Category Archives: Naomi

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 3 – Dangerous Charity

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 3

 Dangerous Charity

“Excuse me. Pardon me,” Vered requested mildly, as she pushed her way through the crowd around Naomi’s house. She couldn’t believe how large the crowd was, barely two hours into the day. She recognized most of the people as her fellow residents of Bethlehem. However, there were several from other Judean towns and there were some that she didn’t even think were Judean at all.

Vered had long ago lost her height and her bright red hair. But she had not lost her verve and strength of purpose and made her way through the hungry beggars outside Naomi’s door. Wearing her short white hair bundled under her tan scarf and a simple tan dress, she passed an anxious old man at the door and entered Naomi’s house.

“Oh, Vered,” a frazzled Naomi greeted her, handing her a tray with freshly baked bread. “Thank God you’re here. If you could give out this batch, I’ll take the next one out of the oven.”

Vered looked in astonishment at the trays of fresh bread throughout the house.

“Where did this come from? When did you make all of this?” Vered asked incredulously.

“What? I don’t know,” Naomi answered absently, as she removed another loaf from the brick oven with the bread paddle. She burned her hand lightly as she touched the metal edge of the paddle, trying to keep the fresh bread from falling off. Her hands and arms were filled with small blisters. “I haven’t slept. I’ve been baking the entire night. Just when I think I’ve run out of dough, there’s more. And there are more and more people to feed.”

Vered gave a loaf to the old man she had passed, and then to a young girl behind him, to a widowed young woman after her and to every person that appeared at Naomi’s door. She looked out the door to view the sea of people around the house.

“Elimelech is going to find out,” Vered said to Naomi. Naomi was busy kneading more dough as Vered gave out another tray’s-worth of bread.

“I know,” Naomi said. “I don’t know what to do! He was right and he’s going to be furious. But I can’t stop. I can’t waste this blessing.”

“Elimelech is a great man. Perhaps he’ll understand,” Vered suggested.

“No. Elimelech is blind to the blessing. He has given up and only looks inward. We must feed these people and get them out before sunset, before he returns from the fields with the boys.”

“Maybe Boaz can talk to him. Boaz could convince him that you’re doing the right thing,” Vered said hesitantly.

“That is sweet of you to offer, dear. But if your husband were to approach Elimelech, it would only make matters worse. Elimelech is very proud and much wounded.  It would make him even madder. No. Let’s feed these poor souls and hope for the best. If I don’t collapse from all this work, I’ll fall apart from worry. But I have no choice. What would my grandfather have done? What would Nachshon the Brave do?”


“I swear there’s more grain in the field today than there was yesterday,” Elimelech said as he wiped the sweat off his brow. He stood with his sons in the middle of his vast fields, reaping the summer harvest.

“How is that possible?” Mahlon asked.

“Who cares?” Kilyon replied. “It gives me more to cut. You think you’re so good with the oxen, watch me with the scythe. Here’s a new move I came up with.”

Kilyon jumped into the thick stalks of wheat and twirled around with the scythe held out. A ring of sheaves fell around him.

“How’s that?” Kilyon grinned. “You saw how quickly I cut them? I figured it would take me half the time it takes you.”

“Maybe,” Mahlon answered. “But look how much you left behind. You’ll have to do the inner circle again.”

“We have so much wheat, what do we need the inner circle for? I just want to do it quickly and get out of here.”

“The rest of the world is starving and you want to leave wheat behind?” Elimelech asked sharply. “What’s wrong with you Kilyon?”

“Watch me again, father. Watch how quickly I can cut. I tell you this is going to be a new way to harvest.”

Kilyon jumped into another thicket of wheat and twirled himself and his scythe rapidly. Suddenly, the sharp metallic head of the scythe dislodged from the wooden handle and went flying towards Elimelech. Elimelech tried to jump out of the way, but his old body no longer had the reflexes of youth. The sharp edge of the scythe cut a long gash across Elimelech’s thigh and then fell to the ground. Elimelech yelped in pain.

“Kilyon! What have you done!?” Elimelech screamed as he pressed on his thigh, trying to stem the flow of blood.

Kilyon looked with mouth ajar at his pole, with the absent head of the scythe, and then at his father and the scythe-head on the ground. He ran towards his father. Mahlon was already at his side, having ripped a piece of his tunic off to made a crude bandage for their father’s leg.

“Take me home,” Elimelech commanded, grimacing in pain. “Your recklessness could have killed someone. What good is all this blessing now if we can’t harvest? To waste a blessing is worse than being cursed.”

“I’m sorry, father,” Kilyon said as he got under Elimelech’s arm. Mahlon was already supporting him from the other side.

“You’re not nearly sorry enough. There will be repercussions, my son.” Elimelech winced as his sons carried him, never realizing how right he was.


Naomi and Vered worked tirelessly. They took turns kneading, baking and handing out fresh loaves to hungry Israelites. Vered recognized people from the nearby tribes of Simeon and Benjamin and even from Ephraim, a full day’s journey away. The crowd only seemed to grow as the sun reached its midday height.

“What is this!?” Elimelech’s voice roared over the din of the patient mob. The sea of people parted, letting Elimelech through. Elimelech hopped on one leg, the other bandaged, with fresh blood seeping through the bandage. He was supported on either side by Mahlon and Kilyon.

“Why are you all here? What do you want from me?” Elimelech asked the crowd.

“Bread. The house of Elimelech has bread,” one boy volunteered.

“Naomi,” Elimelech hissed through gritted teeth and hopped to the house. No one stood in the way of the angry husband.

“Naomi! What have you done!?” Elimelech bellowed, as Mahlon and Kilyon helped him into the house. Kilyon closed the door behind them.

“I’m sorry!” Naomi fell to her knees, tears streaming down her face. “You were right, I know. But we had all this flour and all this bread and they were so hungry. How could we not feed them?”

“Have you seen the mob outside? That is exactly what I feared. Exactly! Will you single-handedly feed the entire nation? It’s hopeless.”

“Elimelech, please listen,” Naomi cried. “A miracle has been placed on our doorstep. I’ve been feeding dozens, hundreds of people and the bread doesn’t run out. How can we stop?”

“Are you mad? Are you imagining things?”

“Elimelech, it’s true,” Vered interceded. “I’ve seen it myself. It’s a miracle. The flour doesn’t end. Your wife has been able to give a loaf of fresh bread to every single person who has come to your door.”

“Vered,” Elimelech addressed his nephew’s wife. “I will thank you not to get involved in our personal matters. Please leave my house.”

“Bread!” was chanted from outside the door. “Elimelech! Bread! Elimelech! Bread!”

“You see, Naomi?” Elimelech looked around wildly. “They will attack us like locust and still they will not be satisfied and we will be destitute. This is what you’ve brought upon us!”

“Bread! Elimelech! Bread! Elimelech!” The crowd banged on the door and pushed against the stone walls of the house. Dirt from the thatch roof fell as stones from the wall moved. Naomi got off her knees and grabbed a towel to cover the dough to make sure it did not get dirty.

“Stop!” Boaz’s voice called out from outside the house. “Are we in Sodom that we assault the house of our neighbors? Is this Givaah, where residents are attacked for their hospitality? Go home! The house of Elimelech will reopen its doors when it is ready to assist again. Go home!”

The crowd dispersed, shame-faced, looking downwards and hungry. Dirt from the roof stopped falling and people moved away from the house.

There was a polite rap on the door.

“It is I, Boaz,” a firm voice announced.

Mahlon opened the door for him.

“Thank you, Boaz,” Elimelech greeted him. “Your intercession is appreciated, though we could have handled matters well enough ourselves.”

“It looked like a riot from my side, uncle,” Boaz responded. “I feared that in a few more moments they would have broken the house down altogether. There were a lot of hungry people.” Boaz looked at the fresh loaves of bread throughout the house accusingly.

“We cannot feed everyone,” Elimelech answered the unasked question. “There will be more riots if we do. God will have to provide to each their allotted portion, as he did with the manna in the desert. I cannot bear this burden.”

“You know quite well the days of the manna are long gone. If you have been blessed with a surplus, uncle, I think you have a responsibility to share as much as you can. Will you gorge yourself on all this bread as our brothers starve to death?”

“Do not lecture me, nephew,” Elimelech said, standing taller. “I will not be held responsible to feed all the less fortunate, nor will I be made to feel guilty over my own good fortune. But I see that is no longer possible here. You and all our neighbors will look to me for support. All the tribes have probably heard of Naomi’s largesse and will come flocking to my door. We must depart. We cannot stay here.”

“Depart? Where will we go?” Naomi asked in confusion.

“I don’t know; certainly not within Judah. They will look to me as their prince and demand food when there is none to provide. The other tribes are not good either. They all know me and will make demands as well. We must go into exile. We must go someplace where we are foreigners and where there will be no expectations, no responsibilities. I am tired. I am tired of carrying the burden of my brethren, my people, on my shoulders. Woefully unqualified shoulders. I am not my father. I was never as wise or as brave as Nachshon.”

“Leave?” Boaz asked. “How can you leave?”

“You see, Boaz. Even you expect me to stay. You, who has seen all my failures from up close. You, a better leader than I ever was. You would still keep me as your head when I lost the right to such a title so long ago. No, Boaz. I must leave. I must leave now. Naomi, pack only what we can carry. Take our jewels, our valuables and our gold. Pack up the bread for our journey. Mahlon, ready the animals. We take them all. I will ride in the wagon. Kilyon will take me to the healer to deal with my leg and then we will leave.”

“I don’t believe this. Where are we going!?” Naomi sobbed.

“To the only other place and people that our family knows.” Elimelech looked at Mahlon. “We’re going to Moab.”

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Book of Ruth, Chapter 1

1 And it came to pass in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the field of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Kilyon, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. And they came into the field of Moab, and continued there.

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 1 – Elimelech’s Sin

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 1

 Elimelech’s Sin

“I’m sorry, but you must hurry,” Naomi pleaded with the old woman. “You must leave before my husband returns.”

