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...
Thank you for your words. Indeed, Tamar is a key character in the development of Hiram's story. She is the tie that binds his fate to the fate of all the other characters in the story.
As for the person telling it, it will be revealed in the last chapter...
Please, keep reading and if you like it, then tell others. More feedback means better stories.
Didyme was touched by Joshua's deed of weeping her tears away. The story of Jacob and Rachel was among her favorite from the neighboring nation of the Hebrews; and now it had become Joshua's as well. "I will have to learn that song; maybe even sing it to my future wife!" Joshua said with a grin. Didyme laughed at his words, and then she laid down the navel upon the floor while Joshua went back to the kitchen area and served two clay bowls with clean water from the water jar. Everyday Didyme drew water from the well which her father had dug up many years before, and the well was still bountiful for its source was an underground river. He took one of the bowls to Didyme and they drank together. "Come, Joshua! It is time to sleep and tomorrow will be a long day. After eating breakfast we will go to the city together and buy some things that we need: linens and clothes for the coming months, and also more vessels for food and glass. I have wanted to have a pair of glass goblets to drink wine."
As the sunset concluded and the Moon shone silver among the stars, Didyme placed Joshua on his bed. "Sweet dreams!" she whispered to him after kissing him in the forehead. The boy blushed and closed his eyes, welcoming sleep. Didyme then walked to her own room, put out the candle next to her bed, and also fell into a deep sleep. The hours of the night passed rather quickly when the rooster welcomed the new day and the Sun took over the reign of heaven with splendor. Joshua awoke first; and after washing his face with water from the copper basin, he went to the garden and watered there the plants. He also gathered apples from the orchard and other fruits that graced the place.
Didyme woke up and saw him working; a brief laugh escaped her lips. Nothing could be perfect: she had been given a child to care for, and one that was proving to be an excellent friend and companion to her lonely life. Though Arom was the best brother she could ask for and she knew that he would always care for her and be there for her, it still was easy to sometimes feel alone. Yet Joshua had changed all that, and now again there was a constant reason to smile and to feel purposed and content. "Lady Didyme, here! I found something!" Joshua called from the garden, and her thoughts were interrupted, her mind alarmed to his voice. "I think we may have a pet!" the boy said, and on his arms he carried a small puppy.
Meanwhile, in a road distant from Tyre, Arom and his men had reached the outer borders of the friendly nation of the Hebrews. Ahiram, as his father before him, had been on good terms with the warrior King David and his son, the famous Solomon. They even had sent engineers, laborers, and cutters of wood and many architects to build for David the palace that now graced the southern hill of Jerusalem. Arom himself had been in the celebrated city before on many occasions; the buildings, the terraces, the gardens, and the Great Temple were his favorite places. Though perhaps the Jews were not as big and powerful as the Assyrians or the Egyptians, they had reached a level of civilization and culture unrivaled in the area. The soldiers that were at the border outpost halted Arom and his men. "Where do come from and where are you going to?" they asked. Arom took out a letter sealed by Ahiram himself requesting no hindrance in their search. "My lord the King seeks for news of his son, Prince Hiram. We only wish to search in the north portion of your kingdom and then we will return by this way to our own country."
"Let them pass!" the soldier said to his men, and they left the way open. The city of Kedesh, one of the largest in the northern lands of Israel, was but a few miles from the post. "Let us go to Kedesh and there search for him. From this city we may turn south to Hazor until we reach the sea by way of the road which connects to the Way of the Philistines. En-dor and the Mount Tabor will the southernmost part of the journey. Either to northeast by way of Ramoth or by the northwest towards Ramah we have to return while Malchus explores the other lands." The soldiers followed him with care and after making a brief mental idea of the journey ahead, they went on with the travel. Arom turned one last time to the north, as if looking back to the house of his sister. "Didyme, I promise to the gods that after this quest is finished I will go and visit you and little Joshua." To his men, he said, "Men of Tyre, remember the purpose of our mission and the honor that our King Ahiram has given us to aid our nation and our people. No force is to be used against the Prince except at the uttermost end of need and only if the life of others is at stake." Their journey continued for at least two more hours until they reached the gates of Kedesh. Didyme simply loved visiting the ancient city, and Arom knew why: their parents had met there.
