were about to attack. Only one soul was awake in the darkness before the dawn. He was colored an aggressive red of anticipation.

They were just over the border from the tribal region of Gad. Boaz and his growing militia had destroyed multiple bands of raiders. Boaz’s success attracted new volunteers every month. After two years of trekking up and down the borders of the Israelite territory, he had made the land safer from bandits. The last battle had seemed even too easy. The Ammonites had retreated quickly, some of them appearing to have been sleeping before the encounter.

The Ammonites had been foraying into the Gadite territory and stealing flocks and anything else they could get their hands on. Boaz had decided to take the battle to Nurad, the base from which the Ammonites had been attacking.

From his hiding place in the forest, Boaz and his twenty men waited for dawn to break. His men were good, but fighting on a moonless night on their enemy’s home ground would be too risky. They waited as the pale red dawn colored the land.

Nurad beckoned to Boaz. Its undefended homes called out and dared Boaz to raid them. The lack of walls indicated either there was nothing to defend or that the Ammonites here feared nothing.

Boaz raised his hand and gave the signal to attack. His militia moved stealthily out of the forest and approached Nurad.

An unusual bird call was the first thing to alert Boaz that something was wrong. A second bird call responded from the town ahead. Boaz signaled to halt and closed his eyes again. Suddenly, he sensed hundreds of souls waking quickly to consciousness. Not only in Nurad, but also in the forest behind them. Ambush! Boaz thought. Somehow they anticipated our coming and hid their troops from my senses.

“We’re surrounded,” Boaz said urgently.

“Where?” Amitai, ever at Boaz’s side, asked.

“It’s a trap. You’ll see them in a moment.”

In moments, a fully awake and fully armed army surrounded Boaz and his men. Boaz counted a ring of over 500 soldiers, all with notched arrows pointed at the small Israelite group in the middle.

“Your harassment of our men is over,” an old man called out. He was thin and hunched over, with a wispy white beard. “Surrender peacefully and I promise all of you a quick and clean death. It’s not pleasant being hacked to death.”

“Now what?” Amitai whispered to Boaz. Boaz noticed that his men had all turned pale. They had never faced such a hopeless disadvantage before. I walked them right into this trap, Boaz moaned to himself, and I have no idea how to get us out. I can’t just surrender. Think! Fast!

“Before you calculate whether to resist or not,” the old man continued. “I’d like you and your men to consider the following. Boaz, we know of your extraordinary senses and supernatural speed and we have prepared ourselves accordingly. As far as the rest of you, according to my reports you are all human and can be killed as well as any man. The way back to the forest is blocked. Except for the trail you took to reach us, we have dug deep trenches throughout the length of the forest. At the bottom of the trenches are rows of sharpened spikes. The trail you came through is now defended by over two hundred men. Go ahead, Boaz. Close your eyes and confirm.”

Boaz closed his eyes and noted the two hundred souls, eager for blood. There were even more enemies spread out through the forest and throughout Nurad. There will be no easy escape, Boaz concluded. These Ammonites have laid an impenetrable trap.

“You see, Boaz. Your activities have been bad for our livelihood. It is nothing personal, but we realized, while you Israelites might find our way of doing business distasteful, your consistent destruction of our raiding parties needed to be stopped. We have banded together to lay this trap and to stop you once and for all.”

“How will you stop me?” Boaz asked, stalling for time.

“I thought you would never ask!” the old man said cheerfully. He chirped an authentic sounding bird call. Two soldiers exited a nearby house and walked towards the old man. In between them walked a woman. Boaz was shocked that he recognized her. Her bright red hair matched his own. Vered! His cousin, Vered. How in heaven did she get here? He thought incredulously. We are far from the tribe of Judah, where she should be safe on her father’s land.

“You can’t imagine the trouble and expense it took to find and capture a relative of yours,” the old man explained. “She’s a feisty one, but we’ve taught her some manners.”

Boaz noticed bruises on Vered’s pretty face. She looked at Boaz with both joy and misery.

“Now, Boaz,” the old man drew a dagger, held Vered in front of him and rested the dagger against Vered’s neck. “Surrender or I kill your lovely cousin.”

Boaz knew what he had to do.

“On my signal, form a ring with your shields, set your smoke balls,” Boaz whispered to his men, “and head back to the forest. I’ll try to get Vered and draw their fire.”

“Old man,” Boaz responded. “You bring out some red-headed wench and call her my cousin? You think that will hold me captive. She doesn’t even look Israelite.”

The old man seemed taken aback for a moment.

“Really? If she is nothing to you, then you will not object to killing her? Here,” the old man pushed Vered towards Boaz. “Shoot her where she stands. Then I will be convinced there is no relationship. Be mindful, that there are five hundred arrows trained on you, and if you miss by a fingerbreadth, it shall be the last arrow you shoot.”

Boaz notched his arrow with a prayer and aimed at Vered. How are we going to pull this off?

“Now!” Boaz barked as he took aim at the old man and let loose his arrow. The old man moved quickly for his age, but the arrow still struck him in the shoulder. At the same moment the rest of the Israelites scrapped the bottom of their smoke balls with flint and threw them between themselves and the Ammonites. Amitai threw one at Vered. They were all quickly enveloped in a thick cloud of white smoke.

Hundreds of Ammonite arrows flew at the surrounded Israelites who had raised their shields. There were too many arrows though. Boaz, with his superhuman speed managed to avoid the arrows as he raced to Vered. He lifted Vered up and kept running past the wounded old man and into the town of Nurad. He lept, with Vered still in his arms, on to the flat roof of a one-story house.

“Stay hidden until I come to get you,” Boaz said tenderly.

“Nice to see you too,” Vered responded, but Boaz was already gone.

Gidal was the first of Boaz’s men to fall. One arrow penetrated his thigh, bringing him to the ground. From alternate sides, a second arrow hit him in the lower back, while a third penetrated his lung. Tarel, to his right, tried to lift Gidal’s prone body, only to be shot as well.

Boaz could sense the lives of each of his men disappear. He cried as he ran and slashed at the ring of Ammonite archers. He had felled two dozen before the Ammonites realized what he was doing. One of the Ammonites whistled a shrill signal. Those closest to Boaz dropped to the ground in a pre-planned move. Those directly opposite Boaz shot at him as the only target. Boaz dropped quickly to the ground also, as he could not outrace all the arrows. The Ammonites next to Boaz then jumped on him. Before he knew it, his arms and legs were pinned down by three soldiers on each appendage and five on his torso.

The rest of the Ammonite army concentrated their fire on the retreating Israelites. Body after body fell. The retreating circle of shields got smaller and smaller as they left dead kinsmen in their wake. Boaz felt each death as a stab in the heart. Six, seven, eight of his men, butchered. Boaz struggled against his captors, but the more he fought the harder they held. Tears fell freely down his eyes. In his mind he could taste each death, the disbelief that they were gone forever. It is my fault. My pride and arrogance. Gidal, Tarel, Chanin, Leskiah, Elmol, Darnes, Bitam, Altor. Gone. And more if I can’t help.

Boaz relaxed his struggle, realizing the futility. What can I do? God! Help us!

The Ammonites on Boaz also relaxed the pressure on him, though still holding his limbs firmly. From the corner of his eye, Boaz noticed Vered approaching rapidly. She carried a heavy iron cauldron. With fire in her eyes, Vered smashed the cauldron into the Ammonites on top of Boaz. Six men fell over and into the other Ammonites on Boaz. Freed, Boaz grabbed his sword and moved like a whirlwind, killing all the Ammonites around him. He lifted the panting Vered in his other arm and sped along the line of Ammonites who were shooting at the retreating Israelites. His sword slashed faster than the eye could follow. Cursing and crying Boaz mowed down a hundred men in the fastest burst of speed he had ever reached in his life. The Ammonites, with all eyes on the retreating Israelites, had assumed Boaz had been successfully subdued. Boaz got closer and closer to the forest entrance, leaving a path of cloven and dismembered Ammonites along the way.

The Israelite ring reached the entrance to the forest under heavy fire. Amitai led the retreat and had the men release the last remaining fire balls at the Ammonites, blinding them. Amitai ordered a charge. The Israelites, now within sword reach of the Ammonites, hacked at them through the smoke. Boaz reached his men just as they had broken through the Ammonite ring and into the forest.

“Amitai!” Boaz breathed heavily. “How are you?” Amitai had a broken arrow shaft protruding from his left shoulder and another one in his thigh. Most of the men had at least one or two arrows in them.

“Clear the troops ahead and we might yet have a chance.”

“No!” Vered said suddenly. “There’s a better way.”

“Speak quickly,” Boaz commanded.

“There is a cave nearby. I escaped one day and hid there overnight. They never found it. They caught me the next day as I tried to go further.”

“Good,” Boaz nodded. “Amitai, follow Vered. I’ll try to recover the fallen.”

“Save the living.” Amitai looked at Boaz sternly. “The dead can wait.”

“You’re right,” Boaz agreed, fresh tears moistening his eyes. “I’ll engage the troops in the forest, while you make for the cave. I’ll then double back to the town and see what I can do.”

“That’s more reasonable.” Amitai clasped Boaz’s arm. “Don’t blame yourself. Let’s salvage what we can and then figure out what went wrong.” Boaz nodded silently and sped deeper into the forest.

Boaz took cover behind a large oak and closed his eyes to assess the situation. He could see his remaining men, a dark grey of deathly exhaustion following Vered. Boaz was amazed by Vered’s aura. It was a shiny white, a bravery and purity of purpose that reminded him of Joshua or Caleb’s aura. It was tinted by a deep purple of energy and determination. What a woman! Boaz thought in awe.

He could sense the Ammonites from Nurad regrouping and entering the forest. Boaz had destroyed half of their troops. The remaining soldiers were shocked by the carnage Boaz had left in his wake. Boaz could sense the red hot anger of the old man. That brilliant, conniving, old tactician almost killed us all. And we’re not out of it yet. Boaz turned his attention deeper into the forest. Two hundred fresh troops closed in towards the escaping Israelites. Boaz would have to deal with them first.

With a fresh surge of energy, Boaz ran in the opposite direction of his men, parallel to the approaching troops. He ran until he could circle around them unnoticed. Boaz still carried the sling from his childhood battles. He grabbed a handful of sharp stones and slung them with violent force and deadly accuracy at the back of the Ammonites heads. Two, five, eight, fourteen. The Ammonites fell to Boaz’s unrelenting attack. He moved and shot, moved and shot, so the Ammonites thought they were under attack by an entirely new hidden force. After the fiftieth Ammonite fell, the troops disbanded, fleeing chaotically in all directions.

Boaz returned to the edge of the forest in time to hear the fleeing Ammonites yell.

“There is another army of Israelites! They are bigger and more numerous! Flee!”

To encourage their fear, Boaz pelted the Ammonites at the forest entrance with a volley of his deadly rocks. They ran to Nurad, to the safety of its buildings, leaving their dead behind.

Boaz waited until the battlefield between the forest and the town was clear of the living. Hundreds of bodies littered the field. But only eight of them interested him. Eight that he recognized in death. Eight that he loved and missed. Eight that he would never forgive himself for having led them to this death.

He took a deep breath and ran to Altor, bringing his body under the protection of the trees. He repeated his sprint seven more times, ending with Gidel. Happy, clumsy, loyal Gidel. Boaz thought his heart would break to think how much he would miss Gidel.

Still carrying Gidel, Boaz searched for the live auras of the rest of his men, hiding in the nearby cave.

“I got them,” Boaz announced as he laid Gidel’s corpse tenderly by the cave entrance.

Boaz took six of the men that were still able to walk to bring back the other bodies. Amitai lay collapsed on the cave floor as Vered tended to his wounds. Boaz closed his eyes for a moment. I don’t see his aura! That’s how they must have tricked us. They must have realized that I don’t see auras of the sleeping.

Minutes later, the men returned carrying their dead and laid them in a row by the deep cavern entrance.

Boaz smelled the musty cave interior and felt a slight breeze.

“There may be another way out,” Boaz commented.

“We figured that already,” Vered answered while treating Barlo’s wounded abdomen. “But first we need to care for the wounded. We’ll place a guard by the cave entrance until we’re ready to move again.”

“Good thinking,” Boaz agreed, further impressed with this cousin of his. I don’t know why I never really noticed her before.

Boaz then collapsed on the floor face first, with an arrow he hadn’t noticed protruding from his back.

“How long can he sleep for,” a sweet female voice said in Boaz’s dream.

“After his superhuman feats, he’s usually either ravenous or exhausted.” Boaz recognized Amitai’s voice.

“Two days seems excessive.” It was Vered. How could I not recognize her voice?

“I’ve never seen him do as much as he did in Nurad. He may have lost much blood from that wound as well. Let’s give him another day.”

“Silly boy. He was always foolhardy.”

“You disapprove?” Amitai asked, offended.

