This work of fiction, of which the first 2 chapters are here presented, take place in the ancient days. It serves as a prequel to Twilight.
Please read and leave your feedback, which will be greatly appreciated.
EVENING AND MORNING... A TWILIGHT PREQUEL
Before I die... you must promise to write down this story. I was there, centuries ago, when the first of their kind appeared. For over 1 year we searched for him, the King's heir, after his disappearance from the feast. Then he returned... changed... animal... dead. You must send this at once to a Dr. Carlisle Cullen. This information poses a great danger and it would be perilous if it should fall into the wrong hands. Promise me that after I pass away you will deliver this to the good doctor. And swear that besides him, no one else will know about this. Swear it on your life. It will depend on it.
3,000 years before, by the shores of the Great Sea
The city of Tyre had never seen such turmoil since the coming of the enemies from across the Sea. During the past twelve months there had been no rumors of the whereabouts of the King's son, Prince Hiram. After his mysterious disappearance from the palace the night of the Harvest festival, the King had offered a rich ransom for news of his only heir. Messengers had been sent to a number of the neighboring nations and allies of Tyre: King Solomon, the King of the Hittites, the nation of Moab and even as far as the Lord of Nineveh; and all of them sent men and resources to find the missing prince.
Suddenly one evening during late spring the young man returned. "Guards! Guards! Seize that intruder at once!" ordered the captain of the guard without recognizing the prince who wore a long, dark cloak upon his naked flesh. The two sentinels hurriedly took him and led him to the fountain by the Gates under the light of the torches. The man simply pushed them away against the walls, their blood staining the frescoes which the prince himself had commissioned some years before. "State your name and your business here! Don't you know that its death to come into the palace? Who are you?" asked the Captain as he approached the stranger. "Remove your cloak at once!" yelled the Guard.
"Don't you recognize me, Jared? It's me, Hiram!" said the prince as he fell upon the floor. Jared came closer and with his spear pushed the cloak away. His long, black hair fell upon his shoulders and back, his skin was awfully pale and white, his fingernails were long and dirty and his eyes were black as night. "Prince Hiram? Call the King! Call the King! His son is here!" Jared exclaimed, both surprised and filled with pity at the sight that was before his eyes. "What happened to you? Why did you kill the soldiers? Speak, milord!" Jared said again and he knelt besides the prince, holding him close. "Your skin is so cold! What are you?" thought the Captain.
The prince opened his eyes, which turned blood-shot red in an instant. "What? Arghh!-" cried Jared when Hiram pinned him down and savagely bit him in the neck and tore the skin apart. The blood ran everywhere. The last two guards sounded the alarm as they ran filled with terror back to the Gate. The prince had scarcely finished draining the blood of his victim when as fast and as cold a winder wind he blocked the way of the two soldiers and ran them through with the Captain's spear. In that moment, the King reached the balcony that was above the Gates and which overlooked the inner court, the fountain of the guards and the plaza. "My son! Hiram! What have you done?!" the King said amidst tears and concerned at the horrible sight of the mangled bodies and the blood which now ran from his son's mouth.
Hiram had eaten to satisfaction and was again on the floor, terrible pains running throughout his body when two archers let out their poisoned fire arrows, one of the piercing the prince's chest and another shot to his back. His eyes had gone back to black. "Father...!" were his words when a dozen of the soldiers surrounded him and bound him with an iron chain. The torch's light was reflected on his flesh which sparkled dimly due to the proximity of the fire. "Call the physician and the attendants!" ordered the King. And the guards and the King's men carried the prince into the palace, Hiram let out a hellish scream as if he was being burned alive.
"Please, I do not want to see my son die!"
The court physician ran to the large room where the Prince laid upon a bed, his hands trembling from time to time as he yelled due to the pain that had taken over his body. Along with the doctor also came his apprentice and aide, Arom. Arom was about twenty years of age, with jet-black hair and tall; though he was interested in the secrets of the body, the hidden mysteries of the mind were his main passion. Countless hours he had spent studying the ancient texts from Babylonia and Egypt which dealt with the subject of his interest. But the Prince was near death, and now he needed to apply what he had learned of the flesh. The mind could wait later.
"Arom, bring the towels and the bandages. We must extract the arrow and close the wound before the poison spreads. Hurry!" ordered the court physician as he tried to hold Hiram still. "His flesh is cold as ice. What malady could this be?" the man said, noticing the thin bluish strands of Hiram's veins underneath the pale skin. Arom brought the things needed and with much care they started the extraction. "Feel the arrow head... there. We must be careful of not letting it cut any other parts inside" the doctor explained as he led Arom's finger inside the wound. "His heart was almost pierced! But I think that the poison has not reached it yet. Fortunately, the arrow on his back did not reach deep into his flesh and I removed it. But the one to his chest, that one I fear could have killed him. At the count of three, pull it out quickly!"
With great care, the apprentice got hold of the projectile. "One... two... three!" Arom counted and with a fast motion the arrow head was out, and the wound was closed. Turning to reach for one of the towels to clean the wound, Arom looked at his Master, who was proud of his fast-learning pupil. "You did well! But don't forget to tend the wound now", the doctor said. And that he was going to do when he noticed that the area of entrance on the prince's chest was more than closed... it was healed. There was but a small scar, as if it had been from an old wound, not a recent one. "Master, look at this... he's healed!" Arom exclaimed, both surprised and intrigued. "By the gods, how did it happen? But he has not wakened up. I could have sworn that the impact was bigger. Still, we must finish our work. Wash clean the parts around the scar. And tightly press the bandage around his chest."
Doing as instructed, Arom had the prince's chest clean and the bandage upon its place. “Help me lead him to his chambers. The King has given me permission to watch over his son until he wakes up!" the doctor told the soldiers and with eagerness they helped him carry the prince to his room. The physician watched over him by day and Arom took charge during the vigils of the night. He could listen to the sentinels upon the watchtowers announcing the coming and passing of the hours, from sunset until sunrise, and the change of the guards which took place two hours before the bright morning star neared the moon. Three days passed and still the prince would not awaken.
Hiram rested in what to them seemed a deep sleep, but Arom, through his studies of the mind and its effect upon the rest of the body, perceived that indeed the prince was in a sleep, but not of rest. His extremities were all tense, as if he were ready to jump from the bed at anytime. And then there was the white color that had taken upon the prince's skin. At first it was pale but over the course of the three days it had gradually turned white as the marble that decorated the King's walls. Taking careful notes of all the things he observed, Arom tried to make sense of the Prince's violent reaction, miraculous recuperation and now his physical changes.
The sun came with full splendor from the east the morning of the fourth day. Arom was barely waking up and a little wary opened his eyes to see the prince. The bed was empty, and the bandages were heaped on the floor nearby. "Where is he? Prince Hiram! Prince Hiram!" Arom cried, realizing that the prince had escaped his vigilance...
Here's chapters 3 and 4... enjoy!
"Where is he? Prince Hiram! Prince Hiram!" Arom cried, realizing that the prince had escaped his vigilance. The windows that faced the west were opened and Arom looked upon the market square that buzzed down below with the noise of peddlers, merchants, buyers and the animals which carried spices from far Indus, copper from Sinai, and other goods from around the known world. But being agitated and concerned for the Prince's whereabouts, Arom paid no heed to the soldier that from below called his name. "Master Arom! Master Arom! You must come with us! Please, come down with haste!" At the word haste, the apprentice returned to his reality and without even bothering to answer, he hurried down the granite stairs to the gate where two other soldiers awaited him.
"What could possibly be more important than searching for the prince?" Arom thought to himself, but the palace guard rarely called for his help or that of any that was part of the staff. "What is it?" Arom asked the young soldier. "We are investigating this incident, Master Arom. Please, do not speak of this to anyone until further notice by the King or the King's Counselors" said the soldier. "What incident?" Arom asked again. Hurriedly they led him to a small house that stood alone at the north end of the square market. Three guards stood at the entrance with their swords in hand to prevent any onlookers from coming nearby. After hand-signaling the guard in charge of Arom's authorization to enter, they quickly opened the door and pulled him inside.