Naomi rushed the old woman out of her house and handed her a small loaf of fresh dark bread.

“Thank you, Naomi,” the old woman said as she slowly moved one arthritic leg in front of the next. “You’re a lifesaver.”

Naomi stood in the doorway of her large stone house, looking at her neighbors walking on the main stone-lined road of Bethlehem. The cool breeze of the Judean Mountains softened the otherwise harsh heat of the Canaanite sun. But the setting summer sun did nothing to soften the grim faces of the Bethlehemites.

Naomi could see the outline of the ribs of young boys playing lethargically with the remains of what once must have been a ball of rags. Babies cried weakly against the bosoms of their mothers. Tired women held wicker baskets large enough to carry four times the sheaves of wheat they had managed to salvage from the remains of the day’s harvest. Naomi shed a tear as she had every day of the last three years, closed the door of the house and shut out the evidence of the deepening famine. She tidied up the room and double-checked that there was no sign of the dozens of neighbors that had come through her house that day. She knew Elimelech disapproved, but she could not help herself. These were her friends, her neighbors, her relatives. She could not refrain from sharing the unusual and growing blessing of food that her family was enjoying.

Elimelech walked in the door as he always did, sweating and face flushed from the exertion of the harvest. The red in his face matched the remaining red in his beard, though every year the red lost more territory to the spread of white. Though he came from a long-lived line, the signs of age weighed heavily on Elimelech. He was followed by his sons, Mahlon and Kilyon. Naomi always felt a short sweet pang of pleasure at seeing her strong handsome sons. Mahlon and Kilyon were both muscular and tanned from their work in the fields. The soft curls of bright red hair matched their short beards. Except for their appearance, Mahlon and Kilyon had widely different personalities. Mahlon was quiet and pensive, never comfortable amongst his fellow Judeans, but rather preferring the company of the farm animals. Kilyon was loud and brash, happy to tease his older brother at every opportunity.

“Can you believe it?” Kilyon asked his brother.

“It does seem unusual,” Mahlon answered. “It’s not the first time I’ve suspected this, but now I think we’ve confirmed it.”

“What’s going on?” their mother asked.

“We seem to have more grain than we gathered.” Elimelech cleared his throat.

“More!? Not less?” Naomi asked incredulously, thinking of all the grain she had been regularly siphoning away. “How is that possible?”

“I don’t know.” Elimelech ran his fingers through his long beard. “But besides planting, growing and harvesting more than anyone else, our grain also seems to be multiplying while in storage. I’ve already agreed to buy Amitai’s field in return for part of our grain. For all of his ingenuity he has not managed to grow a good crop. Why, Mahlon and his oxen can plow twice the number of our fields in half the time.”

“Perhaps we should share some of this blessing?” Naomi asked, knowing the answer.

“I’ve told you before, Naomi. We give our tithes and our priestly gifts and all of the various leavings of the field as per the Law of Moses. If we were to give more, we would be quickly overrun. Beggars would come from all around if they knew there were rich pickings here. No, Naomi. We must keep and save and invest what we have rightfully earned.”

“But Elimelech, our neighbors are starving while our granary is overflowing!” Naomi begged.

“Woman,” Elimelech said sternly. “I have spoken. We shall wash up and then we shall eat.” Elimelech and the brothers went to the back of the house to wash themselves.

There was a loud knock on the door which interrupted Naomi from looking at the place her husband had been. She opened the door and was startled to see a dark-haired clean-shaven middle-aged man. He wore a dark flowing robe that covered an athletic build. His handsome features were only marred by a condescending sneer that seemed permanently affixed to his face.

“Is this the home of the Prince of Judah, Elimelech son of Nachshon the Brave?” the stranger asked with a surprisingly nasal voice.

“Who are you? Where are you from? What do you want?” Naomi asked, disliking the stranger immediately.

“My name is Sumahtrid. I have come from far. I wish to speak with your husband, Naomi, granddaughter of Nachshon the Brave.” Sumahtrid’s eyes misted over and his sneer got wider. “Yes, Naomi. Nachshon’s blood runs strong in your veins. I can sense it without even touching you. May I?” Sumahtrid asked without waiting for an answer. With the pointy nail of his index finger, the black-robed man quickly pierced Naomi’s arm, drew blood, sucked on the bloody fingernail and then forced himself into the house, past the bewildered Naomi.

“Ah, what power,” Sumahtrid commented as he licked his fingernail. A most powerful bloodline. My master was foolish to have underestimated the boy.”

“Who are you?” Elimelech asked threateningly as he reentered the room, with Mahlon and Kilyon behind him.

“Prince Elimelech.” Sumahtrid bowed formally. “I have come from a great distance to meet you and your sons. I am here now merely for informational purposes.” Sumahtrid approached Mahlon with hunger in his eyes.

“Watch his nail!” Naomi warned, having recovered from Sumahtrid’s entrance.

Sumahtrid attempted to jab Mahlon’s arm but Mahlon grabbed the stranger’s arm before he could draw blood. Sumahtrid grinned at the contact, cocked his head back and said to no one in particular:

“Gifts! Gifts! This family is blessed with gifts, yet they do not know!”

Sumahtrid laughed a cruel laugh as one enjoying his enemy’s misery.

“Listen to me, son of Nachshon,” Sumahtrid looked deep into Elimelech’s eyes. “I am a seer, a prophet, a sorcerer and much more. I have visions. I have seen visions of your future. It is grim and it is as it should be. Though there is much uncertainty in my visions. Much left unanswered and much at risk. I hoped by seeing your family it would give me clarity. But all I see is the power and the danger.”

“What are you ranting about? Get out of my house or I will throw you out.” Elimelech took a step towards the sorcerer, his arm still held firmly by Mahlon.

“Your family cannot harm me. Yet I shall depart, for I have accomplished my mission. But I will leave you with one warning. Beware the Moabite,” Sumahtrid turned his misty gaze upon Mahlon. “Beware her quiet charm. She will doom all your people.”

Sumahtrid twisted his arm out of Mahlon’s grasp and ran for the door, cackling as he jogged through the streets of Bethlehem.

“Well, that was fun!” Kilyon exclaimed after an awkward silence. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hungry.”

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 27 – King of the River

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 27

King of the River

Jalet was an early riser. He loved to greet the sun from his palace in Kir Moav. He hefted his wide girth through the double wooden doors that led to the opulent porch and bowed formally to the monarch of the sky.

Life was comfortable. His older cousin, Eglon, Emperor of Moab, had assigned Jalet to administer the ancestral Moabite stronghold while Eglon reigned from his new capital in the City of Palms.

Jalet ate well. He was not nearly as large as Eglon, but he did make a point of enjoying every delicacy he could acquire. Eglon. Eglon had been on his mind of late. He had such mixed feelings about his wildly successful cousin. On one hand, he was appreciative of the trust and position Eglon had given him. Jalet was the king of Kir Moav and had very little to worry about beyond the petty squabbles and fights of the people within his walls. On the other hand he was jealous of Eglon; jealous of his extraordinary success, wealth and power. Eglon had risen from a simple warlord of the Moabites to the conqueror of Amalek, Ammon and all the tribes of Israel. He had become a major force in the world, controlling trade from Egypt to Mesopotamia. His upcoming alliance with Egypt would make him partner to what would become the strongest, largest empire in history. Oh, how Jalet wished for such power, such grandeur, such control of one’s destiny and the fate of the world. But here he was, relegated to what had become a minor outpost in the grand scheme.

Jalet noticed from his porch a line of travelers approaching the city. It was rare for so many people to arrive at Kir Moav at once. As they got closer, he saw it was mostly women and children. He recognized Moabites from the City of Palms. Then he spotted Empress Neema and her daughters on foot, in torn and soiled clothing, and he knew something had gone terribly wrong.


You have done well, my son, God said to Ehud in his dream. You have freed my people, and more importantly, you have restored their faith. They shall now serve me wholeheartedly. At least for a time.

I am your servant, Ehud thought to God. I am gratified that we were successful.

Yes. However, I have another task for you.

I am ready.

You are to go to Bethlehem and gather Mahlon son of Elimelech. I have given him a gift. A gift that you shall utilize.


I will have you send a message to Egypt. Evil thoughts and evil deeds shall not go unpunished. No one, not even Pharaoh is beyond my reach. They have forgotten. We shall have to teach them again. However, this time the message will be just for Pharaoh.


“I don’t believe it,” Jalet said for the tenth time, as Empress Neema sat in his audience chamber and described the death of Eglon and the fall of the City of Palms and the Moabite Empire. Ruth and Orpa sat on either side of Neema. Bagdon was in the chamber as well, pacing as Neema spoke.

“The city has been burned to the ground and all of our forces, all ten thousand soldiers are dead,” Neema concluded.

“We were betrayed!” Bagdon interrupted. “We were betrayed by Galkak. He turned the forces of Ammon and Amalek against us. But at least he is dead. He has paid for his betrayal.”

“Galkak!?” Neema screeched. “Galkak was the most loyal friend and ally Moab ever had. He was from my people. From Amalek. He conquered Rabbath Ammon single-handedly. He saved Eglon countless times. No. No, Bagdon. Now that I think of it, it is you, Bagdon, you Israelite that has orchestrated all of this. Eglon trusted you. He raised you as a son. He promised our Orpa to you. I warned him he could never trust an Israelite, no matter how many of your brothers you killed. But no, he wouldn’t listen. He fawned over you. He thought you were the ideal subject. You were his success. And now you have given us ashes. And you have the gall to accuse the one decent man we have ever known? Galkak was probably on to you and you killed him. Cousin,” Neema turned to Jalet, “get rid of this traitor.”

“But, but, I am general of the forces of the Moabite Empire. I should take over!” Bagdon stammered.

“And where are your forces, General?” Jalet asked quietly.