“Do I disapprove of Boaz trekking up and down the land looking for a fight?” Vered raised her voice. “Do I disapprove of being kidnapped from home and being threatened and beaten? Do I disapprove of him trying to make up for the wars he didn’t fight? Of course I disapprove. Are a few lousy sheep worth eight men’s lives? You tell me!” Vered pointed harshly at the eight fresh graves in the cavern.

“Each of the men joined our militia willingly, knowing it was dangerous.”

“Did they? Boaz was invincible. Boaz was unstoppable. The men probably thought that just to walk in Boaz’s shadow would keep them from harm.”

“Perhaps. But now we know better. I suspect Boaz now most of all. He will take this very hard.”

“Good. Maybe he’ll come back home where he belongs.”

“You care for him.”

“Of course I care for him. He’s my cousin.”

“No. You care for him more than that.”

Vered blushed in the dark cave. Boaz couldn’t see her in his dream, but he could feel her warmth.

“Wake up,” Vered commanded Boaz, shaking him roughly. “Enough sleep. If we don’t get proper care for Barlo, he may die from his wound.”

Boaz groggily opened his eyes. In the dim light of the cave he could make our Vered’s fiery hair. “This is the most pleasant sight I’ve woken to in many a year,” Boaz said.

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” Vered lied. “We’ve been waiting on you. Everyone else has been ready to move. You’ve been sleeping for three days. We found an exit far down this cavern that is within the territory of Gad. If we leave now, we should be able to get help for Barlo in time.”

“What happened to me?”

“You had an arrow in your back and you collapsed from exhaustion.”

“You saved me.” Boaz stated.

“No. The arrow was not fatal. Just hit some muscle.”

“You did save me. When the Ammonites had me pinned down.”

“I couldn’t just let them kill you.”

“I can’t just let the Ammonites or the Midianites or the Moabites or anyone else kill and pillage our people.”

“Haven’t you had enough?”

“Perhaps. I’ll have to think about it. I’ll have to analyze where we went wrong and adjust accordingly.”

“Will you ever give it up?”

Boaz closed his eyes. He looked closely at Vered’s swirling aura. That same deep majestic purple of energy and determination. Now it was mixed with a light pink of hope and anticipation, and a warm red he had never seen before. Is that the color of love? He could almost hear her heart beating, hanging on his every word. Underneath it all was that bright white of purity and bravery. I wonder how other men find their soul-mates without Vision, Boaz wondered. I can live with Vered’s aura for the rest of my life.

“I will give it up for the right person.”

“And who might that person be?”

“The person who saved my life. The person who stood by my side. The person who confronted my enemies unflinchingly. I would spend the rest of my life with that person.”

“You want to spend the rest of your life with Amitai?” Vered teased.

Boaz smiled.

“No, woman. As soon as I have resolved this failure, as soon as I’m sure our militia is well organized, manned and led, I would spend the rest of my life with you, Vered. Would that be agreeable to you?”

“As long as you don’t take too long. I won’t wait around for you forever.”

“You don’t make a man’s life easy.”

“Is that what you were looking for in a wife?”

“I had hopes.”

“You talk too much, Boaz. Let’s get Barlo some care and then you can tell me how much you adore me. Get off your lazy back and let’s move.” Vered turned abruptly and helped lead Barlo deeper into the cavern, to the exit beyond.

Boaz was startled by Vered’s curt answer. He closed his eyes and noticed the growing glow of happiness within her. Even with the Vision, I may never understand women.

Boaz followed her towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 24: The Tomb of Moses

Warrior Prophets Chapter 24

The Tomb of Moses 

“I could have sworn I saw the cave on this ridge,” Raskul exclaimed as he gnashed his teeth. He, Boaz and Amitai climbed Mount Nevo on the eastern bank of the Jordan. They had left their mounts at the foot of the mountain. They could see the rubble of Jericho across the river, far below. Moss and weeds grew over the broken, abandoned city.

“There!” Amitai’s sharp eyes pointed at a ledge several hundred paces higher. “Do you see an opening there? Perhaps that is it?”

“Let’s keep climbing,” Boaz ordered. “It’s recorded that Moses could see the land all around, so he must have been close to the top of the mountain.”

“Moses must have had long legs to climb this pathless mountain. I’m a merchant, not a goat,” Raskul complained. He sat on a large rock and crossed his legs as he massaged his left knee. He kicked at the soft dirt with his sandal. “I’ll wait for you here.”

“Then I take it our arrangement is over?” Boaz said. “We are free of your ‘guidance’ and you of our protection.”

“You’re here, aren’t you?” Raskul fumed. “You wouldn’t have made it here without me.”

“We probably would have been here sooner and with less hassle,” Amitai interjected.

“Watch your smart mouth, boy,” Raskul raised his walking stick. “I’m not so old that I can’t give you a whack on your head.”

“We are of course indebted to you for your accompaniment,” Boaz raised his hands placating Raskul. “But I suspect we are better off parting ways and absolving each other of our promises.”

“You will not get off that easily, sonny-boy. You promised to protect me until we found the Tomb of Moses. I will sit here comfortably until you find the tomb. You can then take me to it, so I will see it with my own eyes, and then we can discuss a new arrangement. I’m not some mountain ram to go prancing around seeking this elusive cave. Have some respect for an old man.”

“The condition for our protection was your leading us to the tomb faithfully,” Boaz replied. “We have yet to find it and you have been less than faithful. In fact, you’ve been nothing but a major nuisance, delay and distraction. We are clear of our promise to you. Goodbye, Raskul.”

“Okay, okay,” Raskul walked after Boaz and Amitai. “If you wanted me to accompany you so badly, you just had to say so. No need to get insulting. I will not be so easily parted from my sworn protectors.”

“Are you deaf as well as dumb?” Amitai asked. “We’re finished with you, Raskul. Go back to your snake pit and leave us alone.”

“How rude! I thought you Israelites claimed to be the paragons of morality and goodness. This is how you treat your humble servant? What injury have I caused you? You ungrateful wretches. I cared for you as a lioness for her cubs. Those delays were not my fault. Those items that went missing were not my fault. I don’t know how they ended up in the hands of those merchants; they must have fallen out of your backpacks. It’s not a coincidence that I knew them. I know many people from many nations.”

“Hello, Raskul,” a commanding voice bellowed from in front of them. A big, dark burly man climbed down the mountain accompanied by a dozen swarthy Midianites, all with curved swords. A dozen other Midianites closed quickly on Boaz, Amitai and Raskul from behind.

“Trasha,” Raskul greeted the Midianite leader nervously. “What a coincidence to meet you here. What brings you to this scenic mountain range?”

“The two healthy specimens you brought us, of course. How did you describe them? ‘Strong, young, but not too bright.’ That’s exactly what we look for in prospective slaves.”

“Trasha, I’m hurt that you would accuse me of such a thing.”

“I’m sure the silver in your pocket is easing your conscience.”

“You sold us!?” Boaz turned to Raskul.

“I’m sure this is a misunderstanding that can be easily remedied. I suggest we go along with Trasha and his men and work this out.”

“Does your treachery know any bounds?” Boaz accused Raskul.

“Yes, Raskul.” Trasha smiled. “It’s very naughty of you to betray your friends like that. But don’t feel bad,” Trasha addressed Boaz and Amitai. “We shall take our silver from Raskul now that we have you.”

“What!?” Raskul exclaimed. “You would cheat me of fairly delivered merchandise?”

“It’s an ancient Midianite custom. We never pay for what we can take by force. Isn’t that right, boys?”

The Midianite men grunted in agreement, grinning and raising their swords higher.

“See,” Trasha nodded approvingly. “We are devout in the practice of our traditions. You can consider us holy men. Now will you descend with us peacefully, or shall we have to hurt you a bit first?”

Boaz closed his eyes in response. He remembered Caleb’s training. He remembered how he had used Isaac’s Vision to perceive the aura of his enemy. He saw the aura of the Midianites in front and behind him. They were a sickly green of greed and a dark red of blood lust. On his left was Raskul with a maelstrom of colors; green greed, yellow fear, orange anger, purple pride and pale shame. Boaz did not give himself the time to analyze. On his right, Amitai was a steely blue of courage with a soft mauve of apprehension.

“At my signal,” Boaz whispered, “hit the ground and cover your eyes. Then follow me to the high ground.”

“What is your answer Israelite?” Trasha asked impatiently.

Boaz opened his eyes. “My forefathers were slaves for too long to want to repeat the experience. We decline your kind invitation.”

“You have verve, Israelite,” Trasha laughed. “Perhaps I’ll keep you as a personal slave. Ever since your people leftEgyptthere has been a regional shortage of slaves. Do you know how much I can get for a healthy slave? And an Israelite one? That would be a prize.”

“This discussion is no longer amusing,” Boaz raised his sword. Amitai mirrored the move. “Either move aside or die.”

“The dumber ones always choose the hard way,” Trasha said to his men. “Take them, with no limb loss!” Two dozen Midianites closed in on Boaz and Amitai. Raskul made himself very small and curled up next to a large stone.

“Now,” Boaz barked.

Amitai fell onto the ground and covered his eyes with his arm.

Boaz closed his eyes and stabbed his sword into the soft ground of the ridge. He rapidly spun in place as his sword made a deep circle in the ground. The movement shot a whirlwind of dirt towards his attackers, blinding them.

Boaz somersaulted in midair, launching over the attackers ahead of him and slicing at the Midianites with his blade. By the time he landed uphill of his attackers, three had fallen dead.

“Get uphill and use your arrows,” Boaz ordered Amitai. Amitai ran past the opening Boaz created, as the surrounding Midianites spat dirt and rubbed at their eyes.

Boaz attacked the Midianites closest to the edge of the ridge, kicking several over the ledge and slashing at the rest, and then kicking them over as well. Within the space of a few moments half of the Midianite marauders had been slaughtered.

Amitai calmly picked off any Midianite approaching Boaz. Boaz approached the ones inward from the ridge that had cleared their eyes and regrouped. One of them had taken out his bow and arrow, shooting at Amitai and forcing him to take cover.

“You are a most formidable fighter!” Trasha exclaimed. “You could lead an army! Let me arrange it and I promise you riches beyond your dreams.”

“Stand down or die,” was Boaz’s only response.

“How do I know you won’t just kill us?” Trasha asked.

“You don’t. Vile creatures can never understand honor,” Boaz accused as if it were a death sentence.

Chilled, Trasha dropped his sword. The half-a-dozen other Midianites followed suit.

“Now leave this mountain and make sure never to come within sight of me. If I see you again, I will kill you. If I hear that you or any Midianite attacked an Israelite, I will hunt you down and kill you.”

“You will hold me responsible for all Midianites? That is an impossible task.”

“Yes. Do you seek fairness? I can save us both the effort and kill you now.”

“You are persuasive. What is your name?”

“My name is ‘The one who killed Trasha the Midianite, because he was too dull to save himself.’ Now leave before I decide to take that name.”

Trasha ran down the mountain, followed by his men. Boaz walked towards Raskul still hiding by the rock near the edge of the ridge.

“Boaz, that was masterful!” Raskul stood up and opened his arms wide. “You’ve saved us all.”

“Leave, Raskul.” Boaz leveled his sword at Raskul.

“What? Me? Your trusted guide and companion? You don’t believe that liar Trasha. Midianites are known for their deception.”

Boaz slashed at the pocket of Raskul’s garment and caught the silver pieces that dropped out with the edge of his sword. He placed the silver in his palm.

“This is all you received for us?” Boaz asked. “I would have thought we’d be worth more than six silver pieces.”

“That’s my money!” Raskul reached for the silver.

Boaz raised his sword again. Amitai approached, arrow notched and pointed at Raskul’s heart.

“What are you waiting for?” Amitai asked. “This snake sold us to slave-traders.”

Raskul backed away from the threatening duo. He tripped on a stone and fell backwards, head first, over the edge of the mountain. Boaz dropped his sword, dived for Raskul and grabbed him by the ankle before Raskul disappeared from sight.

“Boaz, Boaz! Please don’t let me go!” Raskul cried. “I’m sorry. I know I’m a miserable lout, but please, spare me. Have mercy!”

“Just drop him,” Amitai said. “If you let him live, he will just backstab us again or get us into other trouble. Is it worth saving his life just to jeopardize ours again?”

“I swear! I swear by all the gods! By everything I hold dear, I will never harm you, betray you, or even think of betraying you again.”

“Your word is meaningless.” Boaz let go of Raskul’s ankle and grabbed it with his other hand. He hoisted Raskul up and dumped him unceremoniously on the soft ground.

“Go. I never want to see you or hear you again. Say a word, and I will skewer you right here. Go!”

Raskul scampered down the mountain.

“You are too kind,” Amitai said.

“Perhaps. The Midianites may not be so gentle with him if they meet up.”

“But that’s not why you let him go.”