The eyes of the young apprentice could not believe the gory sight: there were limbs, hands, shoulders, legs, pieces of fingers and clothes tore everywhere inside. Four people had been killed, horribly exterminated by a mysterious visitor. Under the grim vigilance of the guards was the only survivor, a small child nearly 9 years of age who had managed to escape by hiding inside a heavy wooden chest. The boy's clothes were stained with blood. Noticing the boy's look of despair and utter loss, Arom came near him and asked permission from the guards to speak with the child. Picking the boy up and carrying him to a chair by a closed window, Arom dried the little one's tears.
"Tell me, dear one, what is your name?" Arom asked with a reassuring smile on his face. "I am Joshua, son of Zephel" the boy replied while pointing to the mangled body of his father which lay on the floor near that of his wife. "Joshua... that is a beautiful name. Joshua, what happened? Why are you crying?" Arom asked tenderly. The boy took a deep breath. "Mother was just coming in from the fountain by the square and she was carrying the water jars. My father had just brought freshly baked bread for us when the door opened and we felt a cold wind pass us by. I head both my sisters, Miriam and Sarai, scream for help and then fall upon the floor, their necks cut. I ran towards them and then I heard my mother's muffled cry and her body hitting the ground also. The fires were put out and again I sensed something quickly passing by me heading to my father. That is when I hid inside the chest. It was so noisy: the sound of bones being broken and the tables being turned upside down." Tears began to flow freely again from the child's eyes.
Arom patted the boy's hands as he spoke of the event, focusing his eyes on the face and expressions Joshua did with his hands. By his studies, Arom knew that the boy was not lying, that he was opening his mind to him. There was but one final question to make. "Joshua, did you see who did this?" The boy answered, "It was dark, but I peeked from inside the chest and I just saw amidst the shadows two red eyes of a man tall. I could not see his face but when he turned to leave, I remember his back: his skin was white and in the distance it glittered when he walked by a torch. And then he just disappeared. One moment he was there and the next he wasn't. It was as if he had the speed of the wind."
Those words took Arom's breath away. White, cold skin and red eyes... and the speed of death above it all. "How?" Arom whispered, though Joshua did not hear him say the name. "Guard, please deliver this child to my sister's house at once. If she asks who why just tell her that Arom will contact her as soon as possible!" Arom said. Before the boy was taken, Arom spoke to Joshua. "Do not fear! You will be safe there, little dear one. My sister is a kind woman and I know that she will be delighted to have you in her home."
As Joshua left with the guards, Arom now began his way back to the palace. "Hiram..."
The noises of the city were far behind by the time Hiram reached the abandoned tower his great-grandfather had erected in the northeaster border of the kingdom as a watch against the Chaldeans and the Assyrians from beyond the Great River. He had been on the run for almost two hours looking behind now and then and making sure that none had marked his escape. The rush of adrenaline inside him began to quiet after a while and to his own surprise he was not half as tired as he expected himself to be after such a journey. The sun now shone upon him when he opened the old rusted gate and fell on the floor, horror taking over him at the sight of his hands. "What have I done? What have I become?" he exclaimed when he noticed that the blood stained the fingers of both his hands and reached down to his elbows; and the memories came rushing back to him.
The young physician had gone to sleep by the time Hiram opened his eyes and began to remove the bandages that were tightly drawn over his chest and back. Silver moonlight beckoned him to the window and with lithe steps he piled the bandages in a heap on the floor and cast an old curtain as along rope that hung nearly ten feet from the ground down below. Carefully he descended when the change of the guards occurred and some of them were heading his way when with incredible speed he ran past the soldiers to the north end of the market square. Dawn approached fast when he spotted a middle aged man returning to his home with a loaf of bread. Hiram closed his eyes when a cold breeze brought to him the smell of flesh from that house. And as the man turned to close the door, Hiram sprang after him.
Two young women with golden hair and fair faces yelled when Hiram bit one of them on her neck, tearing the skin out and then turned on the other one and did the same. Both of them fell to the floor as he went from one to the other, draining their blood with savagery. The man, the girls' father, picked up a chair and smashed it against Hiram's back to no effect: the chair shattered, its wooden splinters flying in all directions when he broke the man's right arm off and then with his bare hands cut the woman's chest. He wanted to stop, but he could not. All his thoughts yelled at him and said that his actions were barbaric and inhuman but at the same time a powerful urge for blood moved him to destroy these people. Drinking their blood gradually calmed his new senses when he heard the whimpering coming from the wooden chest. Two small eyes were peering at him and for a moment he thought of taking that life too.
But now his mind spoke the louder. "Not a child... not this one... let him live! Stop this madness!" was the demand of his reason. "STOP!" Hiram cried out and with that he ran out, looking back but once at the child that stared at him with horror. Someone at the market had heard the calls for help and already there was a group of people running to the house; Hiram had no time to loose. "Over there! That man... get him!", one of the merchants exclaimed but before they could even take a step forward, the prince was gone and only a distant trail of dust could be seen. Hiram ran as fast as he could. The urge for blood had faded and the only thing he could think of was to get to the only place he knew he would be safe.
And now that he had reached it, the terrible realization of his actions struck at him with such a violent blow that left him breathless. All those lives were lost because of him. That boy would never be able to call his mother or his father or laugh again with his sisters because of his deeds. He'd taken that away from the boy who had never done anything against him. "What monster am I? Why... why?!" Hiram screamed. The blood on his hands accused him, the memories of his actions tormented him, and now he felt an excruciating pain that burned his insides. "Who will love me now? Who shall ever call my name with peace? I am accursed... a fading ghost!" Hiram thought to himself as grief consumed him.
Reaching inside the pockets of his pants, Hiram took out a small piece of linen cloth. It was a parting gift from the one he loved before she'd been taken away by untimely death. "Adryana... how much I need you now! You alone showed me love beyond what men know! Soon I shall join you on the land from which there is no return!" he said as he brought the handkerchief which was embroidered with the initials of her name closer and smelled it, almost trying to bring back her image to his mind. Remorse and regret were the only things his thoughts could conjure. He loathed himself for the things that he had done. He had to end it all. There had to be away to make these feelings go away.
"Death, come to me and set me free!" he whispered as he took out the only other thing that was in his pocket: a golden knife...
UPDATE!! Chapters 5 and 6 below. Please read, and provide feedback.
"Guard, please deliver this child to my sister's house at once. If she asks who why just tell her that Arom will contact her as soon as possible!" Arom said. Before the boy was taken, Arom spoke to Joshua. "Do not fear! You will be safe there, little dear one. My sister is a kind woman and I know that she will be delighted to have you in her home." As Joshua left with the guards, Arom now began his way back to the palace. "Hiram... what have you become? How could you kill those innocent civilians?" Arom thought with horror. And yet, reality could not be denied. Whatever had occurred to the Prince had turned him into a cold-blooded murderer; and not only that but it seemed that Hiram had gained incredible strength. "Perhaps, there may be a way this condition can be reversed and the prince will be back to normal."
Once inside the palace Arom headed for his personal study, a room which the King had given him and his Master to practice their science. There was a large table upon which there were stacks of scrolls and parchments, ink and cuneiform tablets from Babylonia, Assyria, and Canaan, Egypt and even across the sea, Mycenae and the lands beyond the Sea. Hiram was sure that in those ancient writing he would be able to find a clue as to the exact change that had come over Hiram and that therein lays also the solution to his condition. Nearby stood a tall granite pedestal where the servants brought them daily a large jar of wine. Arom poured the scarlet drink into a golden cup and began to open one by one the scrolls, searching for something that he had read some months before. “I should have put that thing apart from the others instead of piling them like this. Why is it that you never find what you seek when you need it the most?" said Arom almost in a reproving tone for not being careful or very organized.
