Here are the principle scenes cut from the original printed version of Dahveed 2: Yahweh's Warrior. They are listed in order of appearance in the book. So if you want to know what happened when Dahveed went to Chephirah, and about Dahveed and Jonathan's battle in the anteroom when Dahveed returned from the town, see below! (Some of these scenes have been added back into the Author's Edition e-book of Dahveed 2.)
Dahveed and Jonathan Return to Gibeah after the Covenant.
This scene is placed on pg. 94 at the very end of Chapter 5.
The sun was low when we arrived at the town gates. Neither of us had said anything on the way back. I noticed people's glances lingered on us a little longer than normal, but I doubt anyone figured out why beyond the fact that fully fastened cloaks seemed excessive.
Sahrah Michal crossed the common court as we turned into the fortress gate, and she changed directions to meet us, a slight frown on her face. I slowed a little.
"Don't you dare," Jonathan said softly.
"And if she notices I'm preceding you, what will she think?"
"My little sister probably knows more than either of us thinks she does. Don't worry about it."
"You didn't get anything," Michal said, disappointed, as she gave Jonathan a brief embrace of welcome. She backed into me accidentally, and I steadied her a moment. "Didn't you see any deer at all?"
"One, Sahrah," I said. "But it surprised us and got away."
She turned to me, eyebrows raised. "A hill man surprised by a deer?"
The hassar chuckled. "He's trying to be tactful. I couldn't even notch an arrow. Dahveed could have taken a shot, but didn't. And that was the last deer we saw for the day."
Her eyes traveled from me to her brother and back again. "You make it sound like a very uneventful day. Come in, Immi has been asking after you and it's time to get ready to eat."
"As you wish, little sister," Jonathan said, putting his arm around her shoulders and turning her toward the private courtyard.
Smiling at how quickly Jonathan had forgotten that he was not supposed to precede me, I went with them into the private court. Ahiam waited for me in our room, and when he took off my cloak, he sucked in his breath and stared.
I hung the bow and quiver on a peg, stripped off the sword and dagger and handed them to him. The Habiru took them without taking his eyes from me.
"We'll need to find someplace to keep those and this," I said quietly, taking off the sar's meil.
"Yes, geber. If I may ask, what happened?"
"The hassar acknowledged me as Mashiah."
"Are you sure you can trust him, Dahveed?"
"We cut a covenant in Yahweh's name, and you know how highly the hassar guards his honor."
"King Shaul's oldest son is quite a surprising man," Ahiam commented.
"He is. Tell no one of this, Ahiam. Not even Ethan."
I stared out the small window, the enormity of what I had done finally settling in my thoughts. "We will be traveling tonight, Ahiam."
"I'll be ready."
Dahveed Goes to Chephirah
This scene and the next are placed on pg. 109 before the break to Balak's viewpoint.
Ahiam looked up as I entered our room with the papyrus from the throne room..
"I just received a message from the hassar. I'm to go to Chephirah on an inquiry for King Shaul. He wants a report today."
"Is this an official inquiry?" he asked, getting off his stool.
"I don't know. The guard said Balak told him to give the papyrus to General Dahveed and that I was to find out why these Gibeonites hadn't reported for work and to bring the report back as soon as possible."
Giving me a measuring look, the Habiru tossed Jonathan's girdle on our small table. "Then you're being sent on behalf of King Shaul in your official capacity as general at the very least. More likely you're a king's representative. You'll need a good robe to go with it," he said. "I'll be ready in a minute." He pulled out his best robe and girdle.
"I'm leaving immediately, but there's no reason for you to go."
"If you're an official representative, there is. You can't go unattended. I'll send for your mule."
"Why would I need that?" I asked, opening the clothes chest.
"You don't plan to arrive at Chephirah looking like a returning militia man, do you?"
"I can get there faster on my own two feet, and the king wants answers now. Surely there's someplace where we can change before going into town." I pulled out the red robe, which went best with the hassar's girdle, and made a bundle to carry on my back.
Ahiam stared at me as if he was trying not to yell. "As you wish, geber," he said finally.
Privately, I sighed in relief. I did not wish to parade myself around like a sar.
Ahiam disappeared out the door as I finished my preparations, rewinding my sling around my right wrist. Checking that I had a couple stones in my shepherd's bag, I took the water skin and walked out. A large entourage filled the courtyard, and Ahiam and I slipped away in the confusion.
Chephirah was nearly eight miles away. After crossing the deep ravine at the bottom of the fortress hill and filling the waterskin from one of the town cisterns on the north side, I set a steady jog on the Habiru trail northwest to Gibeon, with Chephirah beyond.
We sighted the town in just over an hour. I kept an eye on the road above as we jogged along the lower trail through the oak trees. A skinny man on a donkey saw us and hurried on his way. Stopping by a stream on the last slope before the town, I gave myself a quick rinse and dressed in the robe and girdle, knotting my shepherd's bag to the girdle like a pouch since I liked it easy to hand. Ahiam helped bind back my hair. He'd brought my gold headband and slipped it on my head before I could protest. He washed and changed while I hid our kilts in a three-foot-high bunch of lentisk bushes, the abundant red flowers hugging the stems effectively masking our clothing beneath.
As we approached the gate, I noted a stir in the people, and it irritated me. I didn't want a big ado raised. Two sentries drifted closer, and a mother hurried a child back into the market.
"You had best identify yourself right away," Ahiam said softly as we approached.
"Let's just see if we can find the overseer, and I'll tell him," I temporized.
"You are not a messenger or servant, Dahveed, but an official representative," Ahiam reminded me.
I didn't respond. Trying to ignore all the eyes watching, I strode through the archway and caught the eye of an elder sitting on a stone bench in the alcove.
"Shalom, geber," I said. "Would you kindly direct us to the Gibeonite overseer's house?"
"Shalom, adon," he replied slowly. "May I ask what your business is with our overseer?"
"I shall discuss that with him," I said, keeping my tone casual. "Where might we find him?"
"Straight across the market and down the street by the perfumer's shop," he replied, pointing.
"You are kind, geber," I said, and started forward. I stepped into the square, and suddenly Ahiam and I were surrounded by four sentries.
"They're the ones!" a high-pitched, nasal voice said to one side. The tone grated on my zammar's ear, making me grit my teeth. "They're nothing but Habiru. I saw them on a trail, and when they came to the road, they were dressed richly, as you see. Ask them where they got those clothes, that's what I want to know! That girdle, that's an adon's garment at the least, maybe even a sar's. Who did they kill for it?"
The sentry nearest me stared at the girdle. "That is the hassar's!" he gasped.
I straightened up. "It is," I agreed coldly, "and I wear it as his representative."
"He's lying! Any representatives the hassar sent would arrive in an appropriate manner, not sneak into town like thieves," the nasal voice accused.
Ahiam's face was perfectly blank, but I felt myself flush. This was not going well. Perhaps I should have listened to Ahiam.
"The king's business required haste," I said, as calmly as I could, turning my head to locate the source of that whining voice. "We are here on business for King Shaul."
"Lies! Lies! What are you waiting for? They're filthy Habiru, come to steal, most likely." The skinny little man fairly danced on his feet.
A shiver went down my spine as Yahweh's gift touched me. The situation had just turned dangerous, and the gift swelled rapidly as the silence continued. The edges of the market faded in my sight, but I was perfectly aware of the exact location of each sentry and where their hands were placed in relation to their weapons.
I drew in a deep breath, covertly brushing the sling against my thigh to slip the loops to the first joints on my fingers. "I will only ask one more time," I spoke, beginning to find it hard to operate my tongue. "Where is the overseer?"
Ahiam was ready, two quick hand signals telling me which sentry he would go for first. The one in back of me was the keenest, the danger from him raising the hair on my neck, and I was hampered by a long adon's robe!