“No. I let him go because I don’t want to kill unless I really have to.”

“I understand.”

“Do you?” Boaz looked at his friend.

“Yes, I do. Come, let’s find that tomb and get off this inhospitable mountain.”

Boaz and Amitai turned and climbed towards the mountain peak.


“I give up,” Amitai threw his hands up as they reached the peak for the third time. “We’ve been up and down and over this mountain like a priest checking for lesions. Every time we think we see a cave entrance it turns out to be a mirage. Those rumors must be true. No one can find the tomb of Moses.”

Boaz sat on a rock near the summit ofMountNevo. He looked west towardsCanaan, saying nothing. 

Amitai, noting his friend’s silence, sat next to him on the rock and looked out across the clear sky. He could see the shore of theGreatSeain the distance.

“Do you remember when we tried to stop Moses from climbing this mountain?” Boaz asked, still looking to the west.

“I’ll never forget that day,” Amitai said. “The way he was so gentle with us and then threw those gooseberries at us to occupy our hands and then jumped over us after we let go of him. He seemed relieved, even eager to move on.”

“Do you realize that this was Moses’ last sight before he died?” Boaz added. “He saw all the land that God gave us. South, west, north, east,” Boaz pointed. “And the promise has been fulfilled, mostly. A nation of escaped slaves now controls the land that we can see from here. Joshua has led us well.”

“What are you thinking?” Amitai asked.

“I’m thinking that Pinhas is wise, and knew what he was doing when he sent us on this wild quail chase.”

“Why did he send us then? I thought by seeking the tomb of Moses you would get guidance?”

“That is exactly what he said. He didn’t say that at the tomb we would receive guidance. I think he meant that just the process of seeking would provide guidance. He must have known that it can’t be found and he also must have known we would come across bandits of one kind or another and that I would be forced to fight.”

“Is that bad?”

“I’ve been mortified of fighting ever since I escaped the copper mines of Timna. When I fought as a child, it was instinctive. I was killing simply because I was placed in a place to kill. It was without thought and it was part of this grand, national, God-ordained process. I couldn’t do it anymore. Then, when we went to confront the two-and-a-half tribes, my instincts were all wrong and I was ready to fight with no cause. But now with these Midianites I had no choice. And I was good at it. Very good at it. I could have killed all of them had I wanted to. But I held back. It felt good to kill those evil creatures, but it felt equally good to be able to stop, and especially to not kill that leech, Raskul. I have never found someone so distasteful, except for Akavish of course. I would take the company of acerbic Ploni any day over Raskul. But I still couldn’t justify killing him when he was not an immediate or direct threat.”

“We may yet regret your mercy.”

“Perhaps, but now my mind is settled and my path is clear.”

“Really? Now what?”

“I have special training and skills that I should put to good use.”

“But the war is over.”

“Yes, but there are still bandits like Trasha and his friends roaming our lands. I aim to deal with them and secure our roads and villages.”

“What about Taliya, or some other princess that will want to marry you? Don’t you want to settle down? Work the land? How long will you hunt these ruffians for?”

“I don’t know. Until something more pressing comes my way.”

“I’m with you then.”


“Where you go, I shall go. Where you sleep, I shall sleep.”

Boaz lifted Amitai in a bear-hug.

“I’m glad I saved your life all those years ago. I never knew what a true friend I had.”

Tears rolled down Amitai’s face.

“Ribs,” Amitai gasped. “You’re crushing my ribs.”

Boaz gently placed Amitai back on the ground and let go.

“On second thought, maybe it’s safer to go home,” Amitai smiled.

“Come on,” Boaz slapped Amitai on the back. “Let’s hunt some Midianites.”

And the two friends ran downMountNevo, not noticing the cave entrance right next to them and the white-bearded spectre looking fondly down at them.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source:

Deuteronomy Chapter 34:

1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nevo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan; 2 and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the hinder sea; 3 and the South, and the Plain, even the valley of Jericho the city of palm-trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the Lord said unto him: ‘This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying: I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.’ 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. 6 And he was buried in the valley in theland ofMoab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day.

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 23: Filial Regicide

Warrior Prophets Chapter 23      

Filial Regicide

The flower must be somewhere here, Akavish thought, as he scanned the tall grass with his torch ablaze. His eyes had developed the ability to see well in the dark. Nonetheless, he appreciated the warmth of the torch. The two perpetual guards waited for Akavish outside the grassy area. Ever since Akavish had “discovered” the poisoner ofAshkelon, guards followed him wherever he went.

The papyrus he received had described the Azalea flower as highly toxic. A white flower with pink spots that blooms in the spring. It could grow beneath trees. Akavish cut at the tall grass with his sword as he meandered through the swampy valley half-a-day’s ride fromAshkelon.

He reached a sandy clearing and proceeded. As he walked over the soft sand, his left foot would not come back up, and he found himself quickly sinking. Quicksand! Akavish thought. He grabbed quickly at an overhanging branch and pulled himself up.

Perfect, Akavish thought. Why bring death to him? Bring him to death.

Akavish hacked away at the overhanging branches around the clearing, making sure there were none within reach of the sandy bog. He then placed several branches across the bog, testing what amount would carry his weight, but not more. Satisfied, Akavish rode his horse back toAshkelon, happier than he had been in a long time.


“It is a shame. Krafus would have loved to accompany us,” King Larus said hesitantly, his enormous belly shaking lightly.

“It cannot be helped. We should not wait.” Akavish answered. “Are you afraid?”

“I do not fear a nighttime excursion. But Krafus is wise in these matters and he is a resourceful man to have around.”

“By the time he returns from his mission, the tunnel may be lost.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Certainly. It is a passage that only opens with the full moon, as we will have tonight. Beyond the entrance I glimpsed great treasure. Bring some trusted guards with you, if you want.”


Akavish removed his shiny metallic arm from his shoulder. In its place he attached an older, duller version. It was slightly rusted, though the claw was still sharp.

Akavish came to the palace early in the evening and saddled his horse. He took his father with him and two escorts and rode to the place he had spoken of.

After the third hour of riding, Akavish lowered his eyes, and perceived the place nearby.

“Stay here with the horses,” Akavish said to the escorts. “We shall conduct our business and I shall return.”

Larus took the burning torch and Akavish led the way with the sword to cut through the tall grass.

And the two of them went together.

Then Larus spoke to Akavish, his son, and said, “Son.”

“Here I am, my father.”

“I have fire on this torch, but where is this entrance you are looking for?”

“The gods will provide the answer, my father.” And the two of them continued together.

They arrived at the place which Akavish had prepared. Akavish made a big show of cutting at the tall grass. He walked gingerly over the camouflaged branches of wood hidden in the sand, and muttered a silent prayer to the dark gods.

Larus followed Akavish, but the wood underneath did not bear his weight. A muffled snap was the first sign that the trap had been sprung. By the time Akavish had turned around, Larus was already up to his knees in the sand, moving his legs ferociously.

Larus called out from the sand, “Akavish! Akavish!”

“Here I am.”

“Stretch out your hand to me, my son.”

“You are too far away, and there is nothing here I can use to reach you. Let me run to the horses and bring them here.”

Akavish ran around the bog, through the tall grass growing on the solid ground.

He reached the two guards, standing by the horses.

“Help! Help!”Akavish yelled, waving his sword frantically at the horses.

The horses, frightened by the terrifying movement, bolted away.

The reins of one horse were caught in a nearby thicket.

“What is the matter?” one of the guards asked.

“The King is caught in a bog! Only the horses can help! Steady the horse, while I free it.”

Akavish sliced his sword down on the reins of the horse, just an inch away from its nostrils. The horse reared on its back legs, front hooves clawing at the humid night air. The horse galloped off before the soldiers could catch it.

“Never mind the horses, let’s return to the King!”

The guards followed Akavish back to the bog. Larus was neck-deep with a frantic look in his eyes. His face and arms were covered by the sticky sand. His left arm still held the burning torch aloft.

“Son. Help me!”

“I shall enter the sand. Guards! We shall form a chain. You, hold on to the tree.” Akavish pointed at the shorter of the two. “Then you,” Akavish commanded the taller one, “clasp his arm tightly and you will clasp mine.”

They formed a human chain. The three men and the one metallic arm reaching into the quicksand. Larus grasped the metallic claw. The sharp pincers cut into the flesh of Larus’ hand, but the big man held on firmly.

“Thank you, son. I thought I would die. For a moment I thought it might have all been a devious plot you hatched. Forgive me for doubting you.”

“I forgive you, father,” Akavish whispered as he grinned broadly. “I forgive you for your stupidity in trusting me. I forgive you for the years of harassment. I forgive you for your lack of attention. I forgive you for all your sins.”

“What are you talking about, Akavish. Just pull me out of here. Your claws are slicing through my hands!”

“I forgive you, father, because I am finally, once and for all, getting rid of the source of all my problems. Goodbye. May your afterlife be as unpleasant as your death.”

Akavish twisted his metallic arm quickly and the device came off his shoulder. The sudden release of tension pulled Akavish back to ground with the two guards.

“My arm!” Akavish cried for the guards’ benefit. “It came loose!”

Larus’ head dipped beneath the surface of the sand, as well as the torch and Akavish’s metallic arm.

With one final effort, Larus raised his head above the sand and splurted out, “Son!”

Larus descended into the quicksand, never to be seen alive again.

“Father!” Akavish cried. “Father.” Akavish fell to his knees beside the quicksand and cried in the moonlight.

After a few moments, one of the guards put his arm on Akavish’s healthy shoulder.

“You did everything you could, Akavish. It was a terrible accident. But he is gone. We must return toAshkelonand inform the people. Their king is dead, but thankfully we have a new king.”

The guards could not see Akavish’s smile.

“Long live the King,” Akavish whispered to the sand.

* * * * * *

Notes: The format is a ‘negative’ take on the story of Abraham’s binding of Isaac. To compare, see Genesis Chapter 22.

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 22: Mistaken Murderer

Warrior Prophets Chapter 22

Mistaken Murderer

That’s a city,” Raskul commented as they saw Bezer to their south. “And here I was thinking you Israelites only knew farming and shepherding. It’s a relief to the senses to come across a center of commerce and opportunity.” Bezer was a large walled city, sitting on the desert plain. Wide roads intersected in front of the city. Caravans of merchants entered and exited the large stone gates at a leisurely pace under the hazy autumn sky. Raskul, Boaz and Amitai plodded on their donkeys along the road that hugged the eastern shore of the meandering Jordan River.

“That is one of the six,” Amitai mentioned.

“Six what?” Raskul asked

“Six cities of refuge,” Boaz answered. “There are three on the eastern side of the Jordan River which Moses named before he died. I was barely ten when he set them up. There are three others on the western side which Joshua established, but all six of them became operational only recently when we completed this stage of conquest.”

“What do you need refuge from? You people are the aggressors and conquerors here. Unless you are providing refuge to your victims.”

“The peoples we have fought are not ‘victims’, Raskul. They are enemies,” Boaz responded. “As long as they hold fast to their idol-worship, we shall always be enemies and we shall show no mercy. These cities are for our own people, for inadvertent murderers amongst the children of Israel.”

“Inadvertent what? How does someone murder by accident? Raskul asked. “I know,” he exclaimed, raising his staff, and stabbing at the air. “Pardon me, sir. I’m so sorry for having killed you. I mistook you for a large watermelon. Is that it? And then the bumbling fool is allowed to stay safe in this magnificent city? Why, every cretin will make such a claim. Yes, your honor.” Raskul placed the outstretched fingers of his hand on his chest as he addressed an imaginary judge. “That man, with all the jewels and gold that I killed, you see, it was an accident. I thought he was my brother-in-law, who I truly despise and who owes me a great amount of money. That poor unfortunate soul just had an uncanny resemblance to my ugly brother-in-law. You can’t blame me for killing him. I didn’t mean it. With your permission I’ll keep the dead man’s money. He won’t be needing it anymore, and I’ll settle right here in your cozy city of refuge.”

“You don’t understand at all,” Amitai stated.

“What’s there to understand? You Israelites don’t make any sense!”

As they approached the city gates, a young white-robed man ran towards them.

“Thank God, you made it safely,” the young man grabbed hold of the reins of Raskul’s donkey and looked apprehensively behind Boaz and Amitai.

“Why of course we made it safely,” Raskul retorted. “Why would you think otherwise?”

“You weren’t pursued?” the young man asked.

“No. Who are you?” Boaz asked.

“My apologies. I am Hirham, the Priest. We’ve been expecting you. Come, we have accommodations ready for you and your escorts,” Hirham addressed Raskul.

“That is as it should be.” Raskul puffed up his chest. “Finally, a place that gives me the proper respect. I think I shall enjoy staying here for a long time.”

“You are taking your predicament very well,” Hirham commented as he rushed them into the city, continually looking backwards. “I’m inspired by your attitude.”