After drinking a second cup and casting aside nearly three dozen scrolls, he finally found the one that he wanted. It was old, possibly written centuries before by a scribe with an elegant hand. The language was akin to the one he spoke and used for his daily communication. He began to orally translate the script. "Afterwards, the sons of God looked down and saw that the daughters of men were grown beautiful and comely to look at. They came from heaven and proceeded to take wives, as many as they pleased. The Giants came to be in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of the Gods continued to lie with the daughters of men and they bore sons to them. They were mighty and powerful, terrible in strength. Among the offspring of the sons of heaven also proved to be some with white, cold skin and whose appetite could only be served by the blood of men... the ones that none could harm nor overtake except by the gift of the Gods." Arom paused for a moment, trying to visualize what the story revealed. "The gift of the Gods..."
Meanwhile, soldiers had come to reach the property belonging to Arom's sister. Joshua was a bit nervous of coming to live with someone that he did not know. But the young apprentice had promised him that she was a kind woman. And so she was, for as soon as they came within sight of her house she came out with water and bread. "Good day! What brings the servants of the King to my home?" she said and her eyes turned to the small child. "Milady, your brother Arom has sent word asking your good faith and assistance with this boy. His family was murdered and your brother as sent the child to live with you until the matter is fully investigated", said the head of the guards. The woman, who was one year younger than her brother, had also raven-black hair and her eyes were gray but her smile was as the setting sun: filled with light and warmth that touched all who saw her and ever filled their souls with joy. She took a step forward and her hand reached to tenderly caress the child's cheek.
"What is your name, little one?" she asked with a soft tone. "Joshua!" he said looking at her and a brief smile graced his face. "Joshua... my name is Didyme!" she replied, and turning to the soldiers she said, "And I would be more than glad to have him with me for as long as it take. He shall be the younger brother I wanted. Here he may abide and will be family unto me and my brother." The guards smiled at her words, and one of them even sighed at her look; so was the sweetness that irradiated from her. Taking the boy's right hand she led him into her house. "You may come in too!" Didyme said to the soldiers. "We thank you for your kindness, but we have an urgent errand which cannot be cast aside! We shall let your brother know of your help. He says he will contact you as soon as possible. Good day!” answered the head of the guards.
Didyme and Joshua entered the home; its oak doors had beautiful engravings of men upon horses riding on a valley. "I love horses. My father had promised me that when he would give me one at my coming of age!" Joshua said to the woman and his eyes welled up with tears at the mention of his family. Didyme took her on her arms. "There, there... don't despair, Joshua! You must be strong for them. I also love horses! And we have a small stable with two: one black and one white. You may ride them at pleasure. But just keep this secret: Arom is a little afraid of horses, and even more of riding them at high speed!" Didyme whispered to the child and accomplished at her goal of making him smile again. "First, we must assign you a room! And second, I imagine that you must be quite hungry. Change your clothes and afterwards you can join me at lunch." Joshua did as he was told and headed for the large chamber which Didyme had pointed too. A large copper basing was there filled with water and with linen cloths.
The young woman now went to the garden, to continue tending her flowers. "Joshua is so cute!" she said, smiling to herself...
"Adryana... how much I need you now! You alone showed me love beyond what men know! Soon I shall join you on the land from which there is no return!" he said as he brought the handkerchief which was embroidered with the initials of her name closer and smelled it, almost trying to bring back her image to his mind. Remorse and regret were the only things his thoughts could conjure. He loathed himself for the things that he had done. He had to end it all. There had to be away to make these feelings go away. "Death, come to me and set me free!" he whispered as he took out the only other thing that was in his pocket: a golden knife that his father had received from his father and he from his father going back almost three centuries to the founding of Tyre. Hiram still remembered that day when his father brought him to the garden the day of midsummer and with pride handed him the ancient heirloom.
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and heard the faint slashing of air as the knife neared his heart. "Help me! Help me!" a voice far off yet near cried. Hiram stopped at the last moment. "Anyone, please help me!" he heard again. The knife hit the ground and he came to the closed gate of the tower and took a good look through a hole in the wood. There it was, a young woman with dark-brown hair, white skin and terror in her eyes. The prince could not wait another moment and with speed he abandoned the place where just a few moments before he'd chosen to end his life to now help the young maid. She saw him coming to her, a blur that shone under the sun as diamonds encrusted in a smooth wall of white marble. "Lady, are you well? What happened?" Hiram asked intrigued by the beauty of the woman that now lay in his arms. She barely whispered, visibly weak by an unseen cause, "The asp... has bitten... please!" and with a finger she pointed to her leg.
Hiram carefully took her up and again with incredible speed he rushed back to the tower and laid her on the floor. There he noticed the mark where the asp, a very dangerous and poisonous snake, had bitten her. He knew what he had to do, but horror seized him when he thought of once again destroying a life. Yet, the young lady's grace laid on him as a spell: from her emanated the same peace that he had known from Adryana; and in him awoke a hope of redemption for the crime he had executed against the young boy. With his hands he tore a large piece of cloth from the woman's sky-blue raiment and tightly bound it on her thigh. Carefully now he laid his hand on the wound and coming closer he placed his mouth and began to inhale and to suck the blood out, hoping to prevent the poison from spreading through her system.
And therein lay the object of his terror: the sweetness of her blood began to awake the beast within, and with each passing moment he found it harder and harder to stop. "No... You must control yourself! You will save her, not kill her!" his thoughts echoed in his mind. One more time he looked at her, who opened her eyes briefly. Those brown eyes smote him with sudden amazement and by his will he let go of the wound, spitting the blood out. He had saved her life, and the terror was changed to wonder, as a morning of winter that meets sudden spring. Though she lay still, the rhythm of her breathing began to improve. "You will be fine! You will be safe!" Hiram exclaimed, brushing her hair and her rosy cheeks. Her face was to him the face of an angel. Tears ran down his cold face when he realized what he had just accomplished. And also satisfaction, for he knew that with strength of will he could control himself.
But now he had to take care of the young maid. Dry wood and stones, water and herbs and game he would need to prepare a wholesome lunch, like those he cooked when he was away at war with his troops. Fortunately, the tower had plenty of wood and stones inside, and there was a spring not too far away from his location. The herbs he could find near the spring for there the water was fertile and also the game: hares and deer that grazed by the green grass. Without loosing time, Hiram began to gather pieces of wood that were on piles near the old gate and by the windows of the tower. When had them and also five big stones, he made the fire; and it filled him with fear, though he did not know the reason why. Standing several feet away from the red flames, he checked up on the woman and then turned to the windows that faced the east. "With luck the spring will be without others to see me. Maybe I will be able to catch a good prey."
It was not yet noon when Hiram reached the spring, high palm trees shadowing the place and shrubs of all kinds growing near the clean waters. Walking around the place, Hiram searched now for the herbs to dress the food. Cumin, coriander seed, cassia and saffron he found and also wild garlic and sesame. Then he stood still, all his senses focused in a figure that ran by the tall grass. Putting the things on the floor, Hiram's eyes could see the beautiful animal drinking from the spring. His muscles were flexed, and he made a fast jump towards the animal. The doe had no time to response and before it knew it, Hiram had broken its neck and bitten its neck. The animal fell on the ground and that is when Hiram first saw himself after his transformation. Though his mouth was stained with blood and his hair fell wild upon his shoulders, he gasped. He was no monster, no demon as he had thought at first. To the contrary... he was handsome. More than handsome... he was exquisitely beautiful.
The wind blew softly among the trees and the waters of the spring splashed on the rocks when Hiram just stopped thinking, looking at the reflection. And what his eyes beheld scared him...
this is so good!=D
aww. thank you for reading. I will be posting more.
Chapters 7 and 8 posted NOW
The King of Tyre was enraged, dismayed and worried. "How could your apprentice allow him to leave the safety of the palace? You saw what he did: how he killed the soldiers and tore them apart like mere sticks. My son's safety is not above that of my people and he is a danger not only to himself but to everyone else!" said the King to the Physician of the Court. "I am sure that Arom did not intend for this, milord. He has been a son unto me since his parents died and an excellent apprentice. He has been friends with your son from childhood." the doctor replied with concern in his voice. He knew that Arom was very worried for Hiram and that willingly he had volunteered to look after the prince when he had been brought in with the arrows. And his words had the effect he desired for the King arose from the throne with a look of pity in his eyes.