“I can rebuild them. We can reconquer those Israelite peasants. I will fulfill Eglon’s vision. I am his heir!”

Jalet shifted his weight on the throne, understanding the situation and knowing immediately what he had to do.

“Bagdon, you are young, and I will excuse your excitement, massive failure and potential treason. My dear, departed, cousin Eglon, did place his trust in you. Therefore, if you leave Kir Moav now and never return to Moabite territory I will not have you killed.” Jalet motioned the two chamber guards closer. They understood and pointed their spears at Bagdon. “However,” Jalet continued, “if you remain, we shall execute you, as per the accusation of the Empress – is that satisfactory, Neema?”

Neema nodded. Bagdon looked at Jalet, sensing his seriousness. He looked at Neema and finally at Orpa.

“I would have been a good husband to you. I would have made you proud,” Bagdon said to Orpa and stormed out of the chambers.

“Well, now that that’s settled, let us continue our discussion, Neema.” Jalet rubbed his thick hands. “Let us speak frankly. The Empire is finished. All that remains of the might of Moab is here in this stronghold which I rule.”

“I am Empress!” Neema stood up, knowing where Jalet was going.

“My dear, Neema. You were the Empress. And as you so correctly pointed out, you are Amalekite. That is where your true allegiance lies and as our nations are no longer united, I would recommend you return home. However, I am feeling magnanimous, so I shall give you the following additional choices: you may marry me and be a humble Queen of Moab as you once were, before the failed Empire was conceived. Alternatively, you and your daughters are welcome to remain as permanent guests of our palace. You will hold no office or rank, but it is the least I can do for the poor homeless family of my dear deceased cousin. In any case, you must recognize my succession to Eglon to the throne of Moab, on which I already comfortably sit.” Jalet patted the armrest of his chair.

Neema said nothing for a few minutes, looking angry, then somber and finally smiling.

“You have certainly inherited some of Eglon’s cunning.” Neema reached out and caressed Jalet’s arm. “You are both right and gracious in your suggestions, King Jalet of Moab. I have always been attracted to power. Now you have it and you have shown you know how to wield it. Give me some time to consider your offer. There is one other journey I must make with my daughters to explore our fortunes before I will be able to give you a reply. Would that be acceptable?”

“Neema, take as long as you need. My home will always be open to you and your daughters.”


“Ehud! How good to see you! How is Blimah?” Vered greeted Ehud warmly at the entrance to their bakery. It was late afternoon in Bethlehem.

“Blimah is relieved that Eglon and the Moabites are gone and my role with them finished. But she was a bit disappointed that I needed to leave home again so soon.”

“She’s a good woman. Make sure to get back to her as soon as you can. Boaz! Ehud is here!” Vered called to the back of the bakery.

Boaz entered the storefront and embraced Ehud.

“What brings you to Bethlehem?” Boaz asked.


“Mahlon? What do you want with him?”

“He has a power that will be useful for my next mission.”

“With animals.”

“Yes. How is he adjusting to being back home?”

“I think he’s having difficulties, and Elimelech is a wreck.”

“I figured. That’s why I came to you first. How bad is Elimelech?”

“He is broken. He is a great man, but he has been on the wrong side of the major events of our times. He led the civil war, yet he did not support your effort against Eglon. His leadership has been disastrous, yet people still look up to him and he is filled with self-doubt. He will not be happy to see you.”

“I need Mahlon.”

“Elimelech will not stop you, but Naomi might. Her son has just been returned to her after eighteen years. She had thought him lost forever. She will not wish to part with him again.”

“This will be a short absence.”

“Nonetheless, she will object. Would you like me to come along with you?”

“Thank you, Boaz, but I think it better if I go alone. You two look good. Thanks again for your help in the battle.”

“I hope that’s the last one. I was almost killed, you know. If it weren’t for your man Davneh, I would have been skewered.”

“I know. He was a good man and I was sorry to lose him.”

Boaz and Ehud embraced again and Ehud walked down the road to Elimelech’s home.

Ehud knocked on their door tentatively.

Naomi opened the door. She wore a simple beige dress with thick red hair tied neatly under her headdress. Her smile quickly turned to a frown when she recognized Ehud.

“Ehud,” she said.

“Hello, Naomi. May I come in?”

“You bring nothing but trouble to our family.”

“I’m sorry you see it that way. The trouble is never of my making. I have an important mission I must talk to your family about.”

“Family? You want Mahlon, don’t you. I know he’s having a hard time readjusting, but that’s no reason for him to leave.”

“Naomi, please let me in, so we can discuss things calmly. Is Elimelech home?”

“Yes. He and the boys just returned from the field and are washing up. Come in, then. I will get them.”

Ehud entered the large common area. A long wooden table filled the room. Naomi went to the back of the house. She returned with Elimelech, Mahlon and his younger brother Kilyon. Kilyon had the same red hair and muscular build as his brother and father.

“What do you want now?” Elimelech asked.

“May I sit down?” Ehud asked.

“What do you want!?” Elimelech asked again.

“I need Mahlon for a few weeks, perhaps even less. There is something I must do, that he is uniquely blessed to help me with.”

Mahlon, already happy at the sight of Ehud, smiled even more.

“I’m happy to go, Father,” Mahlon said. “I could use a break from this Judean town.”

“You are not going anywhere, young man; and this Judean town is your home!” Naomi stomped her foot.

“What is it you need him for?” Elimelech asked.


“Against who?”

“Our people’s enemies.”

“Is that all you ask of us?”

“That is all I ask.”

“Naomi, you know Mahlon has been uncomfortable here.” Elimelech turned to his wife. “We cannot cage him here. He is a grown man. I agree to let him go with Ehud, but on one condition.”

“What condition?” Ehud asked.

“That he returns to Bethlehem and makes a greater effort to be at peace here.”

“I agree, Father,” Mahlon said quickly.

“Can I go as well?” Kilyon asked.

“No,” Ehud, Elimelech and Naomi said at once.

“Why does Mahlon get to have all the fun?” Kilyon asked, but nobody bothered to answer him.


“Terrible about Eglon,” Seti said to Pharaoh in the audience chamber.

“Yes. He had so much promise. I will miss that fat, uncouth Moabite. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. What did we lose from the gambit? A few horses and a little gold? It would have been well worth it had he been successful,” Pharaoh told his son and heir. “Do not fret. Nature abhors a vacuum. We shall find some other agent to take up the reigns of power in the area and do our bidding. It may be time to further cultivate our relationship with the Ammonites.”

“Yes, Pharaoh. You are wise and far-seeing as always.”

“One must think in terms of generations and eternity, though I would have loved to see the ears of the Israelite firstborns that Eglon had promised. No matter. Time will furnish us with another puppet.”

“I am concerned about how thoroughly Eglon’s power was destroyed,” Seti said.

“Yes, it was somewhat of a surprise. Perhaps Eglon exuded power he did not truly possess. He was something of a charlatan.”

“Perhaps, or perhaps there is something we haven’t considered.”

“No. Eglon attempted to rise above his station and insinuate himself into our circle. He overreached and failed. It is as simple as that.”

“As you say, Pharaoh,” Seti said, unconvinced.


Ehud and Mahlon made good time to Egypt. It took them ten days on the road from Beer Sheva. They connected with the Sea road, and traveled undisturbed. They kept the great sea to their right and the Sinai desert to their left. Their mounts loved Mahlon, who knew exactly how to get the best speed out of them. He rested the horses when they needed it. He made sure they were fed and watered at good intervals but he also knew how to push them when they were getting lazy. Horses were notoriously lazy animals and they would use any excuse to slow down, wander off the road and nibble at wild grass.

The duo left the desert and entered the lush fields of the Nile delta. Vast irrigation ditches stretched for miles around the delta and south on either side of the northward flowing river. Black slaves from Sheba worked the fields, plowing for the summer crop. Ehud and Mahlon rode southwards, bypassing the city and Pharaoh’s palace.

They found a rocky, uncultivated stretch of land on the river bank.

“This spot should work,” Ehud said.

“I told you before, Ehud. I don’t know if I can do this at all. They are completely different creatures.”

“You’ll be able to do it. I have utter faith in you.”

“That’s nice, but I don’t have faith in myself.”

“Let’s find out.”

They dismounted and tied their horses to a nearby willow tree, its long curved branches touching the rushing river. Mahlon approached the water, lay down on the mossy ground and closed his eyes. Mahlon sent his mind out to find the creatures nearby. He felt the warm familiar minds of their two horses. They were happy to rest and were already becoming drowsy after the long journey. He felt some sparrows hiding in the willow, chattering to each other inanely.

Mahlon pushed his mind to the river. He sensed a catfish nearby, but was unable to comprehend its thoughts.

“I can’t do it.” Mahlon rolled over, opened his eyes and massaged the temples of his head. “They are completely alien. It’s a foreign language. It’s one thing to talk to mammals, but these creatures are completely different.”

“Keep trying,” Ehud encouraged.

“Fine, but I think your whole plan is crazy.”

“Just talk to them.”

Mahlon rolled back onto his stomach, closed his eyes and sent his mind once again to the river. He found another catfish and tried to understand its thoughts. There was a familiarity to its mind, but at the same time, something completely different. Mahlon imagined himself in the water and tried to feel what the catfish was feeling.

Then he heard it. The catfish was thinking “move, move, move,” over and over again. Mahlon understood. It was a much simpler creature, without the sophistication and complexity of the mammals he had known his whole life.

Mahlon reached further and found a water snake slithering in the river. He heard its “hunt, hunt, hunt,” as it scoured the river bank. Now for the king of the river, Mahlon thought.

He sensed one a mile upstream, a massive crocodile. It herded a school of carp against the side of the river and snapped its powerful jaws from side to side, scooping up the flailing fish in its large mouth and chomping them quickly. Mahlon waited until the crocodile had finished its noisy repast and calmly floated downstream. Mahlon sensed the reptilian intelligence and spoke to the crocodile’s mind.

You are powerful, Mahlon introduced himself.