Entering the city, Arom headed for the place where he knew the elders, respected old men of the city, met every day from sunrise until sundown and where the people came to solve their differences and also to learn from the aged wisdom of the men. That day there was a large crowd gathered at the city's main plaza, a large square surrounded by the market, the garrison's stables, three large wheat granaries and two storehouses. "What is happening here?" Arom asked one of the vendors near the place where he was; the middle-aged man was closing his store and with quick steps was about to head to the plaza. "There are rumors of an Amalekite soldier that stole into the city, trying to kill a young man in the process. Accursed Amalekites! They have always hated us Hebrews, and have become a thorn on our side. Saul should have destroyed them all when he had the chance!" Arom stopped for a minute to think. "I will go with you!" said the young apprentice to the man, and then he said to the soldiers, "Take advantage that few people will be on the streets to search for the Prince. I shall go with this man to the plaza and see what happens!" The soldiers did as he asked, as Arom followed the man upon his horse.
"Kill him! Kill him! Death to the blight!" some of the crowd yelled, while others threw rocks at the bound Amalekite man, who looked at them with hate. Near him, lying on the floor was the victim of his attempted murder: a young man that Arom guessed was about his own age. "Amalekite, we have been notified that this is not your first crime. Numerous witnesses have come forward and testified of your wicked deeds. Your hands are stained with the blood of children and women. You are to be stoned to death!" The large crowd took the man towards the city gates. Arom was the only one who did not go. He was worried for the young man on the floor, and after coming to him, he took some oil and vinegar from the leather bag he had hanging on the horse's saddle. "Do not move, dear one! Here, this will ease the pain!" Arom said, the doctor within him taking over. Carefully he tended to the wounds. "Thank you, kind sir!" said the young man, his voice barely audible. "I'm Arom of Tyre. What is your name?" Arom asked. "Caius son of Dathan..." he said, and then he passed out. “Caius... nice to meet you!” Arom thought to himself.
"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 what may come to pass from this.”
The next day came and as it was arranged the group met at the city gates. Joab, Miriam and Ruth came, and also the group of soldiers. Behind them there followed twenty camels laden with tribute for the King of Tyre: spices and fine clothes, silk from the lands beyond the east, fine linen from Egypt, gold and copper from Sinai, wine from Mycenae and Babylonia. There was also a large quantity of wood from the mountains of Lebanon and north Syria, and a group of workmen that had been requested the prior month to work in the renovation of the King’s palace.
Miriam and Ruth, who followed behind their father, were very much enjoying the journey. It was the first time they had ever been to the magnificent port city of Tyre, and to be in the company of the Governor’s Guard was an honor very few Sidonians had ever had before. But most of all, their attention was given to the young guard in charge. There was no doubt that he was handsome: dark auburn hair, black eyes, fair face, and with a good sense of humor. Joab noticed their childish laugh, their grins and secret looks and coming closer to them he said, “Now, now… what is it with you two? I have not seen you like this since the coming of the Prince to Sidon.” Ruth answered, “Well father… it’s just that he is so sweet and was so nice to use when we began our journey this morning! We were just wondering who of us two would end up having him as husband?” Miriam winked at her sister’s word. Joab just looked ahead and said nothing. He rode up to catch up with the rest of the guards as Miriam and Ruth laughed. Though the captain had half-heard part of the conversation, he did not look back at them, but his lips curled into a half grin.
Many miles away from them, in the oasis, Hiram and Tamar had reached the secret place that Hiram had discovered. It was a small cave at the north side of the little hill, and the brook which then turned into a river had its beginning there. The sound of soft, rushing waters echoed inside the cave. “Are your eyes still closed?” Hiram asked Tamar as he led her, holding her right hand tenderly. “Yes, they are closed. But tell me, where are we going?” Tamar answered with a smile, and at the sight of that smile Hiram was momentarily struck with awe for her: as the sudden coming of spring on a land ravaged by winter, as the light that precedes the glorious coming of dawn was the light of her smile. “If I tell you then it would not be a surprise, would it? Come… just a few more steps!” Hiram replied to her question. Once they reached the very inside of the cave, Hiram left her standing near the cave wall and searched inside his pants for a flint stone with which he could spark a torch with fire. Tamar heard the sound of the stone against the wall, the brief roaring of a new fire, and then Hiram’s strong, cold hand grasping hers.