“Hirham, you are a joy! Please do lead us to our quarters.”

Hirham led the travelers through the busy city gate. He breathed a sigh of relief as they entered the gates. Hirham spoke in hushed tones to the two armored guards, pointing excitedly at Raskul. “You are safe now,” Hirham told Raskul.

“I have never felt safer,” Raskul said smiling, “with two strong escorts and an enthusiastic host.”

Boaz and Amitai traded quizzical glances. 

The travelers passed the city center where merchants loudly offered wheat, barley and a rainbow of other grains and spices. Distinctive jugs of wines and oils were on display in the storefronts. The loud noises and strong smells seemed to overwhelm Boaz and Amitai. Raskul grinned, drinking in the cacophony arresting his senses, his eyes darting from one merchant to another, seeking who might be his next mark.

Hirham led them to a residential street.

“The escorts shall be sharing a room here,” Hirham pointed to a rundown hostel. “And you, sir, this is your residence.” Hirham led them into a new house. The house was simple, but clearly new and well furnished. They entered a small but neat courtyard. On one side there was a pen for animals, on the other side, a stocked storeroom. At the end of the structure, Hirham showed them the living area with a large straw bed to the left, a brand new wooden table on the right and an unused fire-pit in the middle.

“Why, these are the nicest and largest accommodations anyone has ever provided me with. Thank you, Hirham.”

“You may be needing it for a long time, and we wanted you to be comfortable.”

“How did you know I liked city life?”

“Sir, you are an inspiration. I shall let you get comfortable in your new home and we shall meet again. Make sure not to leave the city gates. I informed the guards and they shall likewise tell the next watch.” Hirham departed hurriedly.

Raskul, Boaz and Amitai tied their donkeys in Raskul’s new pen and walked in to the living area, each one grabbing a chair and sitting at the table. A bowl of fresh fruit awaited them in the center of the table. Raskul grabbed a fresh fig and bit into it hungrily, the juice flowing down his grey stubble beard. Boaz and Amitai each grabbed a fig, said a short benediction and bit into the figs neatly.

“I have never been received so royally!” Raskul exclaimed as he placed his feet on the table.

“Raskul, do you forget our mission, or your promise?” Boaz accused.

“No, no, no, my dear Boaz. We are very close to Moses’ tomb. I can smell it. He died very close to here. Everyone has said so. I expect it is no more than a few hours journey further and we shall be free of this mission and I shall be able to return and settle in this most welcoming of places. Oh, this is so good.” Raskul bit into another juicy fig.

“Fine. We shall spend the night here in Bezer and leave first thing in the morning. But why they should honor you so, is still a great mystery to me.”

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” Raskul laughed. “At least that’s what the Trojans used to say.”


Raskul, Boaz and Amitai cantered towards the city gate at first light. As they approached the gate, the guards looked at them in surprise. They lowered their spears blocking the exit.

“What goes on here?” Raskul asked. “How dare you block my way? Do you know who I am?”

“You are not allowed to leave the city,” the tall guard on the left said, not moving his spear.

“I am an honored resident of this great city and I shall not be denied passage. Now move aside or I shall call that pleasant Hirham.” Raskul dismounted and pushed at the spear, but it did not budge.

“We should call Hirham, as he is the one that prohibited your departure,” the guard responded and nodded at his fellow. The squat guard on the right ran into the city.

“Are we allowed to leave?” Amitai asked pointing at himself and Boaz, who also dismounted.

“Yes. We were expecting the two of you to leave once you saw him comfortably settled.”

Boaz and Amitai looked at each other with questions on their faces.

“They can travel, but I cannot?” Raskul asked furiously.

“What is the problem?” Hirham asked from behind as he approached with the squat guard.

“This buffoon has misunderstood your orders and is not allowing me to leave with my companions,” Raskul placed his fists on his hips.

“The guards have understood perfectly. You are not allowed to leave.”

“This is ridiculous!”

“Calm yourself, sir. You know, you are the first. And I’m sure the process may seem strange to you. The truth is, I was so excited when I heard, though of course it was a tragic circumstance, and then when I spotted you outside the walls, I could barely contain myself to finally fulfill the mission of this city.”

“What are you talking about? What am I the first of? What mission?”

“I hate to discuss this publicly as I do not wish to shame you in front of others.”

“Speak it, man. What am I the first of? Why do you imprison me in this city?”

“You are the first inadvertent murderer to be given sanctuary in our city of refuge,” Hirham whispered.

“Me? What proof do you have? How do you make such an accusation? What is the sentence?”

“It was reported yesterday, that an older man, with an unkempt, shaggy appearance, and a criminal look, had accidentally killed a man in Yaazer. They said you had been attempting to break into a house with an ax. The ax-head flew off the handle and killed your accomplice. His family vowed to kill you.”

“I never killed anyone! I’ve never even been to Yaazer. These two will vouch for me.”

“You are not the murderer?” Hirham asked, clearly disappointed.

“No! I may be guilty of many crimes, but murder, even inadvertent, is not one of them.”

“Is this true?” Hirham looked at Boaz and Amitai.

“Yes, he is probably guilty of many crimes,” Amitai smirked.

“We have been his companions for weeks now and he has not been in Yaazer all this time,” Boaz added.

“Oh! What a horrible, horrible mistake!” Hirham cried. “To have assumed you were the murderer. I am so sorry.” Hirham fell on his knees and grasped Raskul’s hand. “Please forgive me, sir. In my enthusiasm I have shamed you terribly.”

“It’s no matter,” Raskul said magnanimously. “Usually, I am the one who brings shame upon myself. Now, if we could discuss a permanent arrangement in that quaint house.”

“That’s not possible.” Hirham stood up and cleared his throat. “The house is reserved exclusively for the inadvertent murderer, where he would live out his life or stay until the death of the High Priest, depending on the findings of the court, of course. I’m sorry. It’s best you go on your way, before others make the same mistake I did.”

“Let us go, Raskul,” Boaz said. “We have wasted enough time here with all the confusion.”

“Fine. Goodbye, young Hirham. I forgive you. I actually enjoyed all the attention. This inadvertent murderer will be a lucky guy to be in your care.”

“Goodbye, sir. I’m still inspired by you.” Hirham bowed to Raskul.

Raskul, Boaz and Amitai mounted their donkeys and trotted out of the gates of Bezer.

A cloud of sand approached them quickly on the road. They could make out three riders. The middle rider was a bedraggled, mean-looking, grey-haired man, escorted on either side by two younger men. Behind them, half a dozen angry men rode hard in pursuit.

“That must be the inadvertent murderer,” Boaz commented.

“Don’t assume,” Amitai said.

“Seriously,” Raskul agreed. “Do you think I really look like him?”

“You’re not that good-looking,” Amitai quipped as the harried riders passed them in a hurry.

“I hope he enjoys the house. I’m going to miss it,” Raskul lamented.

“He will miss his freedom,” Boaz noted as the angry posse passed them in pursuit.

“Freedom is overrated. Give me security. Give me comfort, and I will gladly give up these so-called freedoms.”

“That is why you cannot understand Israelites. We cherish our freedom. The lashes of the slave masters still resonate in our bones. But you are not Israelite.”

“Thank God,” Raskul answered, as they left the city of refuge behind them.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Joshua Chapter 20

1 And the Lord spoke unto Joshua, saying: 2 ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: Assign you the cities of refuge, whereof I spoke unto you by the hand of Moses; 3 that the manslayer that killeth any person through error and unawares may flee thither; and they shall be unto you for a refuge from the avenger of blood. 4 And he shall flee unto one of those cities, and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city, and declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city; and they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. 5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver up the manslayer into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unawares, and hated him not beforetime. 6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days; then may the manslayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.’ 7 And they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill-country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill-country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba–the same is Hebron–in the hill-country of Judah. 8 And beyond the Jordan at Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness in the table-land out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh. 9 These were the appointed cities for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person through error might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.


I did not find the phrase of looking a gift horse in the mouth to have any connection to Troy – though it would be funny. Destruction of Troy is estimated to have occurred around 1200 BCE, while the events in the book of Joshua were probably a few decades earlier. That’s poetic license…

Warrior Prophets: Chapter 21 – Widower’s Regret

Warrior Prophets Chapter 21

Widower’s Regret

“I know it is rude of me, but I can’t host you,” the tall Menashite said at the entrance to his stone house. “I’ve just returned from Canaan. I haven’t been with my wife and children for fourteen years. Try Tzruyim next door. By the time he returned, his wife died of heartache and his daughters had married and moved out. He may appreciate the company.”

“Thank you.” Boaz stepped back from the house, together with Amitai and Raskul. They noticed the well-tended fields and the large flock of sheep. Down the mountain range, to the west, they could see the blue ribbon of the Jordan River, the border to the newly conqueredCanaan. They had trekked southwards and knew they had further to go to reach the reported area of the tomb of Moses.

They walked to a dilapidated shack half a mile away from the Menashite’s stone home. The cool autumn breeze escorted them as the sun inched closer to the mountains ofCanaanacross from them. The field around the nearby shack had grown wild and there were no animals in sight.

Boaz rapped lightly on the door.

There was no answer.

Boaz knocked louder. The door was cracked and broken at the top and bottom edges. The old wood resonated from the knock.

Still no answer.

“Let’s leave him alone,” Amitai stated. “He might not be in.”

“He’s in,” Boaz answered, closing his eyes, drawing on his powers of Vision. “He’s in and in a dark mood.”

Boaz knocked again. The door rattled on its hinges.

“Go away!” a broken voice shouted.

“We are travelers. We seek shelter,” Boaz stated to the door.

“Go elsewhere! I’m in no condition to host,” the door transmitted.

“It seems no one in Yavesh Gilaad is up to hosting,” Boaz retorted with some heat. “Are you still children ofIsrael? Or have you all so quickly forgotten the hospitality of our forefathers? Where are your weary brothers to find rest? Abraham had four doors, west, east, south and north and they were always open. You have only one door and you don’t have the decency to open even that? What sort of man are you?”

The door opened violently.

“I’ll tell you what type of man I am, you snot-nosed beggar.” A giant of a man yelled at the visitors without looking. “I am alone. I fought for a nation. I gave my life for a people and in the end I have nothing. Now leave me alone.”

The door closed violently.

“Let us leave him.” Amitai grabbed Boaz’s arm. “We would be better off outside.”

“Though I would much prefer a warm bed,” Raskul added. “Your friend may be right. This man is not to be trifled with and your countrymen in this area don’t seem particularly welcoming.”

“I know him,” Boaz said, unmoving. “He was a great warrior. Fearless. It pains me to see him like this.”

“Such are the vagaries of war, boy. Some come out unscathed. Some are maimed for life. And many are wounded inside, where it never heals. Leave him be. There is nothing you can do for him. We have our own problems to deal with, namely some shelter before the night winds on this mountain cut into my old bones.”

“No. I will not leave him.” Boaz stayed his ground. “Tzruyim son of Avigdor, Commander of One Thousand!” Boaz called out. “Come out and face me!”

The door opened slowly.

“I recognized you, Boaz,” Tzruyim said softly. “You’ve grown since the Battle of Gibeon.”

“Yes. But what happened to you? What happened to the fearless warrior that braved the arrows of five armies? The one who led his men to capture the wall ofGibeon? When did the mighty son of Avigdor turn into a nasty, inhospitable recluse?”

Tzruyim sat heavily on the ground in front of his door and covered his face with his large hands.

“Vera,” Tzruyim sobbed. “Vera died waiting for me. Fourteen years. All those years of fighting. We won. We conquered, and I return to ashes just three days ago. No wife. Daughters married without me and gone. My land a shambles, my flocks gone. The neighbors told me how my wife struggled. How she was sad. Always looking to the west for a sign of my return. This is why I fought? This is my reward? Vera…”

Boaz sat down on the ground next to Tzruyim.

“We are cold and we have no place to stay. Can we come in?”

“Yes, yes. Of course. I’m sorry I was so unwelcoming. Make yourselves at home.” Tzruyim stood up slowly and walked into his shack, leaving the door open behind him.

“You mean all this land is yours,” Raskul waved his hand over the simple wooden table they sat at, eating from Tzruyim’s warm porridge.

“Yes. This was the portion allotted to me, in the day of Moses himself,” Tzruyim answered. “I would give it up in an instant to have Vera back.”

“What will you do with it?” Raskul asked.

“This land is good pasture land. I need to buy sheep or goats. I prefer sheep.”

“I have an offer to make you,” Raskul suggested. “A partnership. I will supply you with the funds to restock your flock and you will make me a partner in your land.”

“No,” Tzruyim kept eating his porridge.

“What do you mean ‘no’? We haven’t even discussed the terms yet. I assure you, I will give you most favorable conditions.”

“No, Kenite. This is ancestral land. This is land that was given to me and that I shall pass on to my progeny one day. It is not for sale or partnership.”