"Forgive me, my loyal friend, for having thus accused your apprentice. But I'm weary for my son and his whereabouts. He is my only heir and at my age I can produce no more. The fate of Tyre lies on his hands and that of my line also. I have already sent a company of soldiers to look for my son in the city of Byblos. And the King of Jerusalem has promised to send scouts to the northern regions near the inland Sea where the woods meet the large desert that spreads across over to the River Euphrates. With the blessing of Baal he'll be found. But now, where is Arom? I wish to speak with him and ask him if he has heard of any news of my son" the King spoke. One of the guards in the throne room, who saw Arom leaving the palace in the morning, came near the King. "King Ahiram, the young apprentice was in an urgent errand a few hours after dawn. Last time I saw him, he was going to the market accompanied by a group of the palace guards!
The physician looked at the guard and asked. "And now, do you know where Arom is or if he has returned?" The man replied, "Indeed, I think he's in the palace. Perhaps the chamber of records. He frequents the place daily. I shall summon him to you milord!" and bowing before the King, he left the throne room and headed for the library. "With your leave, my King, I must continue with my work. It is already noon and I must finish the experiment I was conducting with herbs and leaves", asked the physician. Smiling, the King lifted up his scepter and nodded to the physician. Just then, as it was the custom, a servant from the household brought the monarch his favorite wine that came from far Babylonia in a cup of gold which bore the King's emblem. Sipping from the wine he thought of his son and of his departed wife and of how much he missed her...
Outside the city, in the peaceful country side, Didyme had just finished picking the most beautiful flowers from the garden. Joshua came from the house with a cup of water in his hand and a smile on his face. "Lady, here is something for you!" said he and handling the cup she was that it was herbal tea. "Mother taught me how to prepare it and this is my favorite one, especially during the heat of the day." Didyme was touched by the boy's kind deed and taking one of the prettiest flowers she handed it over to him. "And this is for you, Joshua. This flower is my favorite. See the colors? Some say the gods themselves had it made in honor of dawn and the glory of sunrise!" she said to the child. Joshua looked at the flower with wonder and carefully placed it on his belt near his thigh. "Thank you!" he exclaimed.
"And now, we must make ready for lunch. Will you please bring the rest of the instruments I left behind? I think that you will like the specialty of my family: honeyed seed cakes and fig cakes, roasted lamb and fresh watermelon" Didyme told the boy and he said to her, "My mother used to bake fig cakes almost everyday. But we rarely ate roasted lamb or the seed cakes." Didyme smiled. "Then you will love them! And after eating I will tell you a tale of man that was also named Joshua. What do you think?” Joshua's eyes were beaming with excitement when she made mention of a tale. He loved listening to ancient tales and legends. They entered the house and Didyme closed the door but opened the three windows that let the sunlight into the spacious main room. There she placed the flowers as Joshua took the tools to the back room.
With the boy's help Didyme placed the food on the table, for she had put the roast since very early in the morning. The golden honey was inside a small bowl with the honeycomb and the warm cakes' smell filled the house. "Eat all that you want; I want to make sure that you feel comfortable here, as if it were your real home" she said. Joshua took on small plate pieces of the lamb and three cakes. But as he reached for one of the cakes he began to cry. "What is it, Joshua?" Didyme asked. "My two sisters... they enjoyed the cakes. I wish they could be here!" he told her, the tears rolling down his face. The maid was moved by his tears and placing her plate upon the table she took him on her arms and whispered, "Joshua, I promise you that as long as I live I will NEVER let anyone or any- thing harm you. I understand that now you feel lost and very sad for what happened to the rest of your family. But you must not let this sadness take over you and rob you of other joys."
Joshua looked at her. "Thank you... Lady Didyme!" he said and his tears were gone and in place of them he felt her peace...
Though his mouth was stained with blood and his hair fell wild upon his shoulders, he had to gasp. He was no monster, no demon as he had thought at first. To the contrary... he was handsome. More than handsome... he was exquisitely beautiful. The wind blew softly among the trees and the waters of the spring splashed on the rocks when Hiram's mind just stopped thinking while looking at the reflection. And what his eyes beheld scared him. For whatever curse that had come upon him had left him a beast within: dangerous, animal, wild; but on the outside he appeared all the opposite: handsome, human, and civilized. "What have they done to me?" Hiram thought to himself, tortured by his state. And yet, the truth that laid bare behind his eyes gave way to secret hope when he thought of the young woman that was alive thanks to his rescue.
"Perhaps in her I will redemption, a way to break free from this curse," he said whispering and once more came into his mind the image of the young woman's face. He had to go back and check up on her and prepare what he had promised. Taking the stag and the herbs, which were on the ground, he made his way back to the ruined tower. He found her near the fire, smiling as she warmed her hands above the flickering hearth. She saw him looking at her and without a single word she stood, dropping the blanket over her shoulders, and ran to him, her arms stretched to embrace him. His skin was cold and smooth and hard like granite and white like marble. Both of them gasped when their bodies made contact. Hiram let go of the things that he carried and vacillating, he embraced her. The scent was as intoxicating as the wine from Babylonia. "Thank you for saving my life!" she exclaimed, still hugging him. Hiram could not answer as he was struck still by her loveliness as well as for the strange attraction that he felt for her. "I... you're welcome, milady," he said and then added "I don't even know your name. I am Hiram from the city of Tyre." Taking a step back to look into his golden-brown eyes, she answered, "My name is Tamar and I live in the city of Byblos." Her dark, long brown hair and chocolate eyes contrasted somewhat with a pale but healthy complexion. Hiram stared into those eyes, pain gnawing at his heart inside because he knew of the danger she was in with him, despite his saving her life. Slowly breaking away from her embrace, both of them walked back to near where the fire was and sat on the ground. He took her hands that looked small compared to his and said, "That is a beautiful name, Tamar. But why were you so scared and running like that when I saw you?"
Tamar pushed some strands of her hair back behind her ears. "I was running away from home. I have been trying to do so for a couple of times now. My mother died two years ago and father was taken captive by a band of Amalekites. I was taken in by my uncle and his family and for some time everything was working out well. Now that I am about to reach my 17th year, Uncle has changed. He started to look at me differently: gazing at me during supper, or watching me from a distance when I walked in the garden. I felt as if he was... I felt uncomfortable and that is why I ran. I feared that he could try to force me; but instead of finding any safety I was bit by the snake. Luckily, you were there to rescue me!" Tamar paused, lifting up her hand up to touch Hiram's right cheek in a gesture of gratitude. Hiram just took a very deep breath as he felt her gentle touch.
"No... No! I am more dangerous that you could ever fathom!" he said to her, his expression a mixture of both passion and pain. "You are innocent! I have done things... terrible things that would strike your heart with horror and loathing for me!" Tamar couldn't understand his words, but she said, "How can you be terrible or how could I hate you when you've just given me another chance?" Hiram closed his eyes and said, "Tamar, I am a murderer. I have killed innocent people. Before you came I was about to take my life. The only reason that did not happen was because I heard your cries for help." She was taken by surprise at his words and her mind denied his confession. How someone so gentle and handsome and considerate could as he appeared to be could be a cold-blooded murderer? But the way he spoke, the way he covered his face with his hands showed remorse and despair, as if guilt had defeated him and hope was beyond his reach.
Still, he had saved her life. Perhaps there could be a way to fix whatever tormented him so relentlessly. Tamar laid her right hand upon his shoulder. "Hiram, I owe you my life. And no matter what you have done, nothing can change that. Maybe you are being too hard on yourself and that is why you think there is no forgiveness. Please, tell me what you did; and you may feel better after sharing it with someone. But know this: I will not hate you. How could I?" Hiram looked at her and the remorse for his crimes and for the lust he felt for her again eating him inside. But she was right: maybe he was not as lost as he thought. He'd been able to control himself with her and even with words of caution she showed him pity and kindness. "Very well... I will tell you everything. And I will understand if you leave and never want to look upon my face again. In fact, that would be the most sensible thing to do."