“Now… open your eyes!” Hiram whispered in her ear. Tamar did as he asked, and a gasp escaped her lips. She could not believe her eyes: the entire wall was decorated with paintings about them: the day they first met, the moment he told her the truth of what he was, and then one of her sitting by the fire embraced by him. Taking a step forward she examined all of the paintings, one by one as silent tears rolled down her cheeks. “This is my gift for you… for us! I was wondering if you would like to come and live here with me. That tower is not an appropriate place for you. I know that you hope to one day finding your father and I swear: I will do all in my power for you to see him. In the mean time, I would feel much tranquil if you stay here. Once I find your father we will go to mine and ask his blessing.” Tamar, who by this moment Hiram had embraced, looked up into his eyes. “What? Your father’s blessing?” she asked, and he said, “Yes… his blessing for our marriage; if you would grant me the honor of calling you wife.” No words were needed to answer to that. Before she could answer he lowered his face and put his lips, cold and hard, against hers, their minds becoming one with each passing moment that their kiss lasted. Tamar’s heart beat loudly against her chest. And Hiram had never felt so much alive. “I take that as a yes!” he just said.
While she held on to him, her arms around his waist and pulling closer to his marble-white body, Tamar said, “What if we spend the night here? Tomorrow I can go back to the tower and bring back our belongings. This place is cozy, and I feel it will make a wonderful home for us.” Hiram thought for a moment about that and then said, “Indeed, that is a good idea. There are some other things that we need. Tomorrow I will take you to the tower, and while you organize our things, I will go the market and buy us food and other supplies. Afterwards I will go hunting. I am getting hungry!” Tamar laughed at his casual mention of getting hungry, thinking of what that meant for Hiram. It would take more than a deer this time to calm his hunger. “You know Hiram, there are mountain lions this side of the Jordan and in the countryside that surrounds Tyre all the way to the Hebrew border,” she reminded him. “I know! Hmm, mountain lion! I think that will fill me up for some time! And we can use the fur to make a cloak.”
Still holding each other’s hand, they walked to the cave’s entrance and from there beheld the beautiful landscape that surrounded the little hill. The oasis was truly a paradise for them, and so much beauty touched Tamar’s heart. Hiram carefully placed his right hand near her face and caressed her cheek. She was so special to him… the light that had come to guide him back to redemption. He was inspired by her soul, and before he could realize it, he was reciting a short verse.
“The Sun and Moon in her reflected
Silver and gold shine from above
And in her eyes the stars gladly find
Two of their sisters here upon Earth!”
Loved it! I definitely recognise some of the characters! The first vampire and perhaps the origins of the Volturi? Hiram and Tamar reminds me a little of Edward and Bella. The ancients in the ancient world! I definitely want to read some more!
Thank you for reading!!!
And you are on the right track.
That night, the company which Malchus led stopped half way to the tower, built a campfire and stayed around it, some of the men were talking about their families, their children, whereas others played dice. Near midnight most of them went to their tents to rest. Only one remained outside as the stars shone silver in the sea of black. Malchus spent the night thinking of his brother. His older brother had died during a raid by the Amalekites and the Ammonites. He remembered well how Prince Hiram fought valiantly to rescue the women and the children from the cruel fate that awaited them if the Amalekites won the day, but the blessing of the gods had been with them and fortunately only minor casualties resulted from the fray. Hiram had defended the town with the royal cavalry but Malchus' brother, Simon, perished. "Promise that you will place in the palace and serve the King well. Our father has the King's confidence and with Ahiram's blessing you will be Captain of the Guards. Do this for me, my brother!"
Grasping Malchus' hand, Simon closed his eyes and died with a smile. That look of peace despite the dire situation was something that Malchus would never forget. Simon had been more than his brother: he'd been his closest friend and teacher. Like Simon, Malchus had learned to distinguish the subtleties of relationships and in more than one occasion to know without a word whether a couple was just friends or in love. With Simon's death, Malchus became somewhat of a loner. But service in the King's palace slowly opened up his desire for companionship. Arom was a good friend, as also the Court Physician was. What he needed most, however, was requited love: a lady that could comfort his soul, even as he would protect her and live each day for her happiness.