Yes. I fear none, the crocodile thought back.

Truly? There are none that threaten you?

I am the largest of my kind. Only the hippo, Taweret, is dangerous, but she is far now.

What is your name?

I am Timsah, father of Garwe.

I am Mahlon, son of Elimelech.

You are curious. I have never communicated with man like this.

I have a special ability.

It is interesting. I would learn more of man. They dirty the river, divert the water and change the course of my home. Why do they not stay on the land and leave the water to me?

Does not Timsah also come onto land at times?

Only when water hunting is poor.

It is the same for man or even more so. I will tell more if you will do me a favor.

Perhaps I shall eat you instead.

Do you eat all men that you encounter?

No. Only annoying ones, or if I am very hungry. Your meat is too soft and your bones too hard.

Will you do me this favor?

It depends on what you ask.

Approach and I will explain.

Timsah swam towards Mahlon and Ehud, moving its tail and body sinuously.

All Mahlon could see of the king of the river were his eyes, ears and nostrils. Otherwise he was invisible. Ehud jumped as Timsah crawled suddenly onto the river bank. Timsah was the length of two grown men. He had a dark bronze scaly skin sprinkled with black spots. His sides were a pistachio green and he walked firmly on four short splayed legs. Bright green eyes stared at Mahlon.

Greetings, Timsah, king of the river.

Greetings, Mahlon son of Elimelech. It is surprisingly pleasing to speak to man in this fashion. Who is this man next to you? Does he not speak as you do?

This is Ehud, Mahlon motioned. He is my friend and he is the favor I require.



Pharaoh rose with the sun, Ra, his fellow god. Pharaoh loved the early morning. It was the only time during his busy day he had to himself. Since time immemorial, all Pharaohs performed their morning ablutions in solitude. He went to the river bank outside his palace and washed his face with the life-giving waters of another friend from the pantheon, the river god, Hapi son of Horus.

As he rinsed his eyes, Pharaoh beheld a sight more wondrous than any he had ever seen in his life. From the river in front of him, a man rose from the water atop the largest crocodile he had ever seen. The man spat out a hollow reed from his mouth and still dripping from head to toe, stepped calmly onto the river bank.

“Are you a god?” Pharaoh asked Ehud.

“I am a messenger of God,” Ehud answered, shaking water off of himself.

“Which god?”

“There is only one God. The God of Israel.”

“Israel?” Pharaoh took a step back, frightened. “Who are you? What is the message?”

“The message is actually for your son, the new Pharaoh.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand!” Pharaoh screamed, starting to panic.

“Clearly.” Ehud unsheathed the sword strapped to his back and stabbed Pharaoh. Pharaoh collapsed to the ground, dead. Ehud raised his sword and cut off Pharaoh’s ear. Ehud took the dismembered ear and placed it upon the palm of Pharaoh’s prone hand. Ehud then impaled the ear and the hand, leaving the protruding sword like a flag upon the battlefield.

“There is your firstborn’s ear, Pharaoh. Perhaps your son will think twice now when contemplating harming the children of Israel.”

Ehud stepped onto Timsah, who had been waiting by the river bank, and disappeared into the water of the Nile.

* * * * * *


The Nile crocodile is called Timsah al-Nil in Arabic, Mamba in Swahili, Garwe in Shona, Ngwenya in Ndebele, Ngwena in Venda, Kwena in Sotho and Tswana. (Wikipedia)

Taweret is the hippo-headed Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility.

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 24 – The Sword of Ehud

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 24

The Sword of Ehud

Young Lerim jumped off his stool as the Moabite soldiers barged into the smithy. Big Perad stopped his hammering and looked fairly threatening as his bulging muscles held the large hammer above the anvil. Lanky Davneh stopped polishing the hoe he held in the corner of the smithy.

“Where is Ehud?” the Moabite captain demanded, brandishing his sword at Perad’s hammer. The midday sun reflected through the open door off the shiny sword, blinding Lerim for a moment.

“He’s not here,” Perad answered in his deep voice, gently resting the hammer on the anvil, beside the ax-head he had been working on.

“I can see that, you Hebrew scum,” the captain sneered, not lowering his sword. “Where is he?”

“I don’t know,” Perad said calmly.

“Typical. It doesn’t matter. We’ve been ordered by Bagdon to inspect all smithies and make sure there are no weapons being produced. We shall now commence our inspection.”

The captain and three other soldiers spread out through the smithy and inspected all the tools. They saw pots and pans, hoes and pitchforks, shovels and axes, scythes and hammers. The captain picked up one of the new axes and touched the edge. A small rivulet of blood sprang from his finger.

“It’s sharp!” The captain sucked on his finger and dropped the ax back on the table. “Why do you have so many axes?”

“The family of Prince Giltar has made a large order,” Davneh answered nervously. “They own the forest to the north of their fields and have been cutting down a lot of their trees.”

The soldiers moved tools, tables and benches. One soldier noticed dug up ground under one of the benches.

“Look, captain,” the soldier pointed. “The ground here has been dug up.”

“Let’s see what they’re hiding. Dig it up,” he ordered.

Two soldiers grabbed shovels and dug up the area. They lifted heavy bronze spheres from the ground.

“What are these?” the captain asked.

“That’s our sacrifice,” Lerim said quickly. “To our gods.”

“What god?” the captain asked suspiciously. “I’ve never heard of this type of worship.”

“It’s only a worship of blacksmiths. And he’s a very humble god. Most people don’t know of him.”

“What’s his name, boy?” the captain demanded.

“Um, Vulcan. We call him Vulcan.”

“Interesting.” The captain dropped the sphere back in the hole. “I will not interfere with your worship of this Vulcan. But know that we will be back. Holding or producing weapons warrants death. We shall be conducting regular inspections of all smithies, until – well, until it’s no longer necessary.”

The captain and his soldiers left the smithy. Lerim, Perad and Davneh looked at each other wordlessly, wiped their brows, tidied up the smithy and continued making their tools, more numerous and sharper than they had ever made them before.


“Why do you come to me, Ehud?” Elimelech asked at the door of his home.

“I would speak with you, Elimelech. May I come in?” Ehud asked.

“No. You represent all the pain of my life. Let us go by the gate of the city.” Elimelech closed the door behind him and walked with Ehud to the entrance of Bethlehem.

“Elimelech, the time has come to fight Eglon,” Ehud stated.

“Now? Now you come to me, when my energy is spent and my hope is shriveled. No, Ehud. I am weary of struggle.”

“Are you not the Prince of Judah?” Ehud asked with an edge in his voice.

“In name only. I have lost my own respect as well as that of my tribe. Go to my brother, Ploni, or perhaps to Boaz. Maybe they still have the appetite for battle. I am finished of fighting the wrong wars.”

“That is your answer? To hand off the responsibility to others? Where is the son of Nachshon the Brave?”

“Nachshon? You ask of Nachshon? Will I forever be haunted by his specter? The sea could not stop my father, yet I have only brought death and calamity upon our people. No, Ehud. I shame and disgrace his memory. To mention Nachshon is merely to show how unworthy I am, what a disastrous failure I’ve become. Leave me, Ehud. Find some other fools to fight your battles.”

“What of your family? Of your children? Of Mahlon who is still in the Tyrant’s clutches?”

“Eglon killed Mahlon when he robbed us of him. He is a stranger to us, likely more Moabite than Judean. Burying him once was enough for me.”

“Does Naomi share this feeling? Has your wife also abandoned your firstborn? You should know that Mahlon is strong and may yet help in our salvation. You would be proud of the man your son has become.”

“Mahlon?” Elimelech looked to the east as if he could see through the mountains that blocked his view of the City of Palms. “No. It is too late. I am without hope. Goodbye, Ehud. I hope that our God is still with you, for I no longer feel his presence.” Elimelech walked back home, head down, shoulders slumped.

This is going to be harder than I thought, Ehud said to himself. Hopefully Boaz will be more enthusiastic.


Over the course of the next two weeks Ehud traveled throughout the tribe of Israel.  He met discretely with his fellow Israelites, avoiding those that were most apathetic. He told them all the same plan.

“We will meet on the ridges of Searim the day of the next full moon. It is the day we bring the Tribute. On that day we will destroy the entire Moabite army on our land. Do not be incredulous. God, the God of our ancestors has heard our cries, and He will answer us. The time has come for us to be free of the tyranny of Eglon. Yet we must cleanse our hearts of all thoughts of idol worship. We must cling to our one true God with all our being, and then we will be truly successful.

So come, my brothers. Gird your loins. Let go of your fears. Make yourselves into weapons of the Almighty and we will show those Moabite dogs how the sons of Israel account themselves!”

The crowds would cheer, suddenly infused with rejuvenated hope in the face of overwhelming odds. The odds did not deter Ehud’s followers. Instead their hope motivated them further.

In parting, Ehud would say the same lines uttered by Moses and Joshua – an eternal rallying cry for the Children of Israel:  “Be strong and courageous! God is with us!”


“And they said they would be back,” Lerim breathlessly explained to Ehud upon his return to the smithy.

“Well, good thinking on your part about that story with a god of blacksmiths, though the concept is abhorrent. We should not be so quick to call on false gods, even in jest. I can’t believe they fell for such a blatant lie.” Ehud scratched his beard as he looked at the tools they had produced in his absence.

“Now what?” Davneh asked nervously.

“Some men from some of the tribes have agreed to fight back. They are few, but we shall have to make do,” Ehud answered.

“What about weapons? Sharpened axes will be no match for professional swords.” Davneh gestured to the shinning tools throughout the smithy.

Perad grabbed a hammer and smashed an old workbench into pieces, shards flying in all directions. “Stop sniveling!” Perad exclaimed. “A hoe to the throat can kill just as well as a sword. If God is with us we will be victorious.”

“Perad is right,” Ehud explained. “We must do the best we can and God will do the rest. But I do need to make at least one sword. Let’s melt the brass off of those iron spheres. Good thing none of those Moabites knew their metals, otherwise they would have felt the difference immediately.”