Tamar had but one last request. "Well… before you start, could you please prepare the food you promised? I am starving..." Hiram looked at the stag and the things he had brought from the spring. He had forgotten about that! And with a crooked smile he said, "Of course!"
CHAPTERS 9-12 POSTED NOW
After drinking a second cup and casting aside nearly three dozen scrolls, he finally found the one that he wanted. It was old, possibly written centuries before by a scribe with an elegant hand. The language was akin to the one he spoke and used for his daily communication. He began to orally translate the script.
"Afterwards, the sons of God looked down and saw that the daughters of men were grown beautiful and comely to look at. They came from heaven and proceeded to take wives, as many as they pleased. The Giants came to be in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of the Gods continued to lie with the daughters of men and they bore sons to them. They were mighty and powerful, terrible in strength. Among the offspring of the sons of heaven also proved to be some with white, cold skin and whose appetite could only be served by the blood of men... the ones that none could harm nor overtake except by the gift of the Gods."
Arom paused for a moment, trying to visualize what the story revealed. "The Gift of the Gods" could refer to only one thing: fire. Arom had read many sacred stories, both from his own land and from others as well. And he had noticed that besides the Great Deluge there was one more thing that they all shared: how fire had been a gift by the Deities for mankind. The Assyrians even had a god call Gerra who protected his people against the evil of wizardry by his all-conquering flame. Even the scriptures of the Israelites revealed their God as a pillar of fire. Fire could both destroy and purify. The Tyrians had a sacred altar before the temple of Baal and Ashtoreth, which fire was kept burning day and night. Arom thought he had found what he needed to deal with the situation and at once set out to meet the court physician and the King.
Just then entered the soldier that King Ahiram had sent to fetch the young apprentice, and Arom was glad to see him. "His majesty wishes to see you in the throne room at once to discuss how were it that his son escaped your vigilance and if you have figured what is it that has afflicted the prince." Smiling, Arom answered, "Thank you! I shall go to the King at once. Would you please bring these two baskets? They are ancient scrolls I believe will shed light on the prince's situation." The guard did not hesitate and with much ease he took one on each hand and followed Arom's quick steps to the main hall, a place of granite columns and ivory luxuries. There the King sat upon his golden throne, a crown of silver with large rubies upon his brow and the royal scepter in his hand. He rose up to greet Arom and the young man knelt before his sovereign.
"Milord, I believe I have found what exactly has befallen the Prince. The ancient writs tell of gods who came down to earth and procreated a race of tall 'men', more like the giants of old. But some of these gods begot another type of children: in face and looks they resembled their parents: beautiful beyond description and strong, but with a wild appetite for human blood. It is my theory that your son was attacked by some member of that race. Perhaps during his absence the Prince was captured by this strange creature with the intention of keeping their kind alive by turning a human into one of his own", said Arom, his mind probing the King's facial expressions as he tried to figure out the inner thoughts and feelings of the monarch. "He is a bit skeptical, but something in his mind tells him is true" Arom thought.
The King drew a deep breath and gestured for Arom to come closer. "Arom, you and my son have been friends since childhood. Did he ever tell you he was being followed or that he was afraid of being captured? Who do you think could ever have a reason to turn my son into a monster that kills for blood?" Arom placed his hand on the King's shoulder, and said, "Milord, if I had the answer to that question I would not be here or at the room of records. Hiram has always been kind and considerate. I do not think that the one who did this did it out of hate but perhaps for reasons of survival. Still, hope there might be that this condition could be reversed and Hiram return to his former self. Even if it should not be like this, you must be ready to take action for the greater good, not of your son but of your subjects. Let us hope it should not come to that!"
"Yes, let us hope!" the King repeated exhaling and those thoughts pained his heart. What parent could raise his hand and deal death to his own child? "Please, find him Arom. Find him and bring him back before he can do any more harm!" Bowing before King Ahiram, Arom replied, "I will, milord!" The apprentice rose up on his feet and turned to the gilded doors of the throne room. He knew that if he was to face Hiram and bring him back to the palace, he would need supplies for many days. This mission he had to undertake alone as the prince could be a danger to others. "Maybe he will remember our friendship and spare me! But I am not about to take any chances!" Arom thought as he opened the doors of his room and began searching for clothes and a leather bag he'd used before during the wars when he had to attend wounded soldiers sometimes in the middle of the battle field. And he wanted to see Didyme and Joshua.
Didyme... the mere thought of her name brought a smile to Arom's face, as it did to any who knew her. She could light the very night with her kind and cheerful demeanor. Most of all, she made the best fig cakes he had ever eaten. "Tomorrow," he whispered...
"My two sisters... they enjoyed the cakes. I wish they could be here!" he told her, the tears rolling down his face. The maid was moved by his tears and placing her plate upon the table she took him on her arms and whispered, "Joshua, I promise you that as long as I live I will NEVER let anyone or anything harm you. I understand that now you feel lost and very sad for what happened to the rest of your family. But you mustn’t let this sadness take over you and rob you of other joys." Joshua looked at her. "Thank you, Lady Didyme!" he said and his tears were gone and in place of them he felt her peace and the warmth that came from her radiant smile. "Hey, you are my honored guest here, and I don't accustom to have my guests crying when eating. It would spoil the moment, when it should be joyful and memorable," she said to him.
Didyme let go of him and he moved his chair closer to where she sat. "You know Joshua, my mother used to say that no problem in life is too great if you have people supporting you. I'm sure that with some time your heart will heal; though you'll never forget your family, it is important to continue with your life, as your parents and sisters would have liked!" Joshua picked up a seed cake and smothered it with honey while Didyme served in two glass cups fresh apple juice, spiced with cinnamon. Setting the juice jar back on the table, she then took a piece of bread and a generous serving of the roasted lamb and placed it before Joshua; then she did the same for her. "These cakes are so good!" said the boy with drops of honey falling from the cake which he held on his right hand. Didyme cut a piece of the meat and put it into the bread while Joshua finished his third seek cake.
Didyme could not contain herself any longer and began to laugh. "What?" asked Joshua, his expression both surprised and intrigued. "Despite everything that has happened, you have not lost your appetite! You have honey on your cheeks and on your chin!" she said. Joshua quickly took a piece of cloth that was near his glass cup and rubbed it around his mouth. He started laughing too. "It's true!" he exclaimed. "I've quite forgotten my manners!" he chuckled. "That is because you have not seen my brother. Arom can never eat one of these cakes without staining his clothes! Ever since childhood he's always done it!" she said to him, also laughing. "Come, let us finish eating or the food will grow cold!" Joshua took a sip of the juice and continued with his meal.
After picking up the plates, washing the utensils and saving what was left from the food for the next day, Joshua said to his host, "Lady Didyme, I'm very tired. May I retire to take a rest?" She smiled at him while saying, "Of course you may! There, the third room on the left of the hall. There are two pillows and a soft wool blanket that you can use. I'll be in the garden, finishing tending my flowers and plants." The young boy went to the room and she headed back to the garden, where butterflies and bees flew and buzzed from flower to flower. Knowing that the boy was safe with her was more than enough reason for her joy, and she felt content and satisfied. Giving to others had always made her happy, even more than by receiving. The hummed the melody of a song that her father had once sung to Arom and to her when they were little and if anyone would have seen her, it seemed that Didyme was dancing instead of walking from bush to bush.
Two hours passed, when Joshua awoke from his well deserved sleep and he found Didyme still in the garden, watering the flowers and pruning some of them that bore the most beautiful flowers he'd ever seen. Some were white, others blue as the unclouded heaven, still others were scarlet or had shades of purple. Pleased by the sight which made him happy, the boy called on Didyme and offered his help to finish watering the garden. "I'm about to finish with these two! You can do it! Then come on in and listen to me playing the lyre!" Didyme said to him. Joshua took the jar of water and poured it carefully on the fertile soil; he was fascinated by the way the ground absorbed the liquid and how the plants grew and the flowers blossomed under the light of the Sun. He completed the task and brought the clay jar back into the home, washed his hands in the copper basin and sat on an embroidered rug that Didyme had on the floor.