"Take them," the skinny man urged. "They get bolder all the time. We don't need Habiru here!"
The corner of my eye caught a brief nod from the elder I had spoken to. The dust turned to a blazing yellow, and my ear caught the displacement of it as the sentry behind me stepped forward. I heard the cloth of his shirt slide up his arm as he raised it.
A small boy had just stepped in front of the skinny man by the wall. I crouched suddenly, reaching into my shepherd's bag as I spun around to pull the sentry's knees out from under him with my other arm as he stumbled over my back.
Ahiam launched himself at the sentry between him and the market.
By the time my man had landed flat on his chest, I'd pulled my hand from the pouch, brushing the pan of the sling over it in the process and dropped a stone into it as it hung beneath my fingers. I looked straight at the boy in front of our accuser.
"Down!" I yelled, whipping my arm to unwind the sling. He dropped instantly, and I brought the stone around one more time, my knee landing on the sentry's back just before I let fly. It whumped through the air to land solidly on the upper thigh of the skinny geber who screamed as he fell.
I hadn't even followed the flight of that stone, but had seized another from the pouch, dropping it into the pan as I stared at the second sentry near me, who had managed to get his sword half out of its sheath. I held my belt knife in my left hand, having already slit the bottom of my robe to give me room to move.
The sling swung back and forth under my arm in the incredulous silence, and the sentry under Ahiam's sword hardly dared to breathe. "The Dahveed has arrived on business for the king. Is there anyone else who would like to interfere?" my retainer asked.
The sentry I stared at dropped to his knees. The fourth sentry, who had frozen in place when my stone whistled past, quickly followed suit.
"It is the Dahveed!" the little boy cried in delight, jumping up.
I turned my head stiffly. The sound of his voice did much to pull me out of Yahweh's gift, but I still couldn't speak. I fought to remember how while I listened to every shift in the crowd and smelled the hot dust and fear.
Eying me, Ahiam backed away from the sentry under his sword. "Now, where is the overseer for the Gibeonites?"
"He's right here, geber," the little boy replied, pointing to our skinny accuser. "But I don't think he's awake."
I shook my head slightly. That man might not wake up for some time, and knowing how hard I'd slung that stone, he'd be lucky to walk again. No, this encounter was not going well at all, and I didn't even want to consider what Jonathan would think of it all. I sucked in a deep breath, relaxing as Yahweh's gift let me go.
"Dahveed?" Ahiam asked.
I found my voice. "See if he had an assistant."
"Perhaps I can help, adoni," a diffident, deep voice offered.
I turned toward the sound, my chest aching for air and thirst raging as I dealt with the aftermath of the gift.
A large man stepped from the crowd and bowed. "I have some contact with the Gibeonites here. I will give what help I can to the hassar's representatives."
In a few more moments, I drew in enough air and flexed my muscles a little, wondering if I could stand yet. I took a couple more moments to determine what intrigued me about the man's tone. I studied him, trying to place the faint changes.
"How are you called, geber?" I asked.
Philistine. He must have been in town for years to lose his accent to the extent he had.
The sentry under me hadn't even twitched. I stood, taking the stone from the sling pan and returning it to my pouch. After winding the sling around my wrist again, I nudged the sentry with my toe, knowing I dared not let his actions go without some comment since I represented Jonathan, not myself. "Have you been on your face long enough to think of other ways you could have handled this situation?"
"Yes, adoni," he replied fervently.
"Excellent. Because of a circumstance earlier today, I will let this offense toward the hassar end here."
At the mention of the hassar, the man started to shake. "Yes, adoni."
I looked at Ahiam. "Let's go."
Minelek hurried to direct us, and the crowd parted instantly. I hardly noticed, still upset over the way things had exploded on me.
Minelek brought us to a well-kept compound close to the market. On the roof of the house, he offered a seat and provided fruit and wine. I nearly emptied the water from my water skin before sipping the wine.
After a decent interval during which we learned that our host was a merchant who had lived here for 26 years, I broached the subject of my errand.
"Geber, King Shaul has charged me with learning why these people did not report to the tabernacle for their required service," I said, handing him the papyrus.
He unrolled it and read the names, then flipped it over with a puzzled look, inspecting it carefully.
"Where did you get this, adoni?" he asked.
"It came to me from the throne room."
"That's strange," he said. "I wrote this report myself, but it's only half here. The explanation for the absences is not here."
I frowned. "Yes, that is odd. Just as odd as having a Philistine merchant sending Gibeonite reports to the king."
Our host looked down uncomfortably. "I hope I have not offended," he said. "The overseer is sometimes, uh, very busy, and some small details can escape his notice. The Gibeonites ask me on occasion to make certain nothing is inadvertently neglected."
"And what small details were inadvertently neglected which required this report?" I asked a bit caustically.
Minelek flushed. "The first three names listed are dead, adoni. Since I wrote, one more has died and another may not live much longer."
"If the current overseer considers death a small detail, perhaps we should find out what he does record," I said. "Can you direct us to his house, geber?"
"I will take you there, adoni."
"What caused the deaths?" I asked as we walked out the compound gate.
"A fever, adoni." Minelek's face tightened. "When several of the Gibeonites became ill, the overseer confined them to their houses and barred anyone going to them. This prevented them from obtaining any help from healers. The fever is quite severe, but with appropriate treatment, it is not usually fatal. A healer in my employ is providing for them now."
"Then speaking as the king's representative, I can say that you have done well."
We wound our way through most of the town before stopping at a high gate. Minelek knocked on it.
"Who is there?" the gatekeeper asked.
"The representative of King Shaul come to speak to the Gibeonite overseer," the merchant replied.
"I know your voice, Minelek," the gatekeeper replied. "My master was attacked by ruffians at the gate, and the healer is with him now. Besides, you know he will not listen any more to your petitions from the Gibeonites."
Not daring to look at Ahiam or me, the Philistine knocked again.
"Geber, please open the gate at once. The king's representatives should not be kept waiting in the streets."
A little square window in the gate opened, and a man with fat jowls peered out suspiciously. "No announcement was made to my master to expect a representative." He eyed me briefly. "This man cannot be a representative of the king. He isn't properly attired or escorted. I will listen to no more of your tricks, Minelek!"
I flushed again. It appeared I had made a colossal mistake in the manner of my arrival. Now I had to make up for it as best I could. "I wear the girdle of the hassar," I said coldly, before he could close the window. "Open this gate at once, or my man will come over the wall and open it over your body."
He stared, growing a little worried. At last, he grudgingly unbarred the gate.
I stalked across the courtyard, paying no attention to the muffled protests of the gatekeeper, as he puffed along with Ahiam, his bulging stomach shaking with every step. A armed guard stepped in front of us, then hesitated in surprise.
"General Dahveed?" he asked, bowing slightly.
"Yes. Bring the scribe your geber uses for matters concerning the Gibeonites."
"Right away, General."
Dismissing the gatekeeper with a wave of my hand, I watched the soldier escort a nervous scribe our way. He had a scraggly beard and long-fingered hands that shook so much he could hardly hold the papyrus I handed him.
"Let's see. I know these names," he said, fingering his beard. "I just can't bring them to mind at the moment. Perhaps I should check the records." He shuffled through a stack of papyrus half of which were devoid of any markings whatsoever.
"Now where did I see them?" he hedged, reaching for some more reports, each one beginning with exactly the same name. He noted my blank stare, and a superior smile crossed his face briefly.
"We are honored that the hassar would send someone as important as General Dahveed to us," he paused, looking at my sliced robe and continuing his useless shuffling of papyri. "It is not often we get someone as widely traveled as you, and acquainted with the south."
The faint sneer in his tone and his stalling roused that curiosity habit I'd gotten from Ethan. Something wasn't right here.