“Enough, Raskul,” Boaz muttered. “Leave him alone.”

“You are a fool, Tzruyim,” Raskul continued. “How will you afford to keep this wasteland? It is worthless. I would give you a handsome investment. Not only would you have the most beautiful of flocks, you can build yourself a mansion, a palace, instead of this miserable excuse for a hovel. Think, man. This is your chance to be wealthy. To receive the reward you so richly deserve. Did your wife die in vain, so that you should bring this property to ruin? Is this how you cherish the memory of your dead Vera?”

Tzruyim dropped the spoon of porridge and stood up. He reached across the small house for the broadsword hanging on the wall. Raskul backed away from the table and looked around in fear.

“Your vow! Your vow!” he called to Boaz and Amitai. “You swore to protect me! What did I say? For a few words this man will kill me? Protect me!”

“You gave a vow to this uncircumcised lout?” Tzruyim hefted his heavy sword and looked at Boaz.

Boaz and Amitai stood in front of Raskul.

“Yes, we did. He promised to take us to the grave of Moses and in return we vowed to protect him.”

“This man is a charlatan, and you have given your word to a trickster. Why, he offers me riches that he clearly doesn’t have to give, when I can just as easily borrow funds or animals from my willing neighbors. You have done ill by allying yourselves with this Kenite. Your judgment is suspect. You can all stay for the night, but you must be gone by first light. If this Kenite so much as says another word, I will slice his tongue out, no matter who stands in the way. Is that understood?”

“Yes,” Boaz and Amitai stated in unison. Raskul nodded his head, still eyeing the massive sword in the widower’s powerful hands.

“I apologize, Tzruyim, for our companion’s rudeness,” Boaz said at the door of the shack in the early dawn light. Amitai and Raskul were on their mounts, out of earshot. “He was ill-behaved and I’m sorry I brought him into your home.”

“It was for the best, Boaz. He rekindled my energy and helped me think clearly. I will borrow from my neighbors and rebuild myself. I will remarry. I will send for my daughters and offer them to live here, if their husbands are interested. That little thief was exactly what I needed to break my sorrow. Though I miss Vera so deeply.”

“Your sacrifice was not in vain.” Boaz clutched Tzruyim’s large shoulder. “You were instrumental in conquering thelandofCanaanand fulfilling God’s promise. I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you, Boaz. Now go, before my urge to kill that Kenite gets too strong. And beware of him. He is a walking box of mischief. You should be rid of him as soon as possible.”

“It is not so easy. We have given him our word and I don’t intend to break it. We need him to find the tomb of Moses.”

“You will have an interesting journey then. If you don’t keep his mouth shut, he is likely to get all of you killed. Go in peace.”

“Thank you.”

Boaz walked to his companions and mounted his donkey.

“Splendid.” Raskul clapped his hands. “This stop has been invigorating and has given me ideas about business in this area.”

“Next time you have a business idea, please discuss it with us first,” Boaz requested.

“Why? Are you going to invest?”

Boaz and Amitai merely looked at each other, sighed and trotted on.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets: Chapter 20 – The Claw’s Sting

Warrior Prophets Chapter 20

The Claw’s Sting

A massive arm fiddled with the delicate metal mechanism. The only light in the dank room was from the blazing fireplace. Shadows danced on the white-skinned form at the workbench. Long greasy hair crowned a balding head that had not seen the sun in many moons. The muscular figure moved his left hand expertly around the metallic apparatus. He pulled and pushed and hammered and twisted the contraption, finally grunting in satisfaction. The mechanism was a long wrought-iron device attached to the owner’s right shoulder. The man stood up and swung the dark, sleek, metallic device with what looked like a claw at the end. The device was situated where an elbow, arm and hand should have been. The claw was composed of two curved blades facing an opposing single one.

“P-p-prince A-a-akavish,” a servant stammered as he opened a heavy wooden door, allowing sunlight into the room.

“Damn it, Trigor. Shut that door.” Akavish muttered angrily. “How many times have I told you that I hate the Ashkelon sun?”

“Y-y-yes, Master.” Trigor bowed his head.

“Bring it to me,” Akavish commanded, pointing his claw at the tray Trigor held in trembling hands.

Trigor walked obediently to Akavish.

Akavish grabbed Trigor’s arm with his metallic claw and with his healthy left hand grabbed the vial from Trigor’s tray.

“What did the apothecary say? Tell me his exact words!” Akavish ordered.

“H-h-he said: T-t-tell that P-p-prince Claw of yours to use this sparingly. It is highly c-c-concentrated. One drop is enough to k-k-kill a man.”

Akavish smiled at the last phrase. He poured the entire vial into a thin metal tube that rested within his metallic arm and closed the tube tightly. The bottom end of the tube narrowed to a needle thin point.

“Now, for our first trial,” Akavish said looking at Trigor.

Trigor’s mouth opened wide in horror. He tried to back away from Akavish, but the claw held him firmly. Trigor’s arm bled as he struggled against the sharp pincers of Akavish’s claw.

“N-n-no, Master,” Trigor whimpered. “I have served you l-l-loyally.”

“I tire of you and your stammering.” Akavish twisted his right shoulder suddenly. The thin tube within his claw slid down quickly with a hissing sound. It stopped a hairsbreadth from Trigor’s arm. Trigor almost fainted from fright.

“Damn it!” Akavish cursed. “The extension is too short. Wait a second.”

Akavish hammered and tweaked and pulled on his claw some more, as Trigor writhed in panic.

Akavish slid the tube up his claw until he heard a ‘click’ sound. He twisted his right shoulder again. The tube slid down and this time penetrated Trigor’s arm. Trigor stiffened suddenly and fell to the cold stone floor, lifeless.

“Excellent.” Akavish released his claw’s grip on the dead servant. “Now, for some field trials.”

“People are dying in frightening numbers, like mullet in the fisherman’s net.” King Larus paced the floor of his palace chambers. “You’re sure it’s not a plague, Krafus?”

“I am certain, my liege,” old Krafus advised. “It is poison. But how it’s being administered, I cannot imagine, nor for what purpose. I cannot determine the pattern of deaths, except that they were misfortunate enough to wander the streets of our dear Ashkelon alone at night.”

“We must stop it!” Larus pounded the stone wall of the chamber. Big Larus was still large. Over the years he had lost some of his height, but more than made up for it around his belly. “It is bad for commerce. The tavern owner has lost more than a third of his business, let alone the brothel and the temple. The priests will have my head if I don’t make the streets safe for their evening rituals.”

“I’m at a loss. The killer has eluded our patrols and even my own night prowling. We will need additional help, if we are to find this killer.”

“You can’t mean Akavish?” Larus looked distastefully at Krafus.

“Even one-armed, my former pupil, your son, Prince Akavish, is a formidable huntsman. It may be good for him to be given a mission and to get some air.”

“You ask him then. I still find the sight of him repulsive, and that claw is even more disturbing.”

“I will talk to him.”

“That is horrific,” Akavish said to Krafus with great empathy. “Someone is indiscriminately poisoning people at night? How do you know they are random? Perhaps it is a new smuggling cartel? Or secret Egyptian agents, killing off Phoenician sympathizers? You know how the Egyptians have been resorting to all sorts of nasty tricks to regain some of their old glory.”

“I’m familiar with all the underground and criminal efforts in Ashkelon,” Krafus said, “and I tell you, it is not related to any of them. For Baal’s sake, someone poisoned the old cook, Berisol. She was the most innocent, most beloved person I can think of.”

“Maybe someone didn’t appreciate her cooking,” Akavish chuckled darkly.

“Never mind the reason, Akavish. I’ve given up on determining that. We need to rely on brute force and surveillance and catch this killer, or Ashkelon will turn into a poor, empty husk, with no business, and no people for your father to rule.”

“And what rule is that? He sits on his throne and gets fat, living off old glories. He just looks inwards, never thinking of new glories, new conquests.”

“And he is wise, young Akavish. He is wise to focus his energies on the prosperity of the city. He is wise to increase trade, to balance the needs of the priests and the merchants and the residents. He is wise to develop loyalty of the citizens to the throne and not rely on fear. Ashkelon is stronger now than it ever was with the Canaanites. Even your mighty Israelites have not dared attack us all these years. It must trouble Joshua greatly that we are part of a strong, robust federation that will not fall so easily. No, Akavish, King Larus is wise to strengthen us from the inside and not seek ill-advised exploits against the Israelites you so hate. Baal be praised! The god of Canaan has been better to us than Zeus ever was. But your father’s rule is not the issue. This killer is.”

“Leave it to me.” Akavish stood up. “You came to the right person. I will track the killer and stop him and deliver the miscreant personally to my father, no matter what I think of Larus’ lily-livered reign.”

“Just be better-spoken in front of your father. It is to your advantage.” Krafus stood and departed the dank, dark room. He did not see Akavish grin broadly.

“I have him,” Akavish called out from outside the King’s chamber. “I have the killer.”

“What? Why do you disturb me at this demonic hour?” Larus responded from his bed. “Could this not have waited until morning? Why do you need to bring him to my chamber?”

Larus opened the door to his room.

Akavish walked in with a white-robed body on his shoulder. He dumped the corpse unceremoniously onto the floor of Larus’ chamber.

“Here he is, father. As ordered.”

“I asked Krafus to handle this. Why do I need to see a corpse?”

“Queasy in your old age? I thought you would want to know about the serial murderer in your precious city. Krafus seemed to think the future of Ashkelon rested in this murderer’s hands.”

“Yes, yes. Of course. We didn’t understand why or even how he was killing such a variety of people. How do you know he is the one?”

“I saw him in the act of murder. I was too late to save his last victim, but he confessed to all the other deaths and even how he did them.”

“How did you get him to reveal?”

“I can be persuasive.”

“Why did he kill all those people? How?”

“It was quite simple. He was mad. He is Egyptian, as you can tell from the robes. He had a falling out with his slaver partner, also Egyptian, who became his first victim. After that, he seemed to like the power of taking life – those Egyptians seem so obsessed with death – so every night he prowled, seeking lone victims. Their deaths made him feel alive. He justified each death as necessary, even good, to feed his hunger.”

“H-how do you know so much?” Larus took a step back.

“Scared, father? This is the knife he used. If you look carefully, you’ll see it’s coated with a strong poison. All he needed to do was slice his victim’s arms lightly and they would die instantly from the poison.” Akavish sliced the air between him and his father.

“Careful with that.” Larus took another step back.

“Why? Are you afraid something might happen?” Akavish approached with his shiny menacing claw on the right and the poisoned blade on the left.

“I am not afraid of you, Akavish.” Larus stood to his full height, meeting Akavish’s dark eyes.

“Good. There should never be fear between fathers and sons.”

“Of course, but please put the knife away and get rid of the corpse. Thank you for tracking him. You have done me and Ashkelon a great service and I shall not forget it.”

“You found him?” Krafus burst into the room.

“Yes,” Akavish turned to Krafus.

“Who was he? Why did he do it? How?”

“He was an insane Egyptian slaver,” Larus answered. “Akavish has done us a great service.”

“I’ve examined the bodies again,” Krafus said, “and I noticed a pattern on each of them. Did you find out how he killed his victims?”

“Yes.” Akavish offered the blade, handle first, to Krafus. “He sliced them lightly with this poisoned blade.”

“Curious.” Krafus held the blade with one hand and his chin with the other. “That does explain things, though each mark was identical.”

“How so?” Larus inquired.

“Each body had two slashes on the front of their forearm and one on the back of the arm, and a small circular wound between them – almost imperceptible. I only noticed it because old Berisol bruised so easily. Once I saw it on her corpse, I checked the others.”

“What does it mean?” Larus asked.

“It means this madman developed a very unusual and precise killing ritual. I’m just amazed at his consistent accuracy. How did you kill him, Akavish?”

“With his own knife,” Akavish responded.

Krafus looked at the arm of the dead Egyptian murderer. The hackles on Krafus’ neck shot up. The Egyptian’s arm was adorned with a barely visible, but perfectly symmetrical pair of slashes on the front of his arm, followed by a single slash on the back of the arm, and a tiny wound in-between the slash marks.

Krafus looked at Akavish’s claw and noticed the two front blades, the one opposing blade and the thin metallic tube inside his artificial arm. He shuddered involuntarily and for the first time in his long and dangerous life, felt fear.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets: Chapter 19 – The Kenite Agent

Warrior Prophets Chapter 19

The Kenite Agent

“You promised my client 200 dinar for that saddle,” Raskul, the Kenite agent, demanded, waving his walking stick as he leaned on the tavern table, “and you will pay him for it. It is not his fault your horse grew so fat that she refuses to wear it.”

“I ordered a saddle that would fit my horse,” Baltar the blacksmith bellowed. “Is it my fault Torash is so incompetent that he doesn’t know horses change in size? I will not pay for such poor workmanship.” Baltar banged his palm on the table. The patrons of the Bet Shean tavern, all Canaanite, looked at the arguing duo and turned back to their drinks.