Arom's sister sat on a chair and in her hands she carried a gilded navel, a type of lyre that her brother had given to her as a gift from his travels to the southern metropolis of Jerusalem. The navel had seven strings and she plucked them softly, their sound enchanting as she accompanied them with her sweet voice. "I read this story once and its always been my favorite.
On a day much like this one
Many years ago in distant past
Two lovers met, fates entwined
His name Jacob, her name Rachel.
By the valleys green, waters sweet
The fair Rachel tended her sheep
And in her face dwelled the light
Sun and Moon effulgence seen.
Her eyes were gray, her hair black
Sweet perfumed her lips and skin
Soft her words and meek her heart
Under the shades rested in peace.
From weary days and journeys far
Jacob came with naught but love
Hoping to find ere end of day
A place to stay, welcoming home.
He was tall, his hair was red
Honeyed eyes that brightly shone
When first of all, Rachel he saw
His heart was by her struck still.
With haste he ran to the well
Alone removing the large stone
Letting the animals freely drink
Her face enchanting his soul.
No words were said, no sound heard
When he kissed her on the lips
Lifting his voice in cry of joy
"You're the one I have searched for!"
"You are the one I have searched for..." Didyme recited with the last note, and single tear rolling down her cheek. "This song always makes me cry!" she said. Joshua sighed and rose up to her, wiping her tear away. "That was beautiful. Thank you!" he said to her.
Please, tell me what you did; and you may feel better after sharing it with someone. But know this: I will not hate you. How could I?" Hiram looked at her and the remorse for his crimes and for the lust he felt for her again eating him inside. But she was right: maybe he was not as lost as he thought. He'd been able to control himself with her and even with his words of, caution she showed him pity and kindness. "Very well... I will tell you everything. And I'll understand if you leave and never want to look upon my face again. In fact, that would be the most sensible thing to do." Tamar had but one last request. "Well… before you start, could you please prepare the food you promised? I am starving..." Hiram looked at the stag and the things he had brought from the spring. He had forgotten about that! And with a crooked smile he said, "Of course!"
Hiram skinned the stag with the golden knife he had, cutting the wholesome parts and taking out the fat that was on the kidneys and other vital organs. The heart of the animal was taken by Tamar, who buried it outside the tower. The prince had drained the animal of his blood when he killed it, and Tamar was surprised to find it that clean already. But her thoughts turned again to the one that was before her: the color of his eyes, that marble skin, and what she loved the most now: his crooked smile. He looked up at her while still making the meat ready and she blushed, turning her eyes away to other things. Tamar now gathered three wood pieces and placed them near where the fire was. "Hiram, could you bring water? We have to clean the animal and ourselves," she said to him. He answered, "Right! But, we don't have a clean jar or a bucket for that!" Tamar smiled and said, "Well, I do have a water skin. Please, take it and bring back water from the spring."
He was just a blur when the water skin was no longer in her hands and all she could see was a trail of dust on the way that led out from the gates of the tower. While he did that, Tamar began to cut the herbs and other things, grinding them with two smooth stones. Nearly seven minutes later Hiram returned with the water-skin. "Here, let me help you!" he said to her and he poured some of it on her hands and she washed them clean. "Thank you!" she answered, her heart beating faster at him being so close. "By the gods... I can hear it!" Hiram exclaimed, and she asked, "You can hear what?" He said, "Your heart. I can heart it beating!" Hiram said but before she could say anything else, he placed the skin on the floor and placed his head against her chest. "It's beautiful!" he whispered to himself, listening to the rhythm of her heart. Tamar's cheeks blushed with his words. "I guess we better finish preparing the meal or we will faint with hunger!" she said to him, and he stepped back; his eyes were still looking straight into her own. Both kindness and remorse could be discerned into those golden-brown eyes of his.
Tamar stretched her hand and gently caressed his cheek. He came closer and kissed her gently on the forehead. "I agree... let us finish the meal!" he said. Tamar continued working with the herbs and Hiram finished with the animal, washing the parts that they were going to eat. Afterwards, he placed the wood atop the fire supported by four stones and then put the meat on the wood. Tamar followed after him and carefully seasoned the pieces with the herbs, and two hours later the place was filled with the wholesome smell of roasted meat. Hiram had to return to the spring and brought even more water for them to drink besides the fruits which grew on the bushes near the oasis. They ate, laughed, spoke of their life and their goals. "I want to see the world; travel to Assyria and see Nineveh, then travel back to southwest and visit Egypt, Ethiopia and Nubia. And if possible, go to the lands across the Great Sea to see how they live there!", Tamar said to him, her voice filled with desire for adventure.
Hiram listened intently remembering each word and gesture, each detail of her face and how her eyes seemed to call to him. By the time they had finished with their food, twilight was approaching and outside the Sun was well on its way down to the horizon. "I've done most of the talking. Are you willing to tell me what is torturing you so?" Tamar asked Hiram. He had promised to share that with her and since she'd opened her heart and mind to him, he had to keep his word. Or at least, that is how he wanted to see it. In reality, his only desire was to spend the rest of his life in that tower as long as she were with him. "The details aren't that clear. I was at a banquet and after the celebration I decided to ride my horse and see the country side. I've always loved horses and for me there is nothing better than to just mount one and ride until sunrise without worrying anything or anyone. I believe it was past midnight when I woke up again. I had no memory of where I'd been or even if I had rode beyond the forests outside the city. One thing I do remember: I was in pain. It was as if was being burned alive. Everything around me seemed strange and new and above all, I was ravenously and savagely hunger... for flesh and blood." He paused, looking of a response. Tamar took a deep breath.
The young lady kept her attention on Hiram as he continued. "The horse was the only thing I had near and I... I was hungry. Then I headed back to where I lived. There I was slipping in and out of the shadow that had fallen upon me. A shroud laid heavy on my memory and only the fleeting glimpses of the past could be discerned. As to the future, I could not discover nor plan except for my hunger and the consuming thirst. I sank into a deep pit of despair when I thought of my father and those who would be worried for me. It was then that I saw the gates of my home and there I killed again, to satisfy the fire in me and to the great horror of my gentle father. Then I felt a sharp pain for I'd been pierced with two fire arrows and the last thing I heard was my father charging his men to hurry me inside and save my life. When I woke up I was laid on a bed and there was a close friend who I guess had bandaged my wounds. Before dawn I left my father's house and came here. But not before doing one more act of terror that struck my soul with utter disgust after I did it: I killed four people to end my hunger, the only survivor being a small child; and that because at the last moment I strove with my own will and stopped before it was too late. The only place I knew would be safe was this tower which my grandfather built many years ago. I wanted to end it all and was about to do it when I heard your cries for help... and know I curse myself for ever thinking that damned hate upon myself was to prevent me from meeting you, Tamar. That is my story... a tale of horror which makes me a being that deserves complete loathing and forsaken by love."
She looked down, tears filling her eyes. Hiram anxiously awaited her response. "I will not be angry at you if you choose to leave and never look upon my face again!" he said. Tamar replied, "I will not leave you. Only a heart filled with courage could confess to such atrocities, and a mind burdened with just remorse and repentance. You saved my life... and I will try and save yours!" and coming closer she kissed his cold cheek. Hiram just stood there, without moving, and in that moment he knew that he loved her...
This mission he had to undertake alone as the prince could be a danger to others. "Maybe he will remember our friendship and spare me! But I am not about to take any chances!" Arom thought as he opened the doors of his room and began searching for clothes and a leather bag he'd used before during the wars when he had to attend wounded soldiers sometimes in the middle of the battle field. And he wanted to see Didyme and Joshua. Didyme...the mere thought of her name brought a smile to Arom's face, as it did to any who knew her. She could light the very night with her kind and cheerful demeanor. Most of all, she made the best fig cakes he had ever eaten. "Tomorrow," he whispered, "I will be eating one of those and a cup of milk too!" In a few minutes he was packed and ready when the soldier that had helped him carry the baskets with scrolls before the King was knocking on his door. "Master Arom, the Court Physician sends word to you before your departure," the young guard said once inside the chamber. "Where does he wait for me?" Arom asked. "By the fountain near the King's gate!" the soldier replied. Arom shook the man's hand. "Thank you! Please tell him that I will be there as soon as I'm ready. His advice will be greatly appreciated!”