“I want to fight as well,” Lerim announced decisively.

“We’ve been over this before,” Ehud responded. “You are too young and I will not risk you in battle. It is enough you lost your father. I shall not make Yigal’s wife husbandless and childless by the same Tyrant. Your helping us here is already a big risk and contribution.”

“I want to avenge Yigal,” Lerim said.

“We shall do that for you. I need you to be an example for the other children to stay back. You are our future and we cannot risk harm coming to you.”

“If you lose, then what future will we have? You will need all the help you can get.”

“Lerim, your heart is in the right place, but I cannot argue about this further. Enough. We have work to do.”

Ehud sat at the workbench, elbows on the table and rested his head on his fists as he finally thought about what he needed to do. I need a weapon. It has to get by undetected. But it has to be effective. It has to be short enough to be concealed, but long and strong enough to kill. A knife is too short. I would never get a sword in.

A short sword, then. What’s the longest I can make it? It must be sharp. I can strap something to my back. No. It will be too apparent. I can strap something to my thigh. The guards will not check under my tunic. That will be its length. It must be heavy and well balanced. But I have no guide. I have never heard of anyone making such a sword.

It must be able to pierce and slash, not just a one-side hacking weapon. I need to get the balance right. I can err by making the blade too heavy and then add weight on the pommel. If I make the blade too light all the work will be lost. But by how much should I err?

Having made his decision, Ehud stood up and started working on the mold. Perad and Davneh had melted the bronze off the spheres, revealing the hot iron interior. They then melted the iron core until it became a bubbling soup of molten metal. Ehud poured the red liquid iron into the mold. Bright chunks of the hot metal splattered out of the mold and onto the floor where they quickly cooled down. However, the majority of the metal settled nicely and evenly into the mold and started to cool down in the breezy evening air. With a pair of tongs Ehud grabbed the still hot shape and placed it in a tub of water which steamed angrily. He then reheated areas of the new sword-shaped object and pounded those spots with a heavy iron mallet. Ehud did this again and again into the night – almost in a trance. The heat was such that every few minutes Ehud had to wipe his dripping sweat out of his eyes. Ehud continued fiercely until he had the shape he wanted.

By the early hours of the morning he was sharpening the sword until the edges were razor-sharp. Finally he looked upon his newly created weapon in wonder. The sword was unlike anything he had ever beheld. The workmanship of the sword was clearly beyond his normal abilities, and he was sure that it was more a result of inspiration rather than skill. It was more like a long dagger than a real sword. Most swords in the region were curved affairs, while his was rigidly straight. Most swords had a single sharp edge and were used for slicing one’s enemy. In some cases a sword would have blunt edges and be used as a bludgeoning device. Ehud’s sword was a double-edged sword with a sharp tip that could be used for slicing from either side – or stabbing.

Ehud’s plan became clearer in his mind as he held his weapon lovingly.


Eglon woke with a start, a sharp pain penetrating his large stomach. The nightmare again, he thought. It had repeated itself for weeks now. He had been at a sumptuous banquet, with all the delicacies of the world at an endless table. Sliced pineapples, fish eggs, sides of beef from rare antelopes, an infinite number of breads in all shapes and sizes, steaming dishes with legumes and vegetables he did not recognize and wine as far as the eye could see. He sat with the greatest kings of history. Pharaohs and Emperors. Nimrod, Hammurabi, Seti the First, Gilgamesh and others he did not know. Dirthamus was at his side, warning him not to eat too much. Galkak was there too, drinking to his heart’s content.

“Eat up, Boss!” Galkak exhorted as he raised an overflowing goblet, spilling red wine. “Why should we pass up on any pleasure? Why should we restrain ourselves? We are masters of the world!”

There was a plate in front of him with miniature heads of the Israelite princelings. He ate one. It was delicious. He ate another and it was even better. Finally he reached the head of Mahlon. Eglon was filled with fear as he beheld the ruddy features of the red-head of Judah. This may be the most exotic taste of all, he thought. Eglon ate the head whole and then his stomach exploded in pain, waking him up.

Perhaps I ate too much last night, Eglon thought, and resolved to restrain himself. The resolve lasted as long as it took him to roll over and go back to sleep.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 18 – Baby Steps

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 18

Baby Steps

Mahlon balanced himself on the edge of the palace wall. It was a two story drop to the training grounds below, but the danger did not trouble the eight year-old redhead. Mahlon enjoyed watching the Moabite soldiers train in the summer afternoon, but today he had another purpose. Ever since his father Elimelech had sent him as hostage to Eglon, together with the firstborns of the eleven other princes of Israel, Mahlon had taken every opportunity to disobey and tease his captors. His favorite prank had been placing the dung beetle on Eglon’s throne. Eglon still looked cautiously now when sitting down on his throne, remembering the sharp pincers of the beetle. Mahlon had a great new plan. He would place some oil on the step leading up to the throne. He only wished he could be there to see Eglon fall hard on his fat face.

Mahlon climbed down the brickwork of the palace and jumped into the Emperor’s empty audience chamber. Ever since the beetle prank, guards had been posted at the room’s entrance, even when Emperor Eglon was not present. But the guards were outside the closed door. They did not expect a diminutive intruder to climb in through the open window on the second story. The room was pleasantly cool despite the heat of the Jordan plain.

The audience chamber was a large room, dominated at its end by a large marble throne, with soft velvet cushions and two marble steps to reach the throne. There was a wooden chair on either side of the throne where the Empress and Dirthamus would often sit.

Rich silken drapes were spread throughout the room, creating a pleasant contrast of colors and shadows. Elaborate frescoes with historic scenes filled the walls. One fresco depicted Eglon’s conquest of Amalek with Galkak and Empress Neema facing the entire Moabite army. Another showed the wedding of Eglon and Neema in the great city of Rabbath Ammon. A third fresco illustrated the twelve princes of Israel bowing to Emperor Eglon. A fourth had an Israelite city in flames, the flames a bright orange that seemed to leap from the wall. Mahlon hated that fresco. It was a constant reminder of the punishment Eglon would inflict for disobedience. And he had.

In the year since his conquest of Canaan, he had burned three cities with all their inhabitants. Only one survivor was left from each city to recount the horror of watching friends and family burned alive. Two cities had been burned for their refusal to place a statue of Baal at the entrance. One city had been burned for a brawl that broke out between a Moabite soldier and a bridegroom, after the soldier had grabbed the prospective bride. Now every city and village of Israel had Baal at its entrance and no one resisted the Moabite soldiers.

Mahlon crept slowly to the throne. He heard a soft snoring from the side of the throne. Before he realized someone was there, a bony hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. Mahlon had not noticed the cadaverous figure sleeping in the shadow.

“What mischief are you up to, Judean brat?” Dirthamus hissed.

“Oh, nothing, sir. I must’ve gotten lost in the corridors,” Mahlon squeaked.

“You lie, son of Elimelech. How did you get past the guards? By one-eyed Bilaam! Your mind is closed to me. Curious, as your sire’s mind was quite open to me. Speak the truth or your punishment shall be severe.”

“Will you take me from my home and family? Will you whip me? Will you burn Bethlehem to the ground? What further punishment will you give me for entering here by accident?”

“Let me see what devices you bring with you.” Dirthamus searched Mahlon’s body roughly, not finding anything. Mahlon thanked the Hebrew God he had not brought a flask of oil as he had initially planned.

“You see? I told you it was an innocent mistake. Can I go now?”

“Not so fast. I shall escort you out to make sure you do not make any further mischief here. I will just get my staff and shall go to the guards.”

Dirthamus reached for the staff leaning against the chair. Mahlon kicked it, sending it clattering to the ground.

“I’m sorry!” Mahlon said. “I meant to get it for you. Let me fetch it.”

“No, you little runt! Do not move. I shall get it.”

Dirthamus hobbled off the chair and walked slowly to his staff behind the throne. Without moving from his location, Mahlon retrieved a damp cloth from his tunic. He raised it above the second step of the throne and squeezed. Several drops of clear oil fell upon the marble stair. Mahlon quickly tucked the cloth back in his tunic as Dirthamus came back with his staff.

“Now young Mahlon, let us make sure you do not cause any trouble on this important day.”



Eglon paced back and forth outside the birthing room.

“Why does it take so long?” Eglon asked Galkak who lounged on a marble bench in the hallway.

“I hear the babies like to stay in as long as they can, Boss. I don’t blame ‘em.” Galkak took a swig from his ever-present wine skin.

“I’m not sure if I should be nervous, excited or happy. My heir. He will insure the continuation of my empire. I will make him great. Eglon the Second. My name will last unto eternity, just like the Pharaohs. I will train him in all the arts. I will advise him. I shall make treaties for him. He shall be the greatest ruler after me. I’m glad you’re here to share this with me, Galkak. I’ve missed your company. Dirthamus is so stark and no one else understands me.”

“Yeah. Well things haven’t been fun at home for me either, Boss. I have assassination attempts every month now. The Amalekites aren’t happy with my rule. I have to kill ‘em to quiet ‘em down. They’re troubled by all this peace.”

“I understand. You and I are warriors, Galkak. The peace has been terrible for my weight.” Eglon held his growing belly. “Why, I’m larger than Neema has been with a baby in her stomach. And I’ve noticed you’re drinking more than ever before. We need another good war just for our sanity.”

“Who you goin’ to fight?”

“I don’t know. The Midianites perhaps. Though there is no good reason to do so. Our army is large enough. We’re up to five thousand men, with another hundred arriving every month. And why shouldn’t it grow? I pay well and the conditions are good. Though the Israelites are keeping my hands full. What with insuring the collections, taxes and tariffs. It takes much manpower to ensure that the Baals remain in every city and are properly cared for.”

A woman’s screaming and cursing burst from the birthing room.

“Is that good?” Eglon asked.