From the windows of the tavern, over the heavy fortress walls, one could see the Jordan River to the east. It flowed lazily southward under the humid summer sun. The sweaty patrons tried to forget about the new neighbors that surrounded them almost on every side. The Israelites had conquered most of the nearby cities and it was just a matter of time before Bet Shean would become a war-zone, as heavily fortified as it was. Only a small corridor to the west and a slightly larger one to the northeast, were free of Israelite dominion, allowing the Canaanites of Bet Shean the limited freedom of travel and commerce.

“I would hate for your good name to be soiled by word of your not honoring your contracts and not paying for work done and delivered.” Raskul stated.

“Do you threaten me? My word is good when good work is given. I will take this to the magistrate and he will see my point.”

“I have an idea,” Raskul said pensively, “in order for you to avoid any embarrassment. I understand that you are not happy with the saddle, which is a beautiful piece of workmanship, you must admit, even if it is the wrong size. Return the saddle to me and pay me a small token amount, say 50 dinar, for my client’s trouble and efforts, and we shall put the matter to rest. However, I realize that doesn’t solve your lack of saddle. As fate should have it, I may just be able to find a saddle of the right size – a highly prized piece, I assure you – and I will of course be happy to get it for you, though it will most likely involve much effort, for a symbolic amount of 250 dinar.”

“300 dinar!” Baltar shouted. “What are you? Phoenician? You would take 300 dinar for a 200 dinar saddle?”

“My dear, Baltar,” Raskul said soothingly. “Your powers of arithmetic are impeccable; however there are several parties involved, so please don’t confuse what may be complex for you. 50 dinar is for poor Torash, my client, who worked so hard on that saddle, which is now worthless. It would be a horrible sight for the two of you to go before the magistrate, for accusations to fly and for your good name to be smeared across the streets of Bet Shean. Imagine how much business you would lose. Much more than the meager 50 dinar, which I assure you, will keep Torash happy and quiet. The other 250 dinar is for a superior saddle, one that will fit your sweet horse as a sheath fits its sword. I will take only a sliver of profit for my extensive efforts in locating such a magnificent saddle.”

“Humph,” Baltar crossed his arms and weighed his money bag. “If it will quiet Torash and get me a badly needed saddle, I will agree.”

“Agreed!” Raskul’s hand shot out to grab Baltar’s and shake it firmly.

“By Ashtar,” Baltar grumbled. “This saddle better be worth it.”

“I assure you it is. However, I must insist on payment in advance, both for Torash and for the new saddle. I would hate for there to be a repetition of this misunderstanding.”

“This saddle better be perfect, Raskul, or I shall personally wring your neck.”

“I personally guarantee your satisfaction, and you shall have your saddle by the end of this day. Now for the payment, please.”

Baltar counted out 300 dinar into Raskul’s palm from the money bag at his side. Raskul discretely placed the coins in a pouch at his side and tied the pouch tightly.

“With your permission,” Raskul bowed to Baltar, “I shall return this defective saddle to Torash with your kind donation, which I shall ensure will keep him quiet, and bring your new saddle forthwith. Thank you.”

Raskul scooped up the heavy saddle in one arm and leaned on his walking stick with the other.

Two weeks later, Baltar chanced upon Torash in front of the temple of Ashtarte.

“How’s the saddle?” Torash asked, smiling.

“Are you addled?” Baltar responded angrily. “That saddle of yours was worthless, yet your agent made me pay you off anyway so you wouldn’t take me to the magistrate. Luckily he found me one that fit perfectly, but ended costing me much more. You’ve cost me 100 dinar, Torash, for your inept work.”

“What are you talking about? What agent? I gave that poor Raskul my saddles to deliver. He seemed like a reasonable and intelligent fellow. All he asked for was 10 dinar each to deliver. He explained how much time it would save me and allow me to work on more saddles in that time. It was true. I completed another saddle in the time it would have taken me to deliver the other two and he brought me all the money. I was happy to give him the 20 dinar.”

“Raskul did what?” Baltar’s face turned crimson as he clenched both fists. “By Baal and Ashtarte! I will kill that man.”

“What happened?” Torash asked, perplexed.

“Torash,” Baltar breathed heavily out of his mouth. “The day you sent me the saddle, who was the other saddle for?”

“Why, it was for Delmon’s donkey.” Torash answered, uncomprehending.

“That son of a jackal! Baltar yelled. “I will kill him! I will wrap my hands around his neck and choke the life out of him!” Baltar trotted towards the tavern with Torash on his heels.

“Where is he? Where is Raskul?” Baltar shrieked, drunk with rage. His voice reverberated off the tavern walls. “Where is that thrice-cursed agent? I shall squeeze the life out of him. I will pound him and stomp him and crush him until he begs for death. Where is he!!??”

Raskul could hear Baltar from the outhouse and thanked Baal silently that his call to nature coincided with Baltar’s wrath. Raskul quietly found his own donkey and slowly cantered out of the city of Bet Shean. He briefly mourned the possessions he had left behind, but he was quickly comforted by the heavy pouch at his side, the earnings from all of his unfortunate victims.

Raskul paced his old donkey carefully on the northward road towards Ashtarot. He had crossed the Jordan River and he could glimpse the Sea of Galilee. The swelling in his left leg was acting up. It always acted up when he needed to leave town quickly. He didn’t want to go to Ashtarot, but he had few other options. The good people of Bet Shean would surely have burned him alive had they discovered how many of them had been victims of his agency services. He had gotten sloppy. Usually he managed to milk the residents of a city for months, even years. This time, after just a few weeks he had been found out.

His reputation was no better to the west. Which is what now brought him northeast and through the recent war-zone between the Israelites and Canaanites. The aggressive Israelites were a people he hadn’t truly interacted with and he had no intention of doing so now. Bet Shean was the last free enclave in the area. Raskul just hoped he wouldn’t meet any blood-thirsty Israelite warriors before he reached the questionable sanctuary of Ashtarot.

Raskul looked apprehensively up and down the road as he entered deeper into Israelite territory. He looked to his sides to find quick cover, but was disappointed by the sparsely vegetated land of the river bank. He muttered a quick prayer to Baal, to Ashtarte, to Ilu, to Ra, and to the Hebrew god for good measure.

After trotting uneventfully for a few hours, Raskul spotted them just after a rise in the road. But they had seen him as well. Two Israelite warriors. Young and armed and heading his way quickly. It was too late to turn back and that would only mark him as prey. Raskul continued to trot nonchalantly and started to whistle a tune, though he sweated profusely in the cooling evening.

“Identify yourself!” a tall muscled red-head commanded Raskul, with extended sword.

“I am Raskul of the Kenite, your humble servant. There is no war between our peoples, so you do not need to threaten me so. I would know your name and mission and whether you are brigands or honorable men. If you are brigands, then let us be done with it, for I am a poor man, a refugee, with no means and less possessions and I would beg for your mercy. If you are honorable men, then I would press you for safe passage in this war-torn region.”

“We are no brigands, Raskul of the Kenite,” the red-head answered, sheathing his sword. “I am Boaz and my companion is Amitai, we are both of the Tribe of Judah.”

“Ah, the famous tribe of Judah. I have heard much of your tribe. Of your bravery in battle and your wisdom and mercy in peace. Let an old man pass unharmed and I will bless your names to all the gods.”

“We shall let you go unharmed, but do not invoke the names of your gods.”

“Does that offend you, master Boaz? What harm can a good wish and a blessing do? I shall thank your god too. Yahweh you call him?”

“Do not use his name in vain!” Boaz said hotly, reaching again for his sword. “Do not discuss any gods. It is sacrilege to us. Where are you traveling to? Go on and be off with you, before you start naming other gods.”

“By Baal and Ashtarte!” Raskul exclaimed. “I have never met such a strange people. You would skewer me just for stating harmless words?”

“I will kill you Kenite, if you don’t stay your tongue.” Boaz drew his sword.

“Calm, young master, calm. I shall not name any further gods. Not your Yahweh, not Baal, nor Ashtarte. Not the Egyptian Ra or nor even the unpopular Ilu. I swear by all the gods, on heaven and earth, of the trees and rocks and the streams and even the worms, that I shall not name any further gods. I am quite familiar though with the names of a host of demons and lesser angels, which I shall be more than happy to name –”

Raskul found Boaz’s sword edge against his neck.

“One more word. One more word, dear talkative man, and I shall have no choice but to slice your neck right here and now. Nod if you understand.”

Raskul nodded.

“Good. It is possible to shut you up it seems. While we have your attention, we will ask for directions. If you answer anything other than the question, if you name a god, a demon, a dog, a flower or a gnat, I shall slice your neck with no constraint and consider having performed a service to my nation and perhaps mankind. Do you understand?”

Raskul nodded.

“Excellent. Intelligent after all.”

“Here is the question. Remember to answer simply. I would hate to bloody my sword, but I shall do so if you err by a hairsbreadth. Kenite, which way to the tomb of Moses?”

Raskul’s eyes widened. He did not speak. He looked down at the sword by his neck. He put his fingers on the side of the sword and gently pushed it away.

“The vocal chords do not function with steel against them,” Raskul said softly.

“Speak. Plainly.” Boaz commanded.

“The tomb of Moses you seek. That is a holy site. Hard to find. Only the most determined, the savviest explorers may be privy to its secrets, its mystery, and its power.”

“Do you know where it is?” Boaz spat out through clenched teeth as he brought the blade closer to Raskul’s neck.

“No one knows where it is. But I know how to find it.”

“Will you take us?”

“For a price.”

“What’s your price?”

“Land in the tribe of Judah.”

“That’s impossible.”

“Then so will be finding the tomb.”

“Is there not something more reasonable you’re interested in?”

“How about re-sheathing your sword to start with?”

Boaz sheathed his sword.

“Name a reasonable price,” Boaz said.

“What do you have to pay? You don’t exactly look like a pair of princes.”

“We have a few coins, the weapons we carry, our clothing and our provisions.”

“Vagabonds. Not interested. With your permission, please allow me to pass.”

“But we must find the tomb of Moses,” Boaz pleaded.

“You wish to be guided to the most important, most secret location this side of the Jordan, for a pittance?”

“If you name something we can do, we will perform it.”

“Hmm,” Raskul looked Boaz and Amitai up and down.

“Here is my offer. It is my final offer. If you don’t accept it you shall have to either kill me or let me go. Is that agreed?”


“I shall agree to guide you in your search for the tomb of Moses, if and only if you agree to be my personal guards, to protect me from all harm, whether deserved or not, until we successfully find the tomb.”

“Agreed,” Boaz stated. Raskul put out his arm and they shook.

“You too, quiet Amitai,” Raskul said with outstretched arm. Amitai looked at Boaz, shrugged his shoulders and shook hands. “Agreed.”

“Now swear to it by your god,” Raskul ordered. “I will not be offended and I shall hold you to it.”

“We swear, by our God, Almighty,” Boaz proclaimed, “that we shall protect and guard you from all harm during our search for the tomb of Moses, as long as you guide us faithfully.”

“Amen,” Amitai agreed.

“That will do,” Raskul said. “Now I wish to make camp.”

“When we will search for the tomb?” Boaz asked.

“Tomorrow. Negotiating at sword point is hard work. I am weary and it is getting dark.”

“How long do you think it will take us to get there?”

“Patience, my young guard. I will disclose more tomorrow.”

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets: Chapter 18 – Boaz the Coward

Warrior Prophets Chapter 18

Boaz the Coward

“You said what to her?” Amitai, his childhood companion, asked, as he and Boaz rode northwards on their donkeys along with the large procession. At twenty three years old, Amitai was still a bit chubby, with ruddy cheeks, unruly brown curls and an easy smile.

“I told Taliya I wasn’t ready,” Boaz murmured. At twenty four years old, Boaz was a tall and powerful figure. His red hair had lost none of its luster and his well-formed muscles could be discerned under his tunic. A short fuzzy beard adorned his square jaw.

They were at the front of the contingent from Judah. They rode with the morning sun along the Jordan River. The hot summer days had reduced the power of the River which flowed strongest in the spring. Pinhas the Priest and ten princes led the tribes from the west side of the Jordan to find the apparently recalcitrant tribes from the east.

“On the day she was expecting you to ask for her hand?” Amitai pushed.

“Yes,” Boaz nodded.

“That’s bad.”

“Really bad,” Boaz agreed. “I was told one of Taliya’s brothers was furious at the insult and would chase me and force me to marry her.”

“Good thing you were asked to join this expedition.”

“Yes. Hopefully, he won’t find me amongst the hundreds of soldiers here.”

“So the Coward deigns to accompany us,” Ploni, Boaz’s cousin, caught up with Boaz and Amitai. His voice was loud enough for the rest of the mounted Judean representatives to hear.