Once the soldier left, Arom turned back and opened a large, gold-inlaid wooden chest that held some of his personal effects: keepsakes that his parents had left before their dead. There was his father's sword and his ring, also a fine cloak which his mother had embroidered for her husband in memory of their wedding day. Last of all, a necklace that his mother made for him when he was but eleven years old. He took the necklace, from which hung a single onyx stone engraved with the first letter of his name. "Always know that we love you, Arom!" his mother said to him the day she clasped it around his neck, the very same day that death took her. Holding the necklace with his right hand he kissed the stone. "I will never forget you!" Arom whispered, thinking of his black-haired, hazel-eyed mother. "My sweet, dear one!" she used to whisper to him at night when he was upon his bed and Didyme slept besides him. Closing the chest, Arom took the leather bag and headed for the door.
The long hallway to his left led directly to a winding stair up to the observatory, from where the King would watch the stars along with the astrologers and the priests of Baal. To the right were the doors of the Main Hall or Throne Room, the Library and also the stairs that led down to the kitchen and the wine cellars. Arom turned to the right, passed the doors of the Main Hall and from there another right to the King's gate, from which the market place could be seen. There stood his Master, waiting for him. "Good morning, Arom! I've been told that the King has sent you to search for and bring back the Prince", said the physician. The young man answered, "Indeed, Master. I will go south first, to the borders of the Israelite Kingdom. Then I'll return and pass to the other side of the rivers north of the inland Sea and enter the lands of Geshur and Maacah.
Finally, I will enter the southlands of Syria and come back to Tyre. I think that the entire journey might take a month of days." The Court physician briefly thought about the expedition and all the places Arom had just told him he would visit. "How many men are coming with you? You know well that Hiram is dangerous and has the strength of ten men; but -" Arom interrupted him politely.
"Master, do not worry! I will not be alone for King Ahiram has agreed to send a company of soldiers with me. Besides, I believe that Hiram will do us no harm! We have been friends ever since childhood; Hiram's heart will recognize our good intentions and that we mean no harm," the young apprentice said. Carefully thinking and weighing Arom's words, the physician finally said, "Very well! May the gods watch over you as you look for him. But please, be very cautious! We do not yet know what we are dealing with and it would not be wise to risk harm without first discovering what has taken over the Prince! And remember above all: to bring him back alive." Arom smiled and after bowing his head, he continued on his way to the road that led from the Gate all the way to the very doors of Tyre. As the people buzzed back and forth with silk from the Kingdom of Troy, wine from Babylonia and the lands beyond the desert, gold and copper from Sinai and fine wool from Israel, Arom saw the soldiers that King Ahiram had sent before his arrival to wait for him.
There he recognized that the captain of the company was the same young soldier who had helped him before the King and spoken earlier with him. "I am glad that you are here! The gods know I will need your experience and the knowledge of the lands beyond!" Arom greeted the soldier. The captain said, "We have fifty strong men here and the same number of horses plus three camels to carry supplies and food for the journey. Where shall we go first?" Arom took a good look at the company of soldiers, and fixing his eyes on those of the captain, he answered, "We go south first: taking the Way to the Land of the Philistines to Dor, from thence to Megiddo. After that we shall head to En-dor and cross back to Hazor beyond the River Jordan to Maacah and Geshur to the city of Dan by the way that joins the King's Road. If the King of Syria grants it to us, we shall enter the south lands of his kingdom and then return by Abel-beth-maacah to Tyre." Opening a scrolled map of the lands beyond Tyre, the captain had been marking the road to be followed as Arom described it. "I suggest we begin our way. If we spend an equal time in each place I believe that in month of days plus ten we will be back in Tyre," the captain said and then he added, "By the way, I apologize for not giving you my name. I am Malchus son of Caleb. My father brings the King his favorite wines from the lands beyond the great River."
Arom smiled. "Malchus, I am glad to have you here!" Turning to the other fifty men, Arom said, "The same goes to all of you! Our first duty will be to gather information as to the past and present whereabouts of the Prince. The King has given specific instructions and our goal is to bring back Prince Hiram without harming him. I know that some of you have heard stories regarding the Prince and his condition. Whatever the outcome of our expedition, I remind you that all of us are under an oath of silence. Hiram's life is at stake here and also the security of Tyre. Remember this above all: King Ahiram has no other sons and the Prince is his only heir." The soldiers shook their heads, all of them agreeing with Arom's words. The mounted their horses and rode out, off from the doors of the Tyre and into the great green valleys. Malchus and Arom were at the head of the company. "Remind me when we return to thanks your father!" Arom said to Malchus. The young captain did not understand and asked, "Thank him for what, milord?" Arom looked behind, as if making sure that none would listen to him. "Thank him for his wine! It is the best this city has ever had!" Malchus laughed at those words. "I sure will! I sure will!"
The sun shone strong upon them when they reached the outpost: a tower built of white stones where there was a small garrison of soldiers. Waving their spears and banners, the guards bid farewell to the cavalry. Arom thought of his sister again. "Guess I will taste those fig cakes when I return..."
Interesting! I would definitely like to see where all this is going, and what really happened when the prince was missing!
CHAPTERS 13 AND 14TH
It was three hours past noon when the soldiers opened the door to the Judgment Hall where the governor of Sidon sat delivering justice to suppliants and attending the daily business of the second most important city in the Kingdom. His name was Eliezer, a man in his early fifties. King Ahiram had been friends with the governor of Sidon from youth, and Ahiram's father had given Eliezer's the post of ruler of Sidon to his family forever as long as his line held the throne. Among those that had come to present their cases, or to request help from the governor was a man with gray hair accompanied by two young women. "Bring your petition to the governor! What is your need, old man?" asked the soldier who stood with a silver staff before the seat of judgment. "I've come to ask for help! My niece has disappeared and I fear for her life. I need to find her! Her mother is dead and her father is a prisoner of the Amalekites. She was entrusted to my care but then on an evening when we were gathered for supper she was not longer in our home." He knelt before Eliezer, his eyes were welled up with tears and with a pleading voice he said, "Please, help me find my niece!"
Eliezer wore a long light green robe, black sash and a dark gray cloak with fur pelt embroidered in the neck- line. He had a short white staff, the sign of his office as representative of King Ahiram. "What is the name of your niece?" Eliezer asked the man. "Milord, her name is Tamar. She was my sister's daughter. Three days ago she vanished from our home. We have been searching for her to no avail. That is why we, my family and I are here, to request you to send the proper authority and aid us in our search." The governor stood from the seat and came closer to the pleading man. "What is your name?" asked the ruler. "I am Joab and these are my daughters: Miriam and Ruth." The two young women curtsied before Eliezer and returned to where they'd been, behind their father. "Very well; I will assign a small company of soldiers to help you. Have you any idea of her whereabouts or of any possible place favorite to the girl?" Eliezer asked. Tamar's uncle answered, "I believe that the best place to start looking for her would be on the roads that lead to Tyre. It is the only other place that Tamar ever visited."
The governor motioned one of his guards to come closer. "Gather a small party, no more than fifteen men. I want you to accompany this man, Joab, and his daughters to find the missing girl. Search for her, even if you have to travel all the way to the very gates of Tyre itself." Eliezer then called the court Scribe, a man skilled in letters that had studied in the great schools of Egypt, under the tutelage of the Pharaoh's own scribes. Korah of Damascus was his name. "Master Korah, please come! I wish to deliver a letter to our great King Ahiram, asking for his health, the current status of the search for Prince Hiram and to request a scout from the army to accompany these men who are searching for a young girl." Korah sat on the floor, with a writing tablet and a golden stylus, wax for the governor's seal ring and papyrus that had been brought from the Land of the Nile. Eliezer motioned Korah to begin the letter with the usual salutation, reading the first few lines to him before he could dictate the rest of the manuscript.