“I think so. The baby’s gettin’ ready to come out and it’s punishin’ the mother for bringin’ ‘im into this world.”

“That doesn’t sound very equitable.”

“Since when is anythin’ equitable in this world?”

“Galkak, you’re sounding more bitter than usual. Be happy for me. This is a momentous day. I’ve invited our friend, the Benjaminite blacksmith, to join us as well. I’d like the prophet of the Hebrew god to bless my heir and his future master.”


“Yes, I expect him to arrive any moment.”



Mahlon had never met his grandfather, Nachshon the Brave, though he had grown up hearing stories about him. He knew his own father, Elimelech, was a great fighter and prince of his tribe. He had heard dark rumors about his father going berserk during the last and decisive battle of Givaah. But it was his cousin Boaz whom Mahlon had always admired. Boaz, with the easy smile and the inner peace. The stories of his superhuman speed and uncanny senses. How he was instrumental during Joshua’s time when he was just a young boy. Mahlon had loved those stories and always sought out Boaz in his bakery in their city of Bethlehem.

Boaz had come to Mahlon before he was sent as a noble hostage.

“They will try to change who you are, who you are meant to be.” Boaz knelt on one knee so he could look straight into Mahlon’s eyes.

“How will they change me?” Mahlon trembled.

“They will teach you their ways, their customs, their values. It will be hard for you to remember your roots.”

“What will I do?” Mahlon asked.

“You must remember. You must remember who you are and where you come from. You must remember that there is a place inside yourself that no one can touch, that no one can change. You must not forget. You must find that place inside yourself. It is a quiet place. It is a calm place. That is you. You must protect it. You must visit it. You must nurture it and it will protect you.”

“I will remember,” Mahlon said.

“You will. And you will be brave. You are descended of the bravest men in all of Israel. The spirit of your grandfather will watch over you and help you. Never fear. The blood of princes is in our veins and it will take much more than an overfed Moabite to quash our spirit. Be strong and of good courage, Mahlon.” Boaz hugged his little cousin, wondering when he would see the boy again and in what condition.

Mahlon remembered all of this as Dirthamus dragged him to the training ground.

“Sergeant!” Dirthamus called. One of the soldiers approached the skeletal old man.

“We are not due to train the princelings until this afternoon,” the sergeant said.

“This one requires some additional training. And I would prefer that he not forget this training session. Painful, but not permanent. Am I understood, sergeant?” Dirthamus hissed.


Dirthamus released Mahlon’s arm and hobbled back into the palace.

“What did you do this time, Mahlon?” the sergeant asked.

“Nothing. Dirthamus is just a crabby old man. I think I interrupted one of his naps.”

“Well that would explain it. I guess it’s the whip for you then, boy. Grab a shield and a short sword from the armory and we’ll see how long you last. I’ll only leave a mark or two to satisfy the sorcerer.”

“Thank you, sergeant.” Mahlon ran off to the armory.



“Ehud, my dear fellow!” Eglon embraced the squat blacksmith in a bear hug, lifting him off the floor. “It is so wonderful for you to join us on such a propitious day.”

“It is my duty to obey your commands, your Majesty,” Ehud said.

“Yes, yes, of course. But today is special. My heir is about to be born. Your future liege. And I would have my friend, the great prophet of the Hebrew god, bless him on his birth.

“I shall do as you wish,” Ehud bowed.

“Ah, Ehud, so formal. You are amongst friends. Why, Galkak is the least formal man in my empire. Isn’t that so, Galkak?”

Galkak burped in reply as one of his legs swung beside the bench he was reclining on.

“See!” Eglon said cheerily. “This is a cause for celebration.”

Another scream escaped from the birthing room.

“They’re coming much closer,” Eglon noted.

“Yeah. I think it’ll come out any moment now,” Galkak confirmed.



Mahlon sat hunched over on his bed. The two whip marks on his back hurt horribly. He refused to cry. He refused to give any Moabite the satisfaction of seeing his tears. His fellow princelings knew to leave him alone. He did not want pity or sympathy. The children of the princes of Israel understood him. They each had rebelled and suffered in their own way. They left him alone as he wanted.

Mahlon rocked back and forth on his bed as he tried to ignore the pain. He sought that inward space Boaz had spoken to him of. He blocked out the talking of his companions. He ignored the sounds of the soldiers training. He drove his consciousness deeper and deeper within himself. He remembered his father with his big red beard that he had suddenly cut short during the war. He remembered his mother, beautiful Naomi. Sweet and kind and gentle. He remembered his younger brother, Kilyon – the one most pained by their separation. He thought of Boaz and his inner peace. He thought about the stories of his grandfather Nachshon and how he jumped into the Sea of Reeds, ahead of its parting, allowing the Children of Israel to escape the Egyptian army. And then he thought of himself. His breathing slowed down. The pain receded. He felt a certain lightness and comfort. Then he heard a whisper. He wasn’t sure where it came from, or if he had imagined it, or if he was talking to himself.

“I will not leave you,” the whisper said.

“Thank you,” Mahlon thought back to the whisper.

“Today is a special day,” the whisper said.

“Why?” Mahlon asked in his mind.

“Your intended has been born.”



The wail of a newborn broke the anticipating silence.

“This is it!” Eglon giggled and approached the door to the birthing room on tiptoes.

“Congratulations, Boss!” Galkak offered from his bench.

“May this be a day of joy for all your subjects,” Ehud said.

“Yes. We must celebrate this momentous day somehow. We must let all of our people know of the birth of Eglon the Second and share in our happiness.”

A woman exited the birthing room and announced:

“You may come in now, sire.”

“Come Galkak, Ehud. I would have you with me at this moment,” Eglon called.

The trio entered the room quietly. Neema, sweat-drenched and exhausted, lay on a large bed looking content and holding a wrapped bundle to her bosom.

“My Empress!” Eglon announced. “Mother of my heir! Congratulations! Well done! Well done, indeed! Let me look upon my son.”

“Oh, do look at her, Eglon. She’s beautiful,” Neema said, not taking her eyes off the baby.

“Her? What do you mean her?” Eglon asked, confused.

“Why, silly, it’s a girl.” Neema gently lifted the bundle, offering the baby to Eglon.

Eglon took the baby awkwardly. The baby cried lustily in her father’s hands. Eglon unwrapped the cloth around the baby to peer between its legs.

“It is a girl,” he concluded.

“It’s not something I would have mistaken,” Neema said. “Give her back to me. We need to teach you how to hold a baby.”

Eglon gingerly handed the baby to Neema. Neema discretely lifted her robe and held the baby to her breast, letting the hungry infant suckle.

“But what about a boy?” Eglon asked, still dazed.

“We’ll just have to keep trying,” Neema answered.

“I wanted a boy,” Eglon said, irritation creeping into his voice.

“Well, the gods apparently had other plans. Go talk to them if you’re disappointed,” Neema responded icily.

Eglon looked at Neema as if for the first time. He then looked closely at the baby.

“No, no, my dearest. I am quite pleased. True, a boy would have been marvelous, but you are right. The gods have other plans. And look at her. She is beautiful. Those lustrous red curls. Those bright blue eyes. Perhaps she shall be a bride worthy of a Pharaoh – that would make for a mighty alliance! I foresee great things for her!”

Eglon closed his eyes. The room filled with an eerie silence. A new presence pervaded the room. Ehud and Galkak shifted where they stood, sensing something different.

“She shall be a matriarch of kings,” Eglon said quietly and opened his eyes. “Her name will be remembered for eternity. She shall be numbered amongst the great of the world. That is my blessing to her. Ehud, now you bless her. Call down your Hebrew god, that he may think kindly of this child of mine.”

“He is already here,” Ehud whispered and looked around the room in confusion. He approached Neema and held out his hands. Neema lifted the baby and gave her to Ehud. Ehud held the baby with a gentle, experienced rocking. The baby opened its eyes and stared into Ehud’s. Ehud closed his own eyes and searched for the spirit of God. He stood still for a few moments, nodded to the unseen force, opened his eyes, and spoke.

“You are a daughter of greatness, and greatness you will achieve. Your line will never die and will ever flourish in the harshest of places. Kindness shall be your bastion and strength your inheritance. In the footsteps of goodness you will traverse and courage shall never leave you. Sorrow and anguish shall not detain you, rather honor and glory shall be your reward. May God’s wings always protect you, child of Moab.”

Ehud handed the baby back to a joyfully tearful Neema. Eglon embraced Ehud strongly.

“That was beautiful,” Eglon said with tears. “Absolutely beautiful. Thank you, Ehud. I appreciate it most deeply.”

“What shall we call her, dear?” Neema asked.

“Ruth,” Eglon answered without thinking. “Her name is Ruth.”



Mahlon lay on his bed, flat on his stomach so as not to aggravate his whip wounds. He had been excused from his lessons. He hated learning Egyptian hieroglyphics, so was relieved to miss it. What an inefficient way of communicating, he thought. He repeated to himself the list of the ten plagues, to keep his mind busy, to remember the lessons from his father: Blood, Frogs, Lice, Animals, Pestilence, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, Death of the Firstborns. May they all fall upon Eglon. Blood, Frogs…

A soldier entered his room where seven other beds lay empty. The soldier commanded Mahlon to report to the palace entrance. Mahlon put on a fresh tunic that irritated his back and marched out of his quarters.

Dirthamus waited with the other Hebrew princelings at the entrance to the palace. The children of the Israelite princes consisted of eight boys and four girls between the ages of four and eighteen. Dirthamus made sure Mahlon’s tunic covered his whip marks and smiled thinly at the obvious discomfort Mahlon was feeling. He then escorted the children up the main palace stairs and into the audience chamber. Four guards stood at the chamber doors. Two of them entered with Dirthamus and the children and placed themselves at either side of the doors. Dirthamus made the Israelites stand at attention as he sat down on his wooden chair to the right of the marble throne. Why are we being brought here? Mahlon wondered. He noticed a shiny spot on the marble step to Eglon’s throne. It would be a dream come true if I could actually witness him fall, Mahlon prayed.