"These are all reports to the king?" I asked, my eyes wide as I took in the stack. So far every single one looked exactly the same.
"Yes," the scribe said, his smile twitching again. "We must keep such accurate records, you know, and that requires a great deal of work and writing."
"So I see," I said, looking impressed. "How many scribes does your geber use?"
"Oh, I have two who work under me. No doubt you have more at the court." he added kindly.
"The hassar and the king have several," I avoided his comment.
"I know I have those names somewhere," he murmured. "The under-scribes don't always put things away properly." He watched my eyes as he flashed more papyri by. "The hassar provided you with a scribe?" he glanced at Ahiam.
I managed to flush just a little. "The king was anxious to hear our report and we came away in a hurry."
Certain now that neither Ahiam nor I could read, the man relaxed and pulled out a papyrus with a sale of olive oil on it. "Here we are," he said. "Odd, but I don't have any explanation for their absence."
"Perhaps you could send a messenger," Minelek suggested.
"An excellent idea." I brightened up while the scribe glared at the Philistine merchant. "Guard?" I called.
He appeared in the door. "Yes, adoni?"
I plucked the hassar's papyrus from the desk. "Please ask these people to come here."
The man looked at Minelek, who bowed and took the papyrus from me, reading the names off. The soldier's eyes opened wide and he gave Minelek a blank stare which the Philistine returned blandly.
"Well, don't stand there, off you go. Don't keep the king's man waiting," the scribe said, shooing at the soldier with his hands.
"Do your best," Minelek said with a barely discernable wink.
"Yes, adoni." The guard left.
"While we wait, why don't I see if I can locate more information," the scribe said. "You know, if they can't be found, perhaps they have run away. That could be serious business, perhaps even dangerous for the king. Let me call for some food and wine for you to refresh yourselves while I look further."
"An excellent idea," I parroted again. "Bring lots of wine."
Ahiam somehow managed to keep a straight face as the scribe bustled past us and out the door.
As soon as he was out of sight, I flipped through the first stack of papyrus. Each one was an identical list of names for service at the tabernacle dated months in the future.
"The man doesn't want to be behind in his work," I commented. "Where did he go, Ahiam?"
"Another room on the other side of the compound, geber."
"Mark it well. We should probably visit there before we leave. Minelek, what is in that stack beside you?" I asked.
Amused, the merchant leafed through it. "Harvest reports," he said. "But this looks out-of-place."
He handed me a wax tablet. I knew enough cuneiform to make it out as a list of names with payments of some kind.
"Do you recognize the names?" I asked.
"They are Gibeonites here in town."
"These are payments of some kind?"
"I wouldn't call them payments," the merchant said, his voice suddenly angry.
"Perhaps you should explain, Minelek."
The merchant studied me. "If the scribe is attracted to someone's daughter, for instance, he will make himself very disagreeable unless a certain payment is made, or the daughter is allowed to visit, or sometimes both."
My face hardened. "Between geber and scribe, things seem to be a mess. What are these for, I wonder?" I fingered the first reports thoughtfully as Minelek waited in silence. "Would it be accurate to say the overseer takes the king's payment for his position, and effectively does nothing, leaving everything to the scribe?"
"Yes, adoni," the merchant said bluntly.
"And the scribe takes advantage of his power?"
At that moment, the man returned, the guard trailing along behind.
"Adon, I have bad news. We can't seem to locate the people you have sent for."
"Why not?" I said.
"They are dead, adoni," the soldier said.
I turned to the scribe, my eyebrows raised.
He bowed. "Dead? Of course, dead. I knew I had seen those names. Just let me get the report on that." As he hurried off, a servant arrived with food and wine, which we all ignored.
After a considerable wait, I looked at Ahiam. "Go find our host. He seems to have deserted us."
Two hours later, we had determined that not only was the scribe missing, but according to the records we found, he had effectively robbed his geber of anything of value as well.
"This will take weeks to completely unravel," Minelek said, rubbing his eyes. "I can say for certain that the overseer has next to nothing aside from this house and one olive orchard. Everything else, including the king's payments, seems to have drifted into the scribe's hands."
I glanced at the rapidly lowering sun. "I must go," I decided. "The overseer has been punished enough for his neglect of his duties. What was the scribe's name?"
"Ibsam of Zebulun, adoni."
"Find out just how much this Ibsam has stolen and send a report to the hassar. Ahiam, get word out on the trails. The scribe probably headed north. I'll have to talk this over with the hassar, Minelek, but in the meantime, you may perform the duties of overseer. I suspect you would anyway."
He bowed his head. "As you wish, adoni."
"Let's go, Ahiam."
"I will accompany you to the gate," the merchant said. "The elders will need to know of the removal of the former overseer."
As we returned, a delegation of elders approached, led by the one I'd spoken to when we arrived. I glanced worriedly at the sun. "I don't have time for this," I muttered to Ahiam, wanting only to report the mess I'd found and forget about the rest of the day as quickly as possible.
"It might be best for you to take time, geber," he said neutrally.
I checked my impatience just in time, remembering that this mess existed because I hadn't listened to Ahiam this morning. Irritation with myself filled my mind. The frightened looks of the elders emphasized how much trouble had come to them because of my decisions.
"We have come to beg the king's representative to forgive his servants," the first elder said after they had all bowed. "When the overseer told what he'd seen, we didn't know what to believe." He stopped as my jaw clenched in anger, having no way of knowing the anger was not directed at him. "Please, adoni, tell us what is required to restore honor to the hassar and you."
"You have to do something," Ahiam said, very low.
Like what? I wondered. Why should these people pay for my stubbornness? Unable to think of anything which fit the situation, I let the silence drag on, and the elders grew more and more frightened.
"We will pay blood if that is required," the spokesman finally quavered.
"Perhaps a fine," Ahiam murmured
"Blood is not required," I said. "A gold earring from each of you will satisfy honor on all accounts."
The man reached up and took the earring from his ear, and Ahiam collected the jewelry. Three of the elders had to send for their share, and while we waited, I formally announced that Minelek of Chephirah was taking over the duties of overseer until a new appointment could be made.
Once we had the payment in hand, we left. I didn't even take time to change, but the sun slipped completely away soon after we took to the hills. On the dark trek back to Gibeah, I had plenty of time to meditated on all the mistakes I'd managed to pack into one day.
Ethan had sent Ahiam to me to help guide me in matters such as proper behavior, and, because I was too stubborn to listen, four soldiers had been disgraced in Chephirah, a dozen town elders had to pay a fine they did not deserve, and a man would probably never walk again. And that was just the beginning. I didn't want to think of what the hassar would do when he found out what had happened.
As we crossed the plateau just west of Gibeah, I stopped to catch my breath. Ahiam stood beside me. "Forgive me, Ahiam," I said. "I should have listened. You could have died because of me."
My retainer shrugged. "You have my pardon, Dahveed. Ethan warned me you like to learn the hard way, so I took the risk knowingly."
As we passed the tamarisk tree at the turn off to the Gibeah fortress, Shagay stepped from the shadows. "Are you on your way to the hassar, Dahveed?"
"Be careful," Shagay said slowly. "The envoy's visit did not go that well, and the hassar is angry."
Dahveed and Jonathan's Battle in the Anteroom.
This scene and the one previous are placed one pg. 109 before the break to Balak's viewpoint.
When we entered the fortress, Ahiam went straight to our room. I hesitated in the courtyard, wondering if I should change before I reported. Footsteps sounded on the stones.
"Dahveed, I was wondering when you'd . . ." Jonathan's words trailed off as he took in
"I believe I'll take your report in the anteroom now, Dahveed," he said, his voice smooth. The sound of it made me shiver.