Ploni was ten years Boaz’s senior. His arms and neck were heavily scarred from old battle wounds.

“You say nothing, little cousin?” Ploni continued. “You crawl out of your hole now that trouble has passed, for a mere diplomatic meeting?”

“A meeting?” Boaz answered in a deep base. “You call an assembly of hundreds of our best warriors a meeting? We go to fight the other tribes who have betrayed our God.”

“Ah, little scholar,” Ploni sneered. “How little of the world you know. If you had fought beside those men, if you had seen the leadership, the bravery of Gedel and the others, you would know the eastern tribes would never rebel against God. But you are just a studious little coward who believes the first accusation he hears against good and honorable men.”

“I follow orders.” Boaz picked his chin up. “We go to investigate the building of a pagan altar by our brothers. They had better have a good explanation, lest we bring down God’s very wrath upon them.”

“You besmirch the honor of all warriors by riding with us. But you were always Caleb’s pet.”

“Have you nothing better to do Ploni, than to fan the flames of old imagined grievances?” Boaz raised his voice. “Caleb requested that I join the mission. Why you are bitter that I stopped fighting, I still don’t understand.”

“Bitter? I’m not bitter, young pacifist. I’m betrayed, I’m embarrassed. I’m hurt that the most promising warrior of our people, our tribe, our family, became a coward. We used to retell your adventures with great pride. We looked forward to fighting by your side, to be associated with your glory. But ever since you returned from that mine in Timna, you proved yourself a weakling. To have such talent as yours and not use it in our struggle is nothing less than cowardice. I think Caleb himself was deeply disappointed.”

“You know nothing of Caleb’s feelings,” Boaz responded hotly.

“Ah, our young firebrand has some flame left in him after all. If only you had used it against our enemies, perhaps there would not be so much land unconquered. I have heard that Joshua himself was saddened by our lack of progress and most likely looked to you as the cause.”

“Leave me alone, Ploni, You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You are alone, Boaz. Cowards always are.”

Boaz stopped his donkey and let the Judean soldiers trot ahead.

Pinhas positioned the archers in the front of the procession as they approached the river crossing. He and the princes rode behind them, followed by the tribe of Judah, including Boaz and Ploni. In the distance they saw thousands of soldiers massed on the eastern bank of the river. A long row of archers with their arrows notched stood behind a line of spearmen with raised shields.

“A meeting?” Boaz murmured to Ploni.

“Gedel is no fool,” Ploni answered. “He is ready for a fight if we bring it to him, but he is blameless.”

“Blameless men don’t need an army to explain their innocence.”

Judeans around Boaz murmured their agreement.

“This formation is proof of his guilt,” Boaz continued. “We should attack right away.” Boaz removed his sword from its sheath. Other Judeans followed suit. Archers on the other side of the river noticed the movement and aimed their arrows at Boaz and the other Judeans, but did not shoot.

Ploni grabbed Boaz’s arm and forced him to re-sheath his sword.

“Stop it, you hothead! If men were to rely on others to uphold their innocence, innocent men would quickly cease to be. People may listen to the truth, but they listen better when there is some steel behind it. Put your sword away before you hurt yourself and wait for instruction from your betters.”

A tall grey-haired man appeared in the middle of the formation.

“Hail Gedel, Prince of Reuven!” Pinhas called across the narrow river, flanked by archers and with several hundred soldiers at his back. Gedel was a large muscular man with bristly grey hair and a long grey beard. He held a sharp battle ax against his shoulder.

“Hail Pinhas, son of Elazar, son of Aaron!” Gedel responded to Pinhas in his priestly robe. Several thousand soldiers stood by Gedel’s side on the eastern bank of the Jordan.

“What treachery is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to build an altar, and to rebel this day against God?” Pinhas pointed accusingly at the stone altar across the river, on the eastern side of the Jordan. “Was the plague we received for worshipping Peor so insignificant? If you rebel against God today, tomorrow the whole congregation of Israel shall feel His fury. If your land is unclean, then come back over to the land of the possession of God, where God’s Tabernacle rests, and inherit amongst us,” Pinhas spread out his arms to encompass the men behind him, “but do not rebel against God or us by building an altar besides the altar of God. Did not Achan son of Zerah also trespass against holy matters and punishment fall upon all Israel?”

“God, Almighty, Lord!” Gedel shouted heavenward. “God, Almighty, Lord! If we have rebelled or been treacherous against God, do not save us today. If we have built an altar to turn away from following the Lord, or to make offerings or sacrifices upon it, let the Lord Himself exact retribution.”

“Rather out of fear we have done this thing.” Gedel looked across the river into Pinhas’ eyes. “Fear that in days to come, your children will say to our children: ‘What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? He has made the Jordan a border between us and you, and you, the children of Reuven and Gad, you have no portion in the Lord.’ So your children will cause our children to cease fearing the Lord.”

“Therefore we said, let us build an altar, not for burnt-offering, nor for sacrifice,” Gedel pointed at the stone altar by his side, “but it shall be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we may do the service of the Lord. That your children may not say to our children: ‘You have no portion in the Lord.’ Rather our children shall say: ‘Behold the pattern of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt-offering, nor for sacrifice; but it is a witness between us and you.’ Far be it from us,” Gedel motioned to the thousands beside him on the eastern riverbank, “that we should rebel against the Lord, and turn away this day from following the Lord, to build an altar for burnt-offering, for meal-offering, or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the Lord our God that is before His Tabernacle.”

The western bank of the Jordan River erupted in cheers. The soldiers of the ten tribes waved their fists and saluted Gedel.

“This day we know that God is in our midst,” Pinhas pronounced, “because you have not committed this treachery against the Lord. You have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord.”

Pinhas walked into the shallow waters of the lightly flowing Jordan. His long flowing white robe billowed in the water, yet somehow did not get wet. The water flowed around Pinhas as he crossed to the eastern bank, yet he emerged dry. Both the eastern and western soldiers looked at Pinhas in wonder as he embraced Gedel firmly.

“Brother,” Pinhas said, as he let go his embrace. “We were quite concerned. Concerned enough to fight you for what on the surface was a grave affront and treachery.”

“I know,” Gedel whispered. “It was a great gamble. But we were already feeling the distance from our brothers. Do you not refer to us as ‘western’ versus ‘eastern’ tribes? Is not the land to the west of the river consecrated? We needed to do something bold, something noteworthy, to keep our kinship, our connection, in Israel’s memory.”

“How long do you think it will last?” Pinhas asked quietly.

“At the very least, for our lifetimes; perhaps another generation. It is not like in the desert or at camp where we were all together and united against a common enemy. Now every man is concerned for his personal land and his crops and his cattle. The people will not come regularly to the Tabernacle. We shall do what we can to stay true, to feel united, but I fear this new era will present greater challenges.”

“It is painful to hear,” Pinhas said. “But we shall persevere. Do not forget that the Priests and the Levites shall be amongst each tribe. They can be a uniting force. They will visit the Tabernacle regularly and keep the connection alive.”

“I hope so. A war of brothers would be terrible.”

“You think it could happen? After our successful conquest?”

“The war is not over, even if we have stopped fighting,” Gedel looked at both sides of the Jordan. “Were you not the one who killed the prince of Simeon in the desert? How much fighting and contention did we have when we were united under Moses? We shall have more fighting here, more against our real enemies, and I hope less against ourselves, but fighting we shall have. We shall not stop training our children how to wield a sword, though we would all rather wield the plowshare.”

“I shall not leave you on a somber note. Push your people to come to the Tabernacle. When we are united we are strong and God is pleased.”

“Agreed. I shall make the effort. But you and the other princes should visit us as well. And next time, don’t come with an army.”

“You see, Coward,” Ploni smirked at Boaz. “Your magical powers did not help you read the situation. You were very quick to lift your sword against your brother. If we had followed you, it would have led to horrible bloodshed. You are Caleb’s protégé?”

“I was wrong, gravely wrong.” Boaz’s head hung down. “And I apparently needed you of all people to teach me. How could I have been so wrong?”

“You’ve been stuck in your tent too long, afraid of your own shadow. You’ve lost whatever judgment you might have once had. You are a coward and until you face whatever childhood fears you carry, you are dangerous and a liability for all of us. I shall report to Caleb of your near-fiasco and let him figure it out.” Ploni trotted away, following the procession back south.

Amitai edged his donkey next to Boaz’s.

“Are you alright?” Amitai asked.

“No. I am a coward and a fool and it took Ploni to make me see it.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. I’m ashamed to go back, but what else can I do? Perhaps that is part of facing my fears, perhaps I should marry Taliya?”

Pinhas approached the two from behind.

“I couldn’t help overhearing,” Pinhas cleared his throat. “And I saw your impetuous move before, which was truly dangerous. If Gedel had not had good control of his archers, you could have started a war of brothers right here and now.”

“What should I do?”

“I think you should avoid the camp for a bit. It is a cocoon that has sheltered you too much.”

“Where should I go? I need guidance. Caleb has always been my guide.”

“I think you have reached the limits of what you can learn now from mentors. You need to engage with people as an adult. I believe you are frozen with some childhood trauma.”

Boaz hugged his sides and swayed back and forth on his donkey, holding back tears.

“Pinhas, please. I’m confused. I don’t know who I am anymore. Help me.”

Pinhas looked for long moments at Boaz. He looked to the eastern bank of the Jordan. He looked at the mountain range across that had once belonged to the people of Moav, before Moses and the Israelites had conquered it fourteen years earlier.

“I know,” Pinhas concluded, looking back at Boaz and at Amitai next to him. “Seek the tomb of Moses.”

“What? The tomb of Moses? Why? Will he give me guidance?”

“He gives us guidance every day, through the law that he handed us. However, I think you might benefit more by seeking his resting place. I think if Amitai here would be willing to accompany you, it would be even better.”

“I don’t have any love-struck women chasing me, or their angry brothers,” Amitai smiled. “I’m ready.”

“Excellent.” Pinhas clapped his hands. “Get to know the tribes on the eastern side better – the ones you were ready to kill. That may be a worthwhile exercise as well.”

“And then what?” Boaz asked.

“I suspect the answers will present themselves along the road.”

Pinhas turned around and trotted off southward following the back of the retreating western soldiers.

Boaz looked at Amitai. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Sounds like a great idea. You’re not up to it?” Amitai asked.

“What about Taliya?”

“She’ll have to work much harder to find you.”

“At least it will keep her brother off my back.”

“Come, let’s go find Moses’ tomb. Do you know where it is?”

“No. Let’s cross the river and ask someone on the other side.”

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Joshua Chapter 22

Warrior Prophets, Chapter 17: To War with the Eastern Tribes

Warrior Prophets, Chapter 17

Introduction to Part II

To War with the Eastern Tribes

From the diary of Boaz the Bethlemite:

Though consistently triumphant, the natural order prevailed during the remainder of Joshua’s battles. The miraculous days of Moses, the manna from heaven, and the lighting-fast conquests of the vast tracts of land east of the Jordan, all became a vague recollection to me. Even the fantastic battles at Jericho and at Gibeon seemed like a distant memory. It took seven years for the Children of Israel to conquer the land of Canaan, and even then, there were significant areas that the Canaanites still held. Thankfully, Joshua excused me from further fighting. Eventually, I was able to play and study as a normal child, reclaiming some of that lost innocence. It lessened the trauma of the death and destruction I had been a part of.

We conquered many cities and killed many soldiers. The idols and their worshippers were destroyed throughout the land. But there was still a vast population of Canaanites that went unconquered and unchallenged. It took a further seven years to divide the conquered land amongst the less aggressive tribes. My tribe of Judah, under Caleb’s leadership, was the first to claim our vast territory, stretching southward from Jerusalem over the mountains and down until the desert of Beer Sheva. The descendents of Joseph, namely the tribe of Ephraim and the western half of the tribe of Menashe, secured their territory from the ancient city of Shechem and northwards.

The Reuvenites, Gadites and half of the Menashites, the two-and-a-half tribes, as they were called, had their territories on the eastern side of the Jordan, bequeathed to them by Moses himself on condition that they fight with the western tribes. They had done so admirably.

One story I heard but did not witness, tells, how the Reuvenites, upon attacking a city and overcoming the initial defense would immediately attack the city’s temple, smashing its idols, dismantling the altars and then burning the structure. It seemed this took the heart out of the defenders and made conquest all the easier.

The two-and-a-half tribes had left their families and possessions behind and were always at the forefront of every battle. After the battles of conquest ended, the two-and-a-half tribes pressed Joshua to let them return home, or to proceed with division of the rest of the land to the tribes that had not yet claimed any land.