Shortly thereafter Eglon entered the chamber followed by Ehud and Galkak.

“You see, Ehud.” Eglon gestured towards the children. “They are well cared-for and in wonderful condition. We see to their education and training. They will be models. Examples of what a citizen of our empire will look like.”

“I am glad to see they are whole,” Ehud said. “When will you let them see their families?”

“I think once a year is sufficient.” Eglon walked towards his throne. “I do want there to be a connection between the children and their families. If they were strangers to each other that would defeat the purpose of these noble hostages. We want to pull on the strings of the heart without severing them. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“It will certainly be a unique experience. Only time will tell the consequences of their incarceration.” Ehud gazed into the eyes of each child. He looked into Mahlon’s eyes and read his pain and anticipation. Mahlon looked down, embarrassed by Ehud’s ability to see through him.

Let Eglon trip. Let him fall, Mahlon thought to himself.

“Incarceration?!” Eglon climbed the first step to the throne and stopped. “They live as princes! They eat at my table. They are free to roam throughout our compound. I have provided them with the best teachers in the empire. Every Israelite family must be jealous of the treatment these twelve are receiving here. Perhaps we should open more spots and let the wealthy of Israel pay for the privilege of such an education?”

One more step. Just one more step you evil, pompous glutton, Mahlon commanded Eglon with his mind.

Dirthamus turned his head around as if looking for some hidden enemy. Ehud and Galkak both looked at Mahlon, their faces impassive. Eglon placed one sandaled foot on the second step. This is it! Mahlon thought as he felt his heart leap. Eglon raised his second foot and then time seemed to slow down.

Eglon’s foot slipped on the marble step. His arms flailed like a bird trying to take flight. His heavy bulk threw him off balance. He toppled off the second step, face first, and slammed loudly onto the polished stone floor.

Yes! Mahlon wanted to jump for joy, but some instinct kept him in place with the impassive face he had just seen on Ehud and Galkak.

A crunching noise emanated from Eglon’s face as his nose moved into an unnatural position. Blood spurted out of Eglon’s fleshy nose as he moaned loudly. Ehud and Galkak rushed to Eglon’s side and quickly lifted the dazed monarch. Blood flowed freely down Eglon’s face and robe, creating a large red stain on his pristine white garment. Dirthamus stood up, shocked and spluttering.

“My liege!” Dirthamus croaked.

“My nose!” Eglon moaned as he brought his hand to his broken nose, trying to stem the flow of blood.

The Israelite children stood very quietly, except for two of the younger ones who giggled until the older ones stared them into silence.

“Call for some cloths and the healer!” Galkak commanded the guards. One of them ran out of the chamber.

“I’m fine. I’m fine,” Eglon claimed as Ehud and Galkak helped him onto the throne. “I don’t know why I lost my balance like that. Very strange.”

Eglon looked at the assembled Israelites who stood quietly.

“Did I hear laughter at my fall?” Eglon accused them. “I should have your eyes blinded for having witnessed my disgrace. I will think of some suitable punishment.”

Eglon looked at each child in turn. When he reached Mahlon, he sat back and drew his breath in. An irrational fear tightened Eglon’s throat.

The eight year old smiled back, giving a name to his newfound feeling. Power.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 29: Prenuptial Warfare

Warrior Prophets Chapter 29

Prenuptial Warfare

Raskul rode his donkey cautiously on the road to Bethlehem. He passed the city of Hebron uneventfully and tried to enjoy the view of the rolling vineyards and olive groves of the Judean Mountains. The cool summer breeze dissipated the heat of the afternoon sun. Nonetheless, he was anxious about the coming encounter. In the distance he could make out the walled city of Bethlehem surrounded by acres and acres of wheat fields.

A rider on a chestnut horse approached Raskul from behind. He was a tall man with a flaming red and white beard and a broad grin.

“Greetings, traveler,” the man called out as he matched Raskul’s pace.

“Greetings, my lord,” Raskul nodded to the princely man.

“My name is Caleb. Who are you?” The man inquired.

“I am Raskul of the Kenites,” he said, adding quickly, “no enemy of the Israelites.”

“Welcome, Raskul. What brings you to the tribe of Judah?”

“A wedding.”

“You’re an acquaintance of Boaz, then?” Caleb asked jovially.

“A f-friend,” Raskul stuttered.

“I’m his uncle and am also traveling to Bethlehem. Let us ride together to the city.”

Neither of them noticed a hunchback figure in a long cloak riding behind them. From the folds of the cloak a hairy tail peeked out.

“Why do we need to be on duty today?” Eran complained to Yashen.

“Someone needs to.” Yashen yawned.

The two of them stood on the eastern tower of the city gate. The gate of Bethlehem was a large stone arch with two swinging heavy oak doors. The gate faced north, towards nearby Jerusalem. They could barely make out the walls of Jerusalem through the summer haze.

“It’s a waste of time, I say,” Eran continued. “We should be down there mingling with all the guests.”

Yashen looked at the stonework city plaza within the gates where a growing number of people gathered. Long tables with freshly baked cakes stood next to the stone homes that surrounded the plaza.

“The whole Nachshon clan makes it look like a meeting of redheads,” Yashen commented. “I’d be interested in a Benjaminite brunette myself.”

“I think Naomi is the prettiest girl in town,” Eran sighed. “But looks like Elimelech has already made his move.” He pointed at the two redheads standing close to each other.

“Good day, men,” a commanding voice called to them from the gate.

Eran and Yashen turned around to see an old man with a long flowing white beard. Next to him was a middle-aged bearded man, with bright eyes. Both rode gray donkeys.

“Our Master, Joshua. High Priest Pinhas. Welcome,” Eran blurted.

“Thank you, young man. What is your name?” Joshua, the old leader ofIsrael, asked.

“Eran son of Haser.”

“Eran,” Joshua instructed. “Though I know you would much rather be down at the celebration, I would advise you to take your duty seriously. We have been blessed with years of peace here, in no small part thanks also to the recent efforts of our groom. Nonetheless, we must remain vigilant.”

“Yes, Joshua,” Eran said. “Though I hear rumors of a new warrior leading the militia together with Amitai.”

“Ehud of Benjamin. I have met him. Cunning and sharp. But I’ve also heard rumors of the Moabites regaining their strength and for some reason I have an ominous feeling today. Keep your eyes open.”

“Yes, sir!” Eran and Yashen responded.

“Good. Carry on.” Joshua commanded and rode off with a smiling Pinhas. 

“Hello, Boaz,” Raskul said nervously.

Boaz turned around from talking with his uncle Ploni.

“Raskul?” Boaz said, surprised.

“Yes, I thought I’d join you on this day of celebration.”

“Why, thank y-. Wait. Someone give me a sword! I vowed to kill you on sight, you backstabbing, traitorous wretch. How dare you come here on this day? Ploni, fetch me a sword.”

“Now, now, now, Boaz.” Raskul raised his hands. “Let’s not be so hasty. I swear, I won’t swear by any of the gods, which I know annoys you so much. You are a forgiving people. A gracious people. Is this how you would treat an old journey-mate?”

“What’s the matter, Boaz? What did he do? He seems like a pleasant enough fellow,” Caleb asked.

“He tried to sell me and Amitai into slavery. He is a snake that should be killed without hesitation. Ploni, what are you waiting for? Run into my father’s house and get me my sword.”

“On your wedding day you will kill a defenseless man?” Ploni asked.

“Perhaps you’re right. Get some rope and let’s bind him and I can kill him tomorrow.”

“One moment, Boaz,” Caleb interceded. “I realize this man has done you great wrong, and had terrible intentions, which in the end did not materialize. He has come to you on your wedding day, knowing your anger towards him, in order to make amends. I think that in the spirit of this day you should forgive him.”

“Fine. Ploni, please bring me my sword in any case. I don’t trust this uncircumcised lout for a moment. His coming is a bad omen. The sword will be a good reminder to keep him from wagging his idolatrous tongue. I will slice it off, Raskul, if you so much as think the wrong way.”

“You are kind as always,” Raskul mock bowed. “Where is your mate Amitai? He was always the better spoken one of you two.”

“Amitai is at the front leading the militia. If it weren’t for criminals like you, he might have been here to celebrate with me.”

“You are too harsh, Boaz. I never actively harmed someone. Perhaps I tried to make some silver off the misfortunes of others, but I never lifted a finger against someone in anger.”

“No, just out of greed. You are incorrigible, Raskul, and I will be happy once you leave.”

“May I stay to see you successfully married?”

“Yes. But one wrong word and you will regret having ventured toBethlehem.”

“Enough, Boaz,” Caleb interjected. “I’ll keep an eye on your friend. I see Joshua and Pinhas have arrived and the guests look ready. Let’s get started.”

Eran and Yashen looked dutifully to the east, across the Jordan River from where the Moabites would logically approach, while keeping half an eye on the northern road from Jerusalem. The eastern front was quiet as the sun started its slow descent to the west. A group of twenty cloaked horsemen trotted leisurely towards the gate. Eran was the first to notice them approaching the gate.

“More friends of Boaz?” Eran pointed out to Yashen.

“Must be. They are heavily armed. Either some militiamen or some former captains of hundreds or thousands. But why are they so covered up in this heat?”

“Something is not right. They are wearing heavy armor under their cloaks. Where is that trumpet. Pass me the trumpet, Yashen.” Eran said urgently. Yashen reached for the trumpet in the corner of the tower and handed it to Eran.

Suddenly, from amongst the riders, a giant of a man, completely covered in armor, with a metal helmet that enveloped his head, galloped at breakneck speed towards the gate. He aimed his right arm at the two watchmen. An arrow shot out of the man’s arm and hit Eran in the shoulder before he could blow the trumpet. The trumpet clattered to the floor as Eran fell, writhing in agony. Yashen reached for the trumpet, but was pierced by an arrow to the abdomen before he could touch the bright metal rolling on the floor. The last thing he saw was an army of thousands approaching Bethlehem from the west with scaling ladders and a large battering ram.