He turned and I followed, wondering how to tell him all that had happened, not liking the prickling sensation that came over me as we entered the anteroom. A single lamp burned, and the shadows seemed alive in the far corners.
The bar dropped into place at the door and I turned around. Anger glittered in Jonathan's eyes, and his jaw clenched as he studied the state of my clothes.
I bowed. He was in a very bad mood. "I beg your indulgence, Hassar. Some very unexpected things happened today." Then I told him what had happened. I got as far as standing outside the overseer's gate before he exploded.
"Am I hearing you correctly?" he ground out. "You, representing King Shaul, wearing the girdle of Hassar Israel, walked into Chephirah like a common messenger? And after brawling in the market, you wandered the streets in a torn robe and had to stand begging at someone's gate? How dared you be so careless with the king's honor!" he roared.
"I meant no dishonor to the king," I gasped, backing away a couple of steps.
"What else could your action show?" he threw out, moving forward. "This was an official inquiry, Dahveed," he continued, stalking toward me, while I backed away. "How could you possibly consider such behavior appropriate?" he finished savagely.
I blinked. For an instant, something else had stared at me from the hassar's face, and I retreated from it, looking down. It was suddenly hard to breathe, the air pressing against me. The room seemed to shift, making me dizzy, and the air seemed dead, as if we were cut off from everything.
The stark truth of what I had done forced itself into my mind. I realized my actions at Chephirah were just the culmination of decisions I'd been making for months. Yahweh had made me general of the army, and I had turned away from the task, resisting the changes it would bring, making Abner's honor an excuse to back down. And the resultant disarray had torn the army apart, endangering the entire land.
Then, after Yahweh reminded me forcibly of my place when Jonathan, Hassar Israel, bowed to me, after Roeh Shamuel had told me plainly I should expect nothing less, I had the effrontery to shun a lesser task, as if I knew better than the One who anointed me where I should be and what I should do. As the Roeh promised, nothing and no one had stood in the way of either task. I had no excuse.
In the eerie silence surrounding us, Jonathan moved toward me, disparaging contempt blazing out of his eyes, the shadows gathering around him. The hair on my arms rose of its own accord, sending a paralyzing icicle down my spine. Something was terribly wrong. I felt the quickening that came with my gift. I met his eyes again, and saw the same cruel, blank stare I'd seen on the king's face the day he nearly killed Malchi.
He moved so quickly, I didn't have time to dodge, managing to stay away from his grasping hand only because he twisted aside at the last moment and crashed into the scribe's table which he hurled in my direction. Yahweh's gift flooded into me, and I lunged away, fighting to delay its effects, terrified that if I yielded, I would come out to find myself standing over Jonathan's body.
The hassar checked, staring at me, bewildered. "Dahveed?" he gasped, then cried out in pain, his fists clenching, and the hard look returned to his face as he reached for me. The reality of what had happened slammed into me. I no longer faced the hassar, but a demon!
I grappled with him, but his unpredictable movements caught me off guard, and I smashed face first into the wall, a protruding stone hitting close to my left eye.
"No!" Jonathan cried, and his body twisted away again, giving me time to scramble to my feet. I met his attack a second time, struggling to restrain him, but it was no use. Even with Jonathan resisting as hard as he could, I was flung to the floor, bruising my leg and shoulder. As I crashed into the wall a second time, a shaft of pain cutting into me from my ribs, I saw the terrified desperation in his eyes a brief moment before the hard blank stare returned, and he smiled as I faced him again.
That smile froze my blood.
His dagger swung toward me, and I grabbed his wrist, trying to force the weapon away. He bore down, and the point inched toward my neck, coming steadily nearer despite all I could do.
"You despicable, unworthy, southern fool! Did you really think you were going to take my throne?"
Even though the voice was not Jonathan's, I cringed at the withering scorn, straining with all my might to force the dagger away.
"You, a king?" the strange voice continued. "You can't even keep a lamb safe, let alone the people of Yahweh!"
The sight of the dead lamb in Bethlehem's street rose before me. "I was a boy," I gasped, straining the dagger back a little.
"And you're not any more effective as a man, you cowardly, inept, servant! Your own father didn't want you!" The dagger closed on my neck again as the fear that something was wrong with me poured into me again.
"Yah claimed me!" I gasped, fighting back.
"And you turned your back on Him! Rejected all He tried to do for you! Refused to obey his clear wishes! You are not worthy to have the throne." The dagger inched toward me again.
He was right. Jonathan would make a much better king than I. Especially now that I had deliberately turned away from what I knew Yah required of me.
The dagger nearly scratched my skin, and despair flooded through me. I was nothing but a southern shepherd who'd neglected a small flock of sheep to follow a delusion of greatness.
"He wants the throne!" the demon said, "and bowing to you only made him want it more! But I could not take him until he saw that after he had given everything to you, you still did not appreciate what he had done enough to wear the girdle he gave you! It was more than he could bear, and now the desire to rule rages in him, in spite of his childish attempts to deny it! Soon, he will give in and claim what is his, and then I'll kill you, and Israel will be safe in his hands."
There was nothing I could say, but I strained with all my strength against the wrist that held the dagger. It didn't move.
"You can't even do what you know you should, now," the demon went on, amused. "You're too afraid!" That smile was still on his face, and I realized with sickening certainty that he toyed with me, that he could thrust the weapon through my neck any moment he wished, and I could not stop him.
I must yield to Yahweh's gift or die! But I was too afraid. Afraid that Yah would slay me himself for turning from him, and afraid I would slay the man I loved more than any human alive. "I wanted to disappear into the darkness, and you kept calling me back." I remembered myself say. I threw every ounce of my strength into the battle. I couldn't betray him! I owed him my life! I should give it for his now, and let him have the throne he craved.
"Your life is no longer yours to give," the roeh's words sounded in my ears. But my life wasn't worth that much. It never had been. Just ask Jesse. Why should I fight to keep it now?
"Will you grant me your friendship?" Jonathan pleaded. I could repay him now for all he had done for me. Give him more than he'd ever expected. Give him his dream of a trade empire, with the whole world coming here to his feet.
"You must never let anything interfere with that loyalty, for you owe honor to Yahweh above all else," Shamuel's voice said. I had given honor to Yahweh. I'd killed Goliath and saved Israel. My work was done. The demon forced me to my knees.
"I need you, zammar," Jonathan said. He needed me dead, where I couldn't cause any more divisions and rifts in his family or the army. All I had to do was give in. My strength was almost gone anyway.
The dagger drew blood from my neck, and mockery blazed in those dark eyes locked with mine. "You are nothing, zammar! And no one wants you for anything!"
"Yahweh has chosen you to be king for Him." Roeh Shamuel's deep voice rang out.
"Yahweh chose me!" I gasped, barely able to keep myself from collapsing on the floor.
Jonathan's head went back and demonic laughter filled the room. "Why would anyone choose an unclaimed, trouble-making, ungrateful slave like you?"
I couldn't breathe, and I was certain that dagger no longer wavered at my throat, but had been plunged into my heart. The twisted brass earring weighed heavily on my chest, almost as if it was pushing me further down.
"It will remind you of the honor I give to you, Dahveed, because I decided to," the hassar's rich voice filled my mind. "Put it down to the incomprehensible foibles of the royal family, since it seems you are unable to believe anything else."
I looked at the cruel, inhuman presence that shown from Jonathan's eyes. "Yahweh chose me because He decided to," I answered. Suddenly the room seemed filled with the scent of myrrh, spices and cinnamon. I took a deep breath. I didn't understand why Yah did the things he did, just like I didn't understand why Jonathan treated me as he did. But I did understand that Yahweh had known Jonathan was not a threat to me when he acknowledged me as Mashiah, so He must surely know now my enemy was the demon, not Shaul's son. "Adonai Yahweh, give us hesed!" I cried, throwing myself into the possession of Yahweh's hand.