"From Eliezer, His Majesty's Governor of Sido, to our Supreme King Ahiram, lord of Tyre and all the lands which of old belonged to the Royal House. Greetings! May your peace be increased, and also the favor of the gods! My Lord, I purpose this letter, which you receive from my own hand, to be an inquiry concerning your health and the state of your reign. For we here in Sidon have heard many stories about our King and his son, Prince Hiram, that the young Prince is missing and that the King is searching for him. Ever since listening to these tales, our hearts have been very worried, and now we seek to aid the King's search for our future ruler. Our concern for the Royal House grows every day, especially when we have not received any news from your hand, or those of the Lords of the Court that serve the King in the matters of the nation. Also, with this letter we desire to congratulate His Majesty in account of his recent victories against the Philistines and the Moabites, which is justly celebrated and remembered with the building of the columns at the battle field.
My Lord, here in the city of Sidon, this day I have been presented with a case which upon closer examination you will find both interesting and familiar. A man named Joab, a citizen of our city and loyal subject to the crown has come with both his daughters, Miriam and Ruth, seeking our prompt help to locate Joab's niece. The maiden's name is Tamar, the sister-daughter of Joab given to his protection after her mother's death. Her father was taken captive by the Amalekites south and west of your Kingdom. The circumstances of her disappearance remain a mystery to her kin. That is why we humbly request permit from His Majesty to travel the lands of his Kingdom even to Tyre itself and there search for the girl Tamar. We also beg the King to spare a scout from the Royal Army to guide the company of soldiers which I have sent to the King. The deliverers of this letter carry with them also the full amount of the taxes gathered during the year, which are due to the Royal Treasury and the report of the wheat, barley, and glass produced here and in the lands under the jurisdiction of this Governorship. Remaining, both my subjects and my house, loyal servants of the Crown. Eliezer, Governor of Sidon under Ahiram, King of Tyre."
Once the scribe had finished copying the words, the tablet was handed to Eliezer. He read the message, and his heart being pleased with its content, he stamped it with his signet ring, which bore the emblem of Tyre: a single ship, its front adorned in the shape of a horse's head. The governor then called the head of the Palace Guard and said to him, "Accompany this man, Joab and his two daughters to the city of Tyre. There hand these letters personally to King Ahiram. I have already ordered a small company of the soldiers to go with you and them. Whatever it is that the King pleases, do exactly as he commands. I feel positive that the King will grant the request and send of the scouts with you. Also, the tribute for the King's Treasury must be delivered before the next full moon. And that is to be within five days. The latest date for your departure is tomorrow at the ninth hour." He gave the rolled parchment to the head guard. "I shall carry out your orders, milord," the soldier said, stern and decided. Turning to face Joab and the two comely young women, he said, "Go now to your homes and gather what you will need for the journey. We shall depart tomorrow at the third hour. The city gates will be our meeting place!"
Joab knelt once more before Eliezer. "I thank you, milord, for granting my request. May the gods bless the governor, and make his days as enduring as those of the stars above!" Eliezer smiled and lowered his staff. "Two searches going on at once: one for the Prince and now for this girl," he thought. "Hmm... I wonder..."
She looked down, tears filling her eyes. Hiram anxiously awaited her response. "I will not be angry at you if you choose to leave and never look upon my face again!" he said. Tamar replied, "I will not leave you. Only a heart filled with courage could confess to such atrocities, and a mind burdened with just remorse and repentance. You saved my life... and I will try and save yours!" and coming closer she kissed his cold cheek. Hiram just stood there, without moving, and in that moment he knew that he loved her.
Tamar spoke again, "The day is drawing to a close. I say, why don't we just lay down and rest? Perhaps tomorrow we can decide what to do, but our bodies and minds need night's sleep." Hiram smiled at her words and embraced her, holding her close to his body. He could hear her beating hard; with his eyes closed he drew a deep breath. Peace... that was the only thing that he felt when she was close. Hiram took her right hand and led back, close to the fire. There he lay on the floor, resting his back and head against the stone wall and Tamar placed her head upon his abdomen. Hiram covered her with a soft blanket; and then he began to whistle a tune both of joy and sorrow: the creation of his tortured and yet love-struck soul. The soft whistling became the words of a song...
"By the soft, bubbling waters of the brook
We sit together looking into the West
As the Sun sets, cloaked in golden red
Your hands in mine, our thoughts are one.
Behind this moment there is an abyss
Shadows of things that consumed past
Hope of ever feeling this wonder again
Or finding love within this world at last.
But I look into your eyes that call me
Your heart that beckons every sense
For in your company there is light
Undimmed beyond the call of dark.
Stay by my side, do not leave
Grant me the soft touch of your skin
The sweet fragrance of your hair
The melodious tone of your voice;
Then I shall be redeemed and free
Assailed no more by thoughts of pain
My life's purpose: to make you smile
Holding you ever close to me.
'Set me as a seal upon your arm
As a seal upon your flesh
For Love is as strong as death
Unfathomable as Sheol..."
Tamar, though sleep, smiled when he finished singing the soft melody; her hand clutching his tighter as he caressed her face tenderly. Hiram closed his eyes, once more he hummed the tune he'd just made for her. The hours passed quickly, and soon dawn lighted upon Tamar's face. She looked around; searching for him but the only thing she found was that he had written a message on the dirt for her.
"I'm at the oasis. When you have eaten your fill, come and join me there. Thinking of you with a smile; H".
Next to the wooden stick he'd used to write his message there was a couple of apples, figs and a wooden basin filled with water. Tamar placed her hand upon her heart, "Awww, that is so sweet!" she whispered. She then washed her face with the water from the basin and ate the apples and the figs.
She left the tower and headed for the oasis at the third hour of the morning. From a distance she saw a glimpse of what appeared to be diamonds shining. In reality it was Hiram, whose back was in Tamar's direct line of sight. From a distance he had heard her furtive steps and turning to face her, he smiled. Hiram ran to her, though to her eyes it was but an approaching blur. Hiram embraced her, his right hand on her back and his right hand held her face. Lightly he pressed his cold lips against hers: the sun shone brighter, the breeze felt cooler, the world’s turned perfect; and he wished to just hold her like that forever. She closed her eyes and her heart beat faster when his arms were about her; finally she said to him, "Thank you for the breakfast! But please, do not leave my like that again. I slept comfortably knowing that you were there." Hiram smiled her favorite crooked smile and said, "I swear I will not leave you again! But come! I have a special gift for you!"
Hiram led Tamar by her right hand to the small brook that flowed from the depth of the oasis. The tall palm trees and the olive trees that grew by the little river created a canopy of silver green which took her breath away. The soft sound of the waters and the breeze and the touch of the one that loved her were more than she could ask. "Why are you crying?" Hiram asked her when he noticed two small tears rolling down her face. "It's just that... you, this place, your kindness... it overwhelms me, Hiram. I still cannot believe that you consider yourself a monster." Hiram replied, "Tamar, when I have you near me, all of those feelings go away. I will never want to hurt you, much less to cause you any reasons for tears. Do not cry! Until the end... we will be together! And I have still to give you your gift!" They went on walking, Hiram holding her close.
Unknown to them, Arom's company had sent two scouts to see the lands beyond the gates of Tyre. The main body of soldiers were heading south with Arom at the head, but Malchus had stayed with the remaining guards when the two returned. "Milord, we've seen an old abandoned tower; it was part of the battlements and the old watch under the rule of Ahiram's father. It was built to keep an eye on the Hittites and Egyptians, but when he died the watch was removed and the tower abandoned." Malchus asked them, "Where is it? How far from this place?" The soldiers took a moment to mentally calculate an approximate distance. "Less than half a day's journey, milord!" Malchus said, "Then send word to Arom and tell him we will take that road whilst he travels south." The soldiers mounted their steeds and with haste took the road that Arom's group had chosen when they'd parted ways.
I love the developing love story of Hiram and Tamar. I hope they can find a way to be together and that she may continue to bring out the good in him!
PS: Who is telling the story, or will it only be revealed towards the end?