The other horsemen raced after their leader towards the open gate of Bethlehem.

Boaz stood under the wedding canopy that was erected close to the gate of the city. Vered walked around him slowly seven times, smiling shyly. They were both in white. Boaz wore a new long white tunic and Vered was in a flowing dress of white cotton, with gentle white lilies adorning her flaming red hair. Boaz and Vered’s parents stood under the canopy together with Pinhas, who was officiating. The canopy was constructed of a large white shawl supported by four long wooden poles. Joshua and Caleb held the front poles and Elimelech and Ploni held the back ones. A large assembly filled the town square.

“Do you have the ring?” Pinhas asked.

“Elimelech?” Boaz asked his uncle.

“Of course, of course. Here it is.” Elimelech retrieved an unadorned gold ring from his pouch. As he handed the ring to Boaz, they were distracted by the sound of loud galloping. The ring dropped and Boaz bent down to pick it up. An arrow whizzed by where he had been standing and struck an elderly man beyond the canopy. It hit the man in the leg. The man immediately fell to the ground, where he convulsed and then stopped breathing.

“Take cover!” Joshua commanded as he lowered the canopy to cover the wedding party. “We’re under attack!” Several more arrows punctured the canopy. One hit a woman’s arm. In seconds she was on the floor, dead.

“Poison!” Caleb yelled, as he looked at the victims.

They all saw the twenty horsemen approach the gates with a metal giant in the lead.

“Caleb,” Joshua ordered, stepping naturally into the role of command. “The gates. Pinhas. The walls. Elimelech. Ploni. Organize the men. Boaz, with me. The rest of you, into the houses.”

Caleb moved like a blur to the gate. He closed one door before the invaders arrived. As he was closing the second one, he saw the metal giant would make it in. He was surprised to see an older, familiar-looking attacker motion with his hands for the rest of the riders to slow down. The intruder made it past the swinging door. Caleb shut and bolted the gate shut. The metal giant kept galloping towards the wedding party and the fallen canopy. Caleb raced after the rider and launched himself at him, knocking him off the horse. The rider clanged heavily on the plaza stonework, cursing as he stood himself up. Caleb rolled as he fell and was on his feet in a moment facing the invader.

“I’m not interested in you, old man,” the intruder with the metal face said. Only two slits for the eyes and one for the mouth revealed darkness within. “But I’ll kill you just as well.” He pointed his arm at Caleb, turned a dial on it with his left hand and a metal dart shot out. Caleb ducked and the dart struck a young boy who had been running for cover. The boy fell, convulsed, and was still.

Caleb launched himself at the intruder and tackled him to the floor. Caleb struck a series of blows at the metal clad warrior to no effect. The intruder tried hammering at Caleb with his metallic arm, but Caleb was faster.

“Out of my way! It is Boaz I want!” the intruder bellowed.

“Akavish, isn’t it? Caleb breathed heavily as the metallic arm missed him by a hairsbreadth. “And that was Krafus with you.”

“Yes. I am King Akavish of Ashkelon and soon I will rule your people as well.”

Akavish grabbed Caleb with his massive healthy arm and tried to stab him with his metallic claw. Caleb wriggled and punched, avoiding the claw, but unable to escape Akavish’s grasp. Frustrated, Akavish threw Caleb above him into the air and then shot three darts in rapid succession at Caleb’s falling body. Caleb managed to contort his body and avoid all the darts, but as he fell he struck his head on the side of Akavish’s metallic arm, falling to the floor, unconscious.

Pinhas, the High Priest, closed his eyes for a moment as he stood behind the wedding canopy and then quickly levitated. He flew towards the gate tower, as he watched Caleb reach the doors. He saw two dead watchmen at the eastern tower, where he landed. On the western side thousands of Philistine troops ran towards the walls ofBethlehem. Pinhas spotted the tall scaling ladders and the massive, metal-tipped battering ram. Elimelech and Ploni approached the stairs to the eastern tower.

“Elimelech,” Pinhas called down. “Assemble your men at the western wall. The first wave of attackers will be there in moments. Ploni. You will need to get men to reinforce the gate. The Philistines have a gargantuan battering ram and your oak gates will not last long under their onslaught. Go! I’ll see what I can do from the air.”

Pinhas took to the air as the first ladder abutted the wall. Half a dozen men were on the ladder and one reached the top of the wall before Pinhas reached them. Pinhas flew feet first into the Philistine on the rampart and knocked him over the two-story wall. He then grabbed the top of the ladder, and with all the Philistines on it, pushed it backwards. Ladder and soldiers fell on the troops below. Pinhas flew and knocked over ladder after ladder, weaving in and out of a rain of arrows from below, until Elimelech reached the rampart, followed by a few dozen defenders.

“There are thousands!” Elimelech stood gaping at the hordes massing under the walls.

“You’re just in time,” Pinhas landed, exhausted. “I need a rest. Keep the ladders off as long as you can. I see they are massing on the eastern wall. I will hold them off until we can get reinforcements on that side. God be with you.” Pinhas flew to the eastern wall of the city as half a dozen new ladders landed simultaneously on the western wall, followed by a barrage of arrows.

Joshua calmly observed the maelstrom of metal jousting with Caleb. He noted the dead victims of the poisoned arrows and darts. He closed his eyes and sensed the thousands of Philistines crashing against Bethlehem like stormy waves upon the shore.

“Looks like your childhood nemesis has returned with some friends,” Joshua said to Boaz and Vered, all hiding behind the pockmarked wedding canopy.

“Akavish with Philistines? That metal monster is Akavish?” Boaz asked, incredulous.

“He has an amusing way of celebrating your wedding. We need to stop them, but we’re going to need some help. I’m going to pray. Guard me while I focus my attention. Salvation will come from the sky.”

Without further word, Joshua stood up, closed his eyes and turned his head heavenward. Boaz stood up, with sword in hand, watching for any arrows that might threaten Joshua as he concentrated on his communion with God.    

“You know this attacker?” Vered pointed at Akavish struggling with Caleb.

“He has wanted me dead since I was a kid. Last I heard he was king ofAshkelon.”

“Was he upset you didn’t invite him to the wedding? I told you to double-check your list.”

“Not funny, Vered. People are dying because of this madman.”

“Well, I’m sorry, my hero, but if I don’t make light of the situation, I will panic out of sheer terror. What’s Joshua going to do?”

“He said salvation will come from the sky. I don’t see anything. Stopping the sun won’t help us this time.”

“I see clouds forming,” Vered pointed at a dark cloud moving in from the north. “Perhaps he’ll make it dark.”

“No! Caleb has fallen. I must help him. I must hold off Akavish. Watch Joshua, my love.”

“Boaz, wait! How am I supposed to protect him?” Vered called to Boaz. But he had already jumped over the canopy and was speeding towards Akavish. He knocked the tip of Akavish’s claw away from Caleb’s prone body.

“Your timing was always miserable, Akavish,” Boaz stated as he smashed his sword against Akavish’s helmet.

“I think I might have gotten it right this time,” Akavish responded as he swung his claw at Boaz. “Great audience. All your nobles, princes and leaders ripe for the picking. Tell me, can I congratulate you on the wedding or was I too early? Can I kiss the bride?”

“You sick man. You stopped the wedding.” Boaz’s sword clanged off Akavish’s armor. “Are you causing all this bloodshed on a mere vendetta? You’ve dragged your people into this as well?”

“My people are mine to do with as I will. Your wedding was merely a good opportunity to attack.” Akavish kicked Boaz away from him, aimed his arm, and shot a barrage of darts, arrows and stars of death.

Boaz’s sword moved faster than the eye could follow, picking each deadly object out of the air.

“You have become faster,” Akavish said. “But you will not find a way to harm me. It is just a matter of time until you fall.” Akavish shot a second barrage of weaponry at Boaz. They all clattered to the ground, repelled by Boaz’s blade.

The sound of steel against oak resonated throughout the city as the battering of the gates began.

“My people shall be here soon and then it will indeed be a celebration. Where is that bride of yours? I would have you watch her die in agony before I end your miserable life.” Akavish turned away from Boaz and walked calmly towards the downed wedding canopy.

Vered grabbed one of the poles of the canopy and looked around frantically for signs of attack. She kept an eye on the duel between Boaz and Akavish.

“Can I be of assistance?” a leathery voice addressed Vered from behind. “We’ve never been properly introduced. I’m Raskul, an old friend of Boaz.”

“I’ve heard of you,” Vered pointed the pole at the older man, grateful for a manageable threat. “Stay away from me, or I swear I’ll knock you on the head.”

“So violent! A fitting bride for Boaz. And one who swears. A woman after my own heart. But you misunderstand me. I am just here to help. And it looks like you can use help.”

“Boaz said you were a greedy old man, capable of great mischief.”

“He would, and I am.” Raskul edged closer.

“Stay away, Raskul.” Vered backed away, noticing for the first time the long knife at Raskul’s side.

Ploni didn’t mind battle. He had fought in one successful battle after another with Joshua, soundly defeating the kings ofCanaan. But this was different. He had never been in a siege before. Never had to wait for an enemy to breach his last physical defense. This is what it must have felt like to be on the receiving end, he thought.

“Hold the doors!” Ploni called out, as together with a dozen men they held the crumbling oak doors against the Philistine battering.

“They’re breaking!” someone yelled. “The next hit will break through!”

“HOLD!” Ploni yelled, as he pressed his body against the door.

The metal of the battering ram crushed wood and bone as it smashed through the doors ofBethlehem. Ploni and the men around him were thrown from the gate like rag dolls. Ploni lost consciousness as hundreds of Philistines poured into Bethlehem.

Akavish smiled behind his helmet as he heard his troops at his back and aimed his metallic claw at the redheaded girl in the white dress.

* * * * * *