Jonathan's body stiffened as the shadows coalesced into a dense blackness, howling from the abyss. The lamp light blazed upward into a pillar of flames as the battle joined in the realm of the Elohim. The dagger slowly inched upward as I pushed myself to my feet, Yahweh's strength pouring through me with the light until Jonathan and I strained vainly against each other, stalemated, waiting for something more.
The blinding light took over my mind completely, and I saw Jonathan struggling in torment, wavering between the searing flames and the howling darkness that whipped and blazed around him. The blackness clawed at him. "It is yours," the demon's voice purred. "Think of what you can do for Israel! It can be the greatest nation in the world, an empire like no other, and only you can make it so! Take it, take what is yours already. That contemptible southerner refused your king, withholding the loyalty he owed. He is not Mashiah. Yahweh would never chose such an unworthy, ignorant fool who is not even of Israel."
The hassar cried out again in pain, leaning toward the nothingness that gathered around him.
"Take it! Take the throne! It is yours!" the demon urged.
"No!" Jonathan shouted. "I will not! Yahweh, slay me!" He threw himself into the swirling vortex of fire.
Time suddenly had meaning to my dazed mind, and the hassar's despairing cry still echoed in my ears. The dagger clattered to the floor. I pinned Jonathan spread-eagle against the wall of the anteroom as shudder after shudder wracked him. They gradually lessened, and then ceased.
He slowly opened his eyes, staring at the lamp now casting a cheerful glow over the room. "What happened?" he whispered.
"I think the Evil One used you to challenge Yahweh, and Yahweh used me to answer," I said, letting go.
He shuddered again. "That explains the shadows, then," he said, rubbing his face. "They gathered around me all afternoon. When you told me about Chephirah, I couldn't get away from them. That horrible darkness closed out everything!" He shut his eyes, trembling so hard he had to sit down. "I understand now why Abbi cried for the light. What will I do if it comes back?" he whispered, shuddering again in horror.
"It can't," I said, easing down to the floor beside him. "You refused it. You dropped the dagger of your own accord."
The hassar's hand flew to his girdle, and he looked down. Then he held up both hands, examining the deep red marks on his wrists. "That was you hanging onto me. I'll feel your grip for a long time," he said, then frowned. "I did attack you then?"
"It wasn't you!" I said fervently, a shudder going though me this time.
"I remember seeing your eyes turn golden, like a lion's. And then," he paused. "And then it wasn't you," he finished slowly. He tilted his head back against the wall, his face lined and tired, the lamplight revealing the gray in his hair as we rested.
Much later after I'd finished telling the rest of what happened at Chephirah, Jonathan spoke. "A Philistine?" he asked with distaste.
"Yes, and one who appears to care more about the rights of things than either the overseer or scribe did."
"Well, I can't fault your handling of the situation after you found the defaulting scribe. I'll send a message tomorrow to the elders of Chephirah assuring them that I accept your judgment and punishment of them."
"They'll be relieved to hear it. What about me?" I asked.
Jonathan stood. "I think we've both had enough for today."
He held out his hand to help me up, and I gratefully accepted it. My side hurt a little, and my mouth didn't feel right either. I guessed I was going to be very sore in the morning.
The Day After the Anteroom Battle.
This scene is placed on pg. 111 at the very end of chapter 7.
I woke the next morning to Ahiam's amused gaze. The left side of my face felt stiff and puffy, and whatever else had happened last night left me feeling worse than I had after my first real battle.
"I see the hassar explained what he thought of your actions yesterday."
His comment puzzled me before I realized my face must be abraded from its contact with that wall. I groaned and tried to get up. That made the muscles in my back complain, to say nothing of the intense pain from my ribs, and my arms felt like lead weights.
"Go away," I whispered.
My retainer turned my face to the light. "You're developing a beautiful black eye. Sit up so I can wash you off before you dress."
"Dress? I can't move."
"You are general, Dahveed. You have duties to perform."
I winced. Every muscle I had must be tied in knots. What had happened while I was under Yahweh's hand last night, anyway? Somehow I got to my feet and over to the clothes chest, easing into a sitting position beside my harp, holding my left shoulder as still as I could.
Ahiam cleaned off my face, then stood back. "Well, in a couple days, your face will look like the colors on a sar's tunic."
"You're so comforting, Ahiam," I muttered sourly. "Is that wine on the table?"
"Yes, but you might want some water right now."
I didn't want water. I wanted something to dull the pain. "Give me the wine," I ordered.
"Yes, geber." He handed the glazed juglet to me, and I poured some into my mouth.
A searing pain jolted through me, and I yelled, grabbing my face, smashing the juglet into my chin. I threw the juglet down, knocking the harp into the wall, putting a dent on the vertical bar. I collapsed on the clothes chest again, moaning as the wine burned in the cut inside my cheek.
"Would you like some water now, geber?"
I barely nodded, and Ahiam got the waterskin, helping me rinse out my mouth and then drink. By chewing carefully, I ate some leben and bread soaked in goat's milk. I was ravenous, and still thirsty, but I stopped eating when my mouth hurt more than my stomach did.
I walked out later than usual, wondering how long it would be before the pain worked out of my muscles, and wondering if Dara could give me a rub. Of course, he might be tending to the hassar, who was probably as sore as I.
Sahrah Michal saw me and stopped in astonishment. "Dahveed! Are you all right?" she gasped.
I bent my head instead of bowing. "I will be, Sahrah."
"But what happened?"
Her question gave me pause. I didn't know if Jonathan would want anything said about the demon attack on him or not, and until I did, I'd better be noncommital. "I ran into something unexpected," I mumbled, wincing at the pain in my mouth. "With your leave, Sahrah?"
"Of course." Her eyes wide, she watched me walk to the stairs to the east wall.
I climbed them, going to the chamber for the commander of the guard. The sentry nearly dropped his spear when he saw me, and even Sheva had a difficult time restraining his amazement and curiosity. I took his report and went back down to the courtyard. I stumbled and caught myself on the wall. My body didn't want to respond to anything I asked of it, and my mid-section felt very odd. Well, I had never been so completely taken by Yahweh before, and I had no idea how long I'd been under His hand. I'd better rest a minute. Stepping into the shadows around a corner, I slumped against the wall.
Michal emerged from the anteroom door, disgusted with the under-scribe who had neglected to adequately check the storage room for days. A container of olives in a dark corner had been left uncovered and had spoiled, stinking up the room and bringing flies and ants, which had invaded a basket of expensive Tekoa figs. Everything had to be thrown out.
The startled exclamation jerked her head around as a man in a kilt and sword, who was talking to the gate guard, charged across the common court, headed for the narrow space between two rooms along the armory wall.
He glanced into the space, then uttered the short, sharp bark of a fox, and dived between the rooms. The door of Dahveed's chamber slammed open, and Ahiam appeared. Michal was already running, but the servant arrived the same time she did.
The first man supported the zammar, who looked nearly dead white, his eyes half closed. "I'll kill whoever beat him like this!" he snarled.
"No, you won't, I will," Michal broke in angrily, feeling Dahveed's clammy skin, and realizing only one person could have given the zammar this punishment. "Get him into his room," she ordered. "I'll send for Dara. Who are you?"
So, this was the man who visited Dahveed in the night. He looked like he might be able to make good on his threat to her brother, especially if Dara left the hassar on his own, which he probably would once he saw Dahveed.
A shiver ran through the zammar as they moved in a tight group to his room, Achsah running to meet them.
"Send a messenger for Dara," Michal snapped. "Tell him the Dahveed needs him."
With a wild look at Dahveed's face, the serving woman ran for the anteroom.