The tribe of Levi, dedicated to the service of God, would receive no tribal allotment. Rather they would be split up throughout cities in Israel and give guidance and instruction to the rest of Israel. The other tribes, Simeon, Yissachar, Zevulun, Dan, Naftali, Asher and Benjamin were comfortable in the camp of Shilo. There was a unity and camaraderie they were hesitant to give up. Joshua berated them:

‘How long will you hesitate to go in to possess the land, which the Lord has given you? Appoint for you three men for each tribe and walk through the land, and describe it according to their inheritance. And they shall divide it into seven portions.’

Surveyors were sent to the conquered territories. They measured tribal boundaries. They noted the cities that belonged to each territory. Upon their return, Joshua conducted a public lottery. The names of the seven remaining tribes were written on a small piece of parchment and placed in a burlap bag. The names of the demarcated territories were likewise written on parchment and placed in a separate bag. The princes of the homeless tribes grabbed one parchment from each bag. So the territories were assigned.

The two-and-a-half tribes went back home. I was twenty four that year. And then we received the news. After a fourteen year campaign of eradicating idol worship, after having worshipped together with us at the sole Tabernacle in Shilo, we received word that the two-and-a-half tribes built their own altar on the banks of the River Jordan, on the border of their tribal allotment. This meant war. War with our own brothers.

Joshua dispatched Pinchas the priest and the ten western tribal princes. They went together with the top soldiers and commanders. Joshua said it would be a diplomatic delegation. It was a delegation with hundreds of Israel’s most fearsome warriors. And Joshua asked me to go along…

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Joshua Chapters 18 and 22

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 16: Monkey in the Middle

Warrior Prophets Chapter 16

Monkey in the Middle

Pain assaulted Akavish’s awareness from multiple points. His mouth was dry and sticky. In semi-consciousness he tried to open it, but his parched lips would not part. He groaned a deep pain-filled noise, but no sound reached his ears. He was light-headed. He had trouble organizing his thoughts. He remembered Boaz and a duel. He had been about to kill Boaz, once and for all. But something had gone horribly wrong.

Then he remembered. The pain just below his right shoulder reminded him. Boaz had cut off his arm. Tears welled up in his closed eyes. My arm? Akavish thought. Is it possible?

Akavish felt the bed underneath him and the clean sheets over him. He had been cared for. He still felt pain down his arm. How is that possible? Was it reattached somehow? Did I dream of losing it?

Akavish slowly moved his left arm towards the stump that was his right. His fingers drew back suddenly from the place where his arm should have been. Tears fell freely down his face. It is gone! Yet I still feel the pain!

Akavish sat up in his bed and opened his eyes. He saw Krafus sitting in a corner of the small room, staring at him with pained eyes.

“Water,” Akavish managed to croak.

Krafus brought a copper cup to Akavish’s lips and held the cup for him as Akavish fumbled it with his left hand. Akavish drained the cup.

“My arm,” Akavish stated.

“Yes,” Krafus answered, understanding the question. “It is gone.”

“But I can still feel it.”

“Yes, warriors who’ve lost limbs talk of the sensation. They swear they can feel their fingers or move their toes, but it is clearly gone.”

“It doesn’t grow back, does it?”

“Not unless you’re a lizard.”

“What happened with Boaz?”

“Your father stopped him and his friend and sold them to the Timna mine. They won’t last long there.”

“What about Risto? He was also hurt.”

“I’ve not seen your monkey since the fight.”

“I must find him.”

“You must recuperate first. You nearly died. And it will take you time to get used to your new condition.”

“You mean as a cripple?”

“No. Not a cripple. It is true you will be at a great disadvantage, and you can give up on the path of a warrior, but I have known many one-armed men who went on to lead productive lives.”

“I am a fighter and that is what I shall do.” Akavish got out of bed, only to fall back into it.

“What happened?” Akavish groaned.

“You lost much blood. If you try to get up slowly it might be easier.”

“Perhaps I’ll rest a little bit longer.” Akavish covered himself again.

“Not so dumb after all,” Krafus declared as he got up. “I’ll go fetch you some food.”

The boy hunted for green. His singular task in life was to find the green rivulets within the rock. The oil lantern was his only friend in his underground prison. He used a small chisel to cut the innards of the earth. He was careful to examine each crumbly grain of dirt. If he found the green, he was to place it lovingly in the bucket at his side. His masters had warned him not to lose any of the green, any of the precious copper. He had the whip marks to remind him. His back still stung from his recent lashing. His whole body was racked with pain and fatigue. He didn’t remember how long he had been digging. Days, months, years? His whole existence seemed a continuous stream of digging. He would collapse to the ground from exhaustion only to be kicked awake a few hours later. Upon awakening he was given a ladle-full of smelly water and a dried crust of bread and whipping if he didn’t start chiseling again quickly.

He tried to remember. Anything. But his mind was a jumble of thoughts and visions that made no sense. His name? He wasn’t sure. Boaz? Boaz. Yes. That sounds right.

What am I doing here? How did I get here? But he couldn’t think clearly. Not knowing what to do and fearing the whip, Boaz kept chiseling with less and less strength.

Risto slapped his furry little hand against his side. He rode on Yered’s shoulder. The old man had nursed the little monkey’s wound and allowed Risto to travel with him. Yered had even tied a thin branch to the stump on Risto’s right side. It was small comfort for the loss of his arm, but he somehow felt better with the branch on rather than off.

Risto was furious with himself. He had grown fond of Akavish. Too fond. He had been aware of Akavish’s many character faults, but had enjoyed the boy’s company and attention. The partnership had turned deadly in their last encounter with the other prodigy, and now both Risto and Akavish had lost an arm. Risto wanted to have nothing further to do with Akavish and decided to follow the eccentric, yet kind old man under him.

“Laugh at me, Joshua and Caleb will,” Yered grumbled to Risto.

Risto chittered at Yered.

“I know, I know. The only hope for Boaz and the Gibeonite, it is.”

Yered approached the Israelite camp at Gilgal, unarmed, except for a one-armed monkey on his shoulder.

“You saw Risto leave with the old man with the golden teeth?” Akavish asked the tavern-keeper.

“Yes. The old man woke up after your father smashed him against the wall. He tended to your monkey and said something about going to Timna.”

“To Timna? To the copper mines? What’s he looking for there?”

“I presume he wants to find his young friends. Perhaps you should seek some human friends, as opposed to chasing after some jungle animal.”

“That animal is my friend. The only one I have.” Akavish stormed out of the tavern.

“I’m not surprised,” the tavern-keeper said to Akavish’s back.

Boaz had brief moments of clarity. I’m being drugged, he realized. That is why my mind is so numb. I can barely think how to get out of this hole. I must retain clarity, but how? I already feel it slipping away. Boaz continued with his mindless digging.

“The son of Job?” Joshua asked incredulously.

“Hard of hearing, young Joshua?” Yered responded.

“Why should I believe your tale? Boaz is a very capable child. I can’t believe he would get entangled in a bar fight, and even less so, to be sold as a slave to the Egyptian copper mines.”

“Met Larus, you have not, nor into unconsciousness smashed, nor in iron chains taken, nor mind numbed from continuous drugs. Die, child will, if you do nothing.”

“How is it this creature is with you?” Caleb asked. “Last we saw him was atop the shoulder of that deadly little Philistine, who was so intent on killing Boaz.”

“Addled your brains, decades in the desert have. Of little monster, monkey tired. One handed, as well, is he. Much more interesting company, I make. Send troops to Timna to free them, if for boy’s life and his friend, the Gibeonite, you care. Otherwise, to certain, though slow and painful death, you doom them. To accompany you, am willing and ready am I. Suicidal it would be, going on my own. To give up on my inordinately long life, am not prepared yet.”

“Why should we believe you?”

“Chance that I’m right, are you willing to take?”

Krafus insisted on accompanying Akavish. They hired camels in Beer-Sheva for the long trek south to Timna.

Akavish rode unhappily atop the camel’s hump.

“How is one supposed to ride these infernal beasts?” Akavish asked.

“Much like a horse, I suppose. Point them in the right direction and make sure not to fall off.”

“They smell and this heat is suffocating.” Akavish tried to wipe his sweaty brow, with his lone remaining hand, lost balance, and promptly toppled off the camel, to the dusty, hard ground of the Negev desert.

Where is the drug, Boaz thought in his moment of clarity. The bread? What can they place in that dry piece of bark? The water? No, I’ve noticed the masters drinking from it as well. What is it? It must be something in the air. Yes. That must be why they cover their faces when they come in the mine. That is it. If I can raise my shirt up to my nose and take it off when they approach…

Caleb led a dozen of his best soldiers south along the shore of the Salt Sea. Caleb feared strange Yered was telling the truth and time was of the essence.

Krafus and Akavish could see the opening to the great copper mine of Timna. The red mountains were a stark contrast to cloudless blue sky. From the south, they could smell the breeze from the Sea of Reeds.

“Let me handle this,” Krafus told Akavish as a burly Egyptian overseer approached.

“You come for copper?” The Egyptian asked.

“Perhaps,” Krafus answered.

“This one not good for slave,” the Egyptian pointed at Akavish’s missing arm, “so better be to buy copper.”

“We seek information.”

“Copper prices have not changed.”

“We are seeking a man. A very old man. He may have had an unusual animal with him.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about. Wasting my time. Leave.” The Egyptian turned his back and walked back to the mine entrance.

“Is there a young boy here?” Akavish blurted. “An Israelite, red-head, about ten or eleven years old?”

The Egyptian turned around.

“All are young boys here. I don’t care for age, color or nation. Thinking that one-hand can probably also dig.” The Egyptian approached menacingly. Akavish noticed the whip in his hand and the large sword by his side. Half a dozen Egyptian guards, showing interest in the discussion, left the mine entrance and approached Krafus and Akavish.

“Never mind,” Krafus called out and turned his camel away, motioning to Akavish to follow.

“Not buying copper, not selling slaves, asking strange questions. By Ra! Spies or trouble-makers. Deal with each same way.” The Egyptians closed in on Krafus and Akavish.

Arrows suddenly protruded from the chests of each of the Egyptians. The Egyptians had just enough time to register surprise as they dropped to the floor, dead.

“Yered spoke the truth,” an Israelite voice called out. “There is the one-armed Philistine boy.”

Akavish looked up the mountain to see a dozen Israelite soldiers with Caleb, and fresh arrows in bows aimed at him. He was pleased to see his monkey on the old man’s shoulder.

“Risto!” Akavish called out. “Come to me.” Akavish opened his arms.

Risto did not budge off of Yered’s shoulder, but merely glared at Akavish.

“You four,” Caleb pointed at soldiers to his left. “Guard the Philistines. The rest, with me to the mine.”

Before Caleb could reach the mine entrance, they heard a commotion from deep within the mine. Suddenly, an exhausted, blood-drenched Boaz emerged, with a bloody chisel in his hand. Shakra, the Gibeonite, was behind him, together with dozens of children, teenagers and men, bedraggled, bloody and blinking in the strong desert sun.

“Caleb!” Boaz shouted joyously. “What took you so long? I thought I would live out the rest of a mindless existence down there.”

“It looks like you didn’t need us after all.” Caleb grinned.

“Truth, I spoke. Child fortunate.”

Akavish stuck his left hand in his tunic, but Krafus grabbed his arm with a vice-like grip.

“Have you learned nothing, child!” Krafus berated Akavish. “Do you wish to die so badly? You would attempt to kill this child, at which you have failed so miserably, while surrounded by four of his compatriots with arrows pointed at your heart?” Krafus released Akavish’s arm. “Perhaps you deserve to die. You can put your idiotic and misguided existence out of its short and tragic misery.”

Akavish looked back to Risto.

“Risto, please, come back to me.”

Risto jumped off of Yered’s shoulder, grabbed ahold of Yered’s water skin and filled his mouth from it. He then hopped to Akavish. Within arm’s reach, Risto spat a gush of water at Akavish’s face. Surprised, Akavish spluttered as the water dripped to the dry desert floor. Risto turned his back on Akavish and farted loudly. He hopped back to Yered and jumped onto his shoulder.

“That’s incredible!” Shakra exclaimed. “That animal really doesn’t like you.”

“There is nothing more for you here.” Krafus held Akavisk’s arm tenderly. “Let’s go home.”

Akavish looked one last time at Risto, his sole childhood companion and friend. He then turned to look at Boaz, and saw him as if for the first time.

Boaz, sensing a change in Akavish, called out:

“Do you still hate me?”

“Probably. But I hate myself more,” Akavish answered with the heaviness of truth. “Let’s go home,” he turned to Krafus.

Caleb motioned for the Israelite soldiers to let them go. Krafus and Akavish cantered their camels northward without looking back.

Caleb and Boaz hugged.

“When I could think, I thought this was my end.” Boaz cried. “That I would be doomed to this eternal hellish trance. I’m so glad you came.”

“You seem to have escaped on your own.”

“If those guards would have been at their posts and you hadn’t shot them, I’m not sure we would have had the strength to make it.”

“Well, we are safe now. Are you ready?”

“Yes, please. Let’s go home.”

* * * * * *