In Dahveed's room, Ahiam shoved the table aside, and unfolded a bedroll. Shagay eased his burden on it and stripped off the sword and belt knife.
Ahiam's face was tight. "I shouldn't have sent him out today, but he didn't seem this bad," he said.
"What happened?" Shagay asked in a low voice.
"Things didn't go well at Chephirah. The hassar was not pleased, and with reason."
"He's shivering," Michal said. "Get some blankets over him. I'll have Achsah get something hot. Where's Dara?" she fretted. She went outside to find Achsah anxiously waiting.
"Is he all right, Sahrah?"
"I don't know. But he's cold. Built up a fire. I'll get some mint and honey to steep for him."
The water had just begun to boil when the hoof beats of a hard-ridden mule clattered on the road. The animal skidded to a stop at the other side of the courtyard, sides heaving from the steep climb. Dara leaped off, disappearing into the room where he kept his healer's supplies.
He ran across the court, carrying his bag, while one of the off-duty guards tended to the mule. It was Ishvi's, she noted. Dara must have been on the training ground working with Eleazer, Ishvi's new shield-bearer.
"How bad is it?" he demanded. "The messenger said someone had attacked him and he was near death."
"He's been beaten, not attacked," Michal replied, as she led the way to the room.
Shagay and Ahiam moved back to give the healer room. "Open the shutters," he commanded.
Dara quickly assessed the injuries, examining the zammar's face, checking the cut on his neck, running his hands over the rest of his scalp, then over his entire body. While he did, Ahiam told him in terse sentences what he knew.
"He was walking normally when he came back from the anteroom last night?" Dara asked.
"Yes, geber. I knew the hassar would not be pleased with what happened at Chepirah, but they were speaking casually when Dahveed came in, and he didn't seem hurt in any way. It was only when I saw his face this morning that I realized he must have been beaten."
Dara covered Dahveed, who was shivering again. "You said he could hardly move this morning?" he asked thoughtfully
The healer ran his hand down Dahveed's arms and legs once more. "That cut on his neck looks like something he'd get in a fight, and these muscles feel like he's been through a battle. He had to have been hurting last night." He pressed his hand again over the abraded skin on Dahveed's chest, and the zammar moaned. "That rib has to be cracked at least. You are certain he gave no sign of pain?"
"What would keep him from feeling pain?" Michal asked.
"His gift," Shagay broke in.
"But the gift took him before noon! He came out of it quickly, I didn't even have to call him. The effect wouldn't last that long," Ahiam protested.
Dara studied the zammar again, his head to one side. "However it happened, he's severely bruised, especially that left side, and if his rib is cracked, he'd better stay in bed for two or three days until we see if he's injured inside anywhere. I'd say a beating on this scale could rouse his gift. Ahiam, how much did Dahveed get to eat and drink yesterday?"
Ahiam closed his eyes. "Next to nothing, geber."
"Considering what I saw the day he sparred with Jonathan and me, I would say we need to get as much food and drink down him as we can, as well as make sure he rests." Dara said. "I can give him a rub down this afternoon."
Michal stood up, casting a quick glance at Dara. She hadn't realized Dahveed had fought them both the day Jonathan had followed Dahveed, curious to see what the zammar did in the early mornings. "I'll see that he eats." She stalked out the door.
Ishvi whirled around as she came out. "Is he all right? What happened? The messenger said he was dying. I didn't want to interrupt Dara if it's bad."
"He won't die," Michal replied. "Achsah saw his face and blew things up from there. It seems Jonathan sent him all over the country, leaving him little time to eat or drink, and when he got back, instead of giving him a chance to have a meal, our brother apparently gave him a severe enough beating to throw him into his gift!"
"Jonathan beat Dahveed?"
"Go look for yourself, and if you can think of anyone else who could do that to him, let me know!"
Ishvi pushed by her into Dahveed's room. He came back out with his face white with anger. "You're right. It would seem Jonathan's temper got the better of him."
"Something was certainly eating at him yesterday, and he must have taken it all out on Dahveed," Michal said, pressing her lips together.
"What's this I hear of the zammar?" Ahinoam asked, walking toward them.
Ishvi told her what little they knew, and Ahinoam stepped over the raised thresh hold into Dahveed's room, speaking to Dara. She came back out with her lips pressed tightly together, and two white spots on her cheeks. "Michal, go back to your duties. We've done all we can here, and I understand there's a mess in the storeroom that needs to be tended to. Ishvi, go back to the training ground and assure everyone that the Dahveed is not likely to die yet. Since today is preparation day before Shabbat, give everyone the afternoon off. We will all be going to Zelah."
"What about court?" Ishvi asked in bewilderment.
"Jonathan is going to close it," Ahinoam said, walking away, already giving orders to the servants regarding their departure.
Michal and Ishvi watched with wide eyes.
Dahveed and Jonathan Deal with Mahesa and his Charge.
This scene is placed on pg. 196 just before the break.
I did manage an hour or two of sleep before daylight. Messengers from Libni and the three units with him reported that they had chased the Philistines down to the Shephelah, and were now returning in good order. About the third hour, I stopped at the hassar's tent.
The growls coming from it warned me that the hassar was in a bad mood. Dara came out, looking annoyed. Make that a very bad mood.
"How is he?" I asked.
"His leg is badly swollen."
"He can rest all day. I plan on staying here until we know for certain what the Philistines will do next. Has Mahesa had anything to eat this morning?" I indicated the Egyptian lying outside the tent.
"Dara!" the hassar's voice roared.
"I'll take care of the Egyptian," I said helpfully, "that way you can deal with the hassar."
Dara gave me a look that said much, and turned back to the tent.
I went to the officer. "Mahesa."
He opened his eyes, his look blank for a couple seconds until his memory returned. Seeing me standing by him, he quickly rolled to his knees, wincing as he moved. "What is your command, adoni?"
He rose stiffly, and I turned him around, untying the bonds on his hands. He turned back, working his fingers a few times.
"Thank you, adoni."
Wondering if I could be as dignified as he was if our positions were reversed, I led him to my tent, and Ahiam gave him something to eat. Then I took him to the ravine where men from the 14th unit still held the rest of his party.
"Call them out," I said.
"They will live, adoni, and return to Egypt?" Mahesa asked as I caught a glimpse of his continued fear and uncertainty.
He walked across the road and approached dip into the ravine where his companions had taken shelter. "Debaset," he called, continuing in Egyptian.
A voice replied, and he said something more. I caught the words, El Shaddai' and a young man of about 14 years appeared at the edge of the trees. He stayed still for several moments, and then walked steadily to Mahesa, even though his legs were shaking noticeably. Another youth, a little older came next, and then more until about seven of them had gathered around the Egyptian officer.
When the first archer appeared, I noticed the tension in the men of the 14th unit. "Let them come," I ordered.
The men eased back. Twenty archers eventually emerged from the trees, and I noted that they positioned themselves evenly around the group of young men, clearly ready to make a fight of it even now.
Mahesa knelt to me. "May they go, adoni?"
"How long has it been since they had anything to eat or drink?" I asked.
"Some time yesterday morning," he replied, startled.
"I would not send them away hungry and thirsty. Bring them into camp. I'll detail an escort to the border as well. Otherwise, you may be attacked on the way."
"You are gracious, adoni," Mahesa replied, but I could tell he was worried that I had not released them immediately.
The men from the 14th unit closed around the Egyptians, and escorted them to my tent. Soon enough food and wine arrived from the quartermaster to feed them. Jonathan appeared while they were eating.
"So, you got them out," he commented.
I noticed his leg was splinted as if it was broken.
"Dara said it would slow me down," he explained sourly. "The Egyptian looks worried."
"Since I didn't release them immediately, he's wondering if we're going to kill them after all."
"I also thought it might be a good idea to escort them to the border," I added.
Suddenly, that wicked gleam appeared in the Hassar's eyes. "I think that's a very good idea," he agreed. "Bring the officer to me," he said to Josheb, who stood guard at my tent. My retainer went to Mahesa and brought him.
Seeing the hassar, he knelt again. "You sent for me, adoni?"
"Dahveed has told me that he will provide an escort for you to our borders."
"Yes, adoni. We are grateful for his concern."
"We are indeed very concerned. It wouldn't do for something to happen to your charges while they traveled in our country. The 14th unit will travel with your companions to the north border at Dan, and they may go anywhere they wish from there."
I kept my eyes down, undecided about whether I liked what the hassar had done or not. My promise had not been broken, but it certainly wasn't fulfilled the way Mahesa had expected. Since he was a captive, there wasn't much he could do about it, but I wasn't entirely certain this was an honorable way to handle the situation. However,
"The north border is a long way. You do not need to take such trouble, adoni. The Shephelah is but a few miles behind us."
"It will be the north border, Egyptian. You will accompany us to Gibeah so that we can properly supply you for the journey. From there, we will provide guides and escorts to Dan."
Mahesa bowed again, looking at the ring on Jonathan's hand. "Do I have the word of Israel's Hassar on this?"
"We are in your hands," he said.
Dahveed is Demoted to Commander of the Second Unit.
This scene is placed on pg. 214 at the very end of chapter 19.
Back at the fortress, Jonathan led the way into the throne room. One look at his face, and every courtier there bowed, including Abner, who still favored his side. The king was absent, whether because he was afraid of me, or still angry at Abner, I didn't know. But I doubted the latter.
Jonathan took the throne and Eshbaal stood at his right hand. In the corner, the spear handle still lay where I'd thrown it, and the spear head had not yet been pried from the wall. Neither had the ties for the curtains been replaced. Obviously, Sahrah Michal hadn't returned to her duties. I hoped she was all right.
"The Dahveed ben Jesse come forward," the hassar commanded.
I walked forward and knelt. "I am here, adoni."
"You have been general of Israel's armies to the king. He has removed the title from you. It is your duty to surrender the mantle of office back to the king."
"As the king wishes," I said, holding it up. Sar Eshbaal took it.
"Abner ben Ner, come forward." Taking the mantle from Eshbaal, Jonathan stood. "Abner, the king has declared that you shall be the general of his armies at his pleasure."
Abner bowed his head slightly. "As the king wishes," he said, unable to completely hide the satisfaction in his voice.
The hassar fastened the mantle around Abner's shoulders with a new brooch Eshbaal gave him. Abner's face darkened when he saw the tear in the mantle, and he cast a disgusted glance my way.
Jonathan turned to me again. "Dahveed, the king has declared that you shall be a commander of a thousand to him instead of general."
My heart sank, all hope of finally seeing my family fading away. "I will serve as the king wishes," I said.
"General Abner, does a new unit need to be raised for Commander Dahveed?"
"Not at the moment," Abner replied. "He can replace Jarib in the second unit."
Anger crossed the hassar's face. I shook my head slightly. He hesitated, and I shook it again.
"Very well. A new commander will inspire the unit and give you the chance to bring equipment and fighting ability up to the usual standard. An excellent plan, General. I'll be out in a day or two to review the unit."
The look on Abner's face clearly said he'd planned nothing of the kind, but he dared not say so. "Yes, Hassar," he replied.
His tone boded ill for me. Anyone else could have resigned, but the king had taken me personally, and I might be forced to endure this for an indeterminate time. My stomach roiled at the thought.
"Yah, go before me," I pleaded in my mind. "Make a place for me somehow."
"You will report for duty in the morning, Commander," Jonathan continued. "Will that be satisfactory, General?"
"You are dismissed, Dahveed."
I left the room.
Jonathan Quells Abner After Dahveed is Assigned to the Second Unit.
This scene is placed on pg. 216 just before the break to Dahveed's viewpoint.
Michal dressed with care, and Immi came to set the headband on her hair and make certain it was combed out well. She had the dark blue general's mantle with her.
"Do you know why Jonathan is going to see Abner?" Immi asked.
"I don't know for certain."
"I don't think I've ever seen your brother this angry," her mother said slowly. "I was afraid for Dahveed when he left this afternoon with the mantle, but when he returned with Dahveed, he looked even worse. And then the mantle is delivered to me for mending. Michal, what happened in the throne room? I had my hands full with Merab."
The sahrah looked away. "The demon tried to kill Dahveed," she finally said, telling her mother as much as she remembered of those terrifying minutes, and then what had happened afterwards in the anteroom.
"And the king's response is to demote Dahveed and place him under Abner's hand? What is he thinking?"
"I think Abbi is afraid," Michal said, remembering how her father had acted.
"Well, when Jonathan confronts Abner, try to keep him from killing the man. I haven't told Abner what I think of him yet."
She dumped the mantle on the bedroll and marched out of the room, Michal staring after her.
She was still bemused when she found Jonathan waiting by the private gate.
"What is it?" he asked, seeing the expression on her face.
"Did you know that Immi has a temper?" she asked, as they left.
"I've suspected it a time or two! Why?"
Michal told Jonathan what Immi had said to her.
Jonathan chuckled dryly as they walked down the road on the west side of the hill. "Our esteemed cousin is going to find that if he touches Dahveed, he'll open up a hornet's nest he won't be able to avoid. And since Immi had precious little use for Abner already, he'd better stay out of her way now! What's this?" he ended unexpectedly, pulling Michal into the shadows by a compound wall.
Commander Libni stepped out of Abner's gate, his face briefly visible in the torch light.
"What's he doing there at this hour?" Michal asked.
"Excellent question, little sister."
They waited as the commander walked toward them, the expression on his square face bleak and hard.
"Your thoughts seem distasteful to you, Libni," the hassar commented, stepping forward as the commander passed them.
Libni whirled, startled, his hand pulling his sword half out of the sheath. "Who is there?"
"Jonathan Hassar, Commander, and I very much wonder what the general said to you that has upset you so."
"Why would the general have said anything to me?" Libni asked, trying to sound casual.
"Because you just came from his gate, and I can't imagine you were there talking to the servants. The professional forces are the backbone of our army, and when I see an expression such as yours as you are coming from the general's house, I inquire."
Michal didn't move, wondering why her brother seemed so tense, until she realized that Jonathan was unarmed, and the commander held a weapon. Remembering the last confrontation between Jonathan and Abner and knowing how close Libni was to Abner, she wondered just how far Abner would go in this honor battle, and how far Libni would go in his loyalty to the general.
Jonathan moved farther into the street, putting more of the commander's back to her as the man faced him. She looked around and saw a fist-sized rock on the ground two feet away, and she had her cloak. If the commander attacked Jonathan, she could throw her cloak over his head and then hit with the rock.
"I have a duty to obey my general," Libni said. "What sort of soldier would I be if I only obeyed when I liked the orders?"
"A very poor one, certainly," Jonathan replied pleasantly. "But armies have chains of command and a soldier's duty is owed to the highest authority commanding him."
The commander dropped his gaze, and the sword sank back into the sheath where Libni clutched nervously at the hilt. "General Abner gave me orders concerning the Dahveed, Hassar." He went on to explain what had been said to him.
"So you were to make it as hard as you could for Dahveed to do his job without openly opposing him?" Jonathan asked when the recital was done.
"Yes, Hassar, but only for a month or so."
"Then leave him alone."
"Since by that time his honor would be damaged beyond repair. What do you think, Commander?"
"It is not my place to think about orders, Hassar."
"It is when the hassar tells you to."
Libni studied the street, the walls, the fringes on Jonathan's robe, everything but Jonathan's face. His hand worked on the sword hilt, and he twitched his kilt nervously with the other.
Jonathan stood relaxed with arms folded, but not letting the commander off the hook in the slightest.
"I I don't think the orders are are necessarily the best, adoni," Libni said at last, sweat beading on his face, pale in comparison to his dark hair.
"So if a higher authority contradicted those orders you would refuse to carry them out?"
"I would do whatever you said in any case, adoni," Libni replied, breathing easier.
"Good. Disregard anything General Abner said to you about the Dahveed. He is to be treated just as you would any other fellow commander."
"Yes, Hassar," Libni said, bowing.
"I'm glad we understand each other. I will also forget where your hand has been during this entire conversation."
Libni looked down and jerked his hand away from the sword hilt as if it was on fire, his face draining of color.
"Shall we go, Michal?" Jonathan continued, holding out his hand to her.
"Certainly, Jonathan," she replied, stepping from the shadows. She got one glimpse of Libni's stricken face as Jonathan turned her, and they continued down the street.
"If nothing else happens, this night has been worth it," Jonathan said, smiling grimly. "I've been wanting to strip Libni from Abner for a long time. Never had the chance until now."
"Unless Abner's hold on him is stronger than you think."
"That might have been true last year, but thanks to Abner's own stubbornness and the way Dahveed shared out honor and rewards last war season, the general's hold was much weakened. If Dahveed keeps to his place as commander and shows his respect for the king's wishes, there won't be a commander in the army who will support Abner against him."
"But won't that undermine Abner's authority?"
"It will limit it, again something which I've wanted to do for some time. The army should be loyal to the king, and obey the general because the king has placed him over them. Two years ago, the army was loyal to the general and obeyed the king because the general told them to."
They stopped outside Abner's courtyard gate. "But Abner is devoted to Abbi," Michal said.
"Yes, but what would happen in a battle if Abner was killed, and the loyalty of the troops was not given to the king?"
"The soldiers might desert," she said slowly.
"And that would probably mean the king's death," Jonathan said.
Michal studied the latch on the gate. "That's another reason you're so obvious about your loyalty to Abbi, isn't it?" she asked. "The people's devotion to you must also center on the king."
Her brother laid his finger on her lips. "Yes, Michal, but it is not wise to speak so plainly. Abbi is the anointed ruler for Israel, and all must respect that."
Jonathan opened the gate, and they went through. Her brother hardly gave the servant time to announce them before he entered the upper room of Abner's house. Michal stepped in behind him and moved to one side where she could see both men. Abner curtly nodded to the servant, who went out, not quite closing the door. Michal pushed it firmly shut, satisfied with the gasp she heard and the sudden movement as the servant jerked away whatever body part had nearly been shut in the door.
"What do you want?" Abner asked testily from his three-legged chair. "Don't I get any peace in my own house?"
"Why would a visit from family be upsetting, cousin?" Jonathan replied. "Perhaps all I want is to catch up on the news."
"Don't waste our time, Hassar. You're here about the zammar."
"I am. I thought I might explain the differences you'll find when you take charge of the army tomorrow. The king owes both his kingdom and his life to the zammar. The fact that the zammar is now out of favor doesn't change the honor debt."
Michal preserved a straight face, keeping her eyes away from the general, who looked more than amazed.
"If one of our house were to treat Dahveed with less than the respect he deserves, and so bring dishonor to the king's name, I will act."
"I will do as the king commands me, Hassar," Abner said, holding Jonathan's gaze, but sweat beaded his neck.
"In this case, you will do as I command, Abner," Jonathan said quietly.
"You would speak treason before a witness?" the general gasped.
Her brother's eyebrows climbed up his forehead. "Treason? In what way? The king has transferred all routine business into my hands. I wear his signet. Did a single person in the throne room bat an eyelash when I took the throne this afternoon instead of King Shaul? Did you when I gave you that mantle?"
Abner shifted uneasily in his chair. "He has not given you the kingdom," he protested.
"Which part of it has he withheld? If the king had to chose between you or me, who do you think would live? What is the driving purpose of the king's life, Abner? To preserve the throne for you, or for me? And if I went to the king tonight and asked for your life, would I get it?"
Michal stayed very quiet. Once again the man who brought her here had left behind the safe, comforting brother she loved and become the ruthless, implacable Hassar.
General Abner hardly knew what to do. The sweat streamed down his face as he looked into Jonathan's eyes. "What have I done that you would do this to me?"
"The same thing you did last time, Abner. I thought I made it plain that touching the zammar touched the king and myself."
Abner's face turned a dull red.
"Only he is more than just the zammar now. He is the Dahveed. And while the king has placed him under your hand, you will treat him with the respect which is his due. Anything less will bring retribution from me. For by Yahweh's life, as my father's throne is mine, so is he!"
Michal stared at her brother as those unbelievable words came from his lips. How could he turn the truth itself inside out so ruthlessly? Trembling, she looked at Abner.
The general stiffly bowed his head. "As you wish, Hassar," he said through his teeth.
Dahveed Asks Jonathan for a Forge for Lotan.
This scene is placed on pg. 218 at the very end of Chapter 20.
After dark, I entered the fortress. Jonathan and Michal were on the battlements in their favorite corner, and I waited in the darkness by the bottom of the stairs until they came down. When they walked by, I fell into step on the other side of the hassar.
Michal was so deep in thought, I don't think she knew I'd come. Jonathan noticed me in a moment and his hand jerked toward his girdle. But he said nothing until his sister had gone through the private gate.
"Do that again, and I'll pin your ears back."
He groaned softly. "Don't start saying that again! What do you want?"
"To thank you for restraining Abner."
"I simply reminded him of the honor he owes the king. Was there anything else?"
He'd done more than that, I knew. And from the way he was fingering the king's signet, I would wager he had pulled rank on the king's cousin at the very least. "I also need a forge," I answered him.
"Are you going to tell me why you want this forge?" he pushed, turning to me in the dark.
"To work bronze."
"That's not very helpful information, Dahveed."
"You can say 'no', Jonathan," I reminded him, amused.
"And have you build one out in the hills somewhere making me wait for weeks to learn what you want it for? Yes, you can have a forge. I'll send an order in the morning to clear one for you. Anything else?"
I considered. "Nadab might be upset. I took a lot of bronze from the armory today."
"And what am I supposed to tell him?" the hassar asked, the exasperated tone entering his voice as he folded his arms across his chest.
"That most of it will come back, one way or the other."
Jonathan sighed. "Leave. You have my permission to go. Vanish, before I decide we can't afford to have you in the army any longer and---"
I left, keeping my laughter to myself and hearing the laughter in his voice as well.
Balak's flight to the Jordan
This scene is placed on pg. 401 at the very end of chapter 41.
His feet pounding on the road, Balak ran, terror filling him. What had happened? He had won, and suddenly the king had turned against him. How had the hassar found that shrine? Judith must have done this. Bitterness filled him. He ran until he was exhausted and then pushed himself on. He had to find safety while it was still dark. Why hadn't Kemosh protected him? He must get to the Jordan and cross it tonight. Then he'd be safe in Moab.
He bent down, holding his side, gasping for breath. How had he miscalculated? What about hiding in Jebus? The hassar couldn't reach him there, but he'd be forever confined to the walls, not daring to step out of them. And who knew when some assassin might kill him in his bed? No, he must cross the Jordan into Moab.
Of course! Moab! Somehow, Yahweh had become to strong for Kemosh in Israel, and the god was sending him to Moab where he would be protected. That was what had happened. Heartened, Balak started to jog again. He'd learned a lot here, and it would be easier to climb in Moab. Maybe he'd misunderstood Kemosh again. Maybe he was destined to become the king of Moab, and not of Israel. His name was Balak, after all.