As the gates of morning opened in the east and the sun shone upon the world, Malchus heard the coming galloping of horses. The two soldiers whom he had sent to Arom in the south were returning and they were not alone: one of the horses was carrying a young man with long, white-blonde hair. Malchus rose to his feet and greeted them. "I am glad to see you return safe! Did you speak with Arom? How come that you have returned with such haste?" The soldiers stopped the horses near the place where Malchus stood. “Sire,” one of them said, “Master Arom requests your help with this young man. His name is Caius, a Hebrew from the city of Kedesh. An Amalekite attempted against his life and while the Israelites made sure than the bandit suffered his deserved fate, Arom tended his wounds. Caius lives alone, and his only living relatives are his father’s brother, who lives in a city near Jericho, close to the Jordan. Arom asks you to take Caius to the house of his sister and there leave him. The Lady Didyme will be able to restore him back to health.”
Malchus came closer to take a look at Caius. “I understand. One of you goes back to Arom to aid him with the Prince’s search. The other one will come with me and then return here to search as planned.” Malchus took the reins of the horse where Caius was, and slowly led it to the camp. One of the soldiers went back the way to Arom and the other dismounted his steed and walked with Malchus. “The tower you saw before I sent you to Arom… that place must be investigated. As soon as I return from the house of Arom’s sister, we will make sure this entire place is thoroughly searched.” Malchus went back to his tent and there picked up the silver horn used to awake the camp. Thrice he blew the horn, afterwards he called, “Arise, soldiers of Tyre! For the Sun rules the heaven and the day is here at last!” The soldiers heard the call and promptly began to awake; a couple came to put out the fires from the night before as others gathered to share in the bread and other supplies they had brought from Tyre. Once they were gathered and ready Malchus mounted his horse. Finishing an apple and a drink from his water-skin, the Captain addressed them.
“Today you will continue the search for our Prince Hiram. Arom is right now at the Hebrew city of Kedesh. From there he will travel further south, then east, following the course of the River Jordan until he reaches the Lake and then turn west-northwest towards our own lands. I shall depart for a while and take this young man, Caius, an Israelite, to the house of the Lady Didyme. Explore the abandoned tower and the oasis that lays to the east of it and then return hither. I expect to be here by the time you come back. In the meantime, this man here,” and with that Malchus pointed at the soldier, “will lead you. Obey him as you would obey me! Is it clear?” The soldiers answered with one voice, “Yes, sir!” Malchus bucked his horse and without further ado he left for the road that led back to Tyre, one soldier riding another horse and the steed that bore Caius.
Unknown to them, Hiram and Tamar were well on their way to the tower. “There it is! Take only what you deem necessary and then come back this road until you see the palm trees at the western slope of the little hill. There I will be waiting for you! Here is something you might use,” Hiram said to her, his long black hair framing what to Tamar seemed the most beautiful face she had ever looked upon, and his eyes were like gold; he gave her the golden knife which his father had given him. “Take it with you!” Tamar grasped the elaborate handle of the knife: silver-inlaid gold with precious stones and gems which received light and gave it back in beautiful, bright hues. “And return with haste! I can only be without you for so long!” Hiram added, before he softly pulled her in closer to him and tenderly kissed her; her heart’s rhythm increased and he smiled her favorite crooked smile.
Tamar smiled back at him and hurried to the tower. Hiram watched for a few more minutes before he turned his way to the small village where he knew he would find supplies. “Good thing I didn’t leave the palace without the bag!” he said in his mind, playfully tossing a leather pouch up in the air and then catching it with one hand, its gold coins jingling inside. The young woman went into the tower, and after taking a careful look to the east and to the west she quickly closed the doors and placed a wooden bar to lock it. “Good thing that he left the windows opened!” she thought because of sunlight that filled the place plentifully. After placing the knife on a large boulder near the entrance, Tamar went about to gather her things inside the large cloth bag she had. Hiram’s cloak was still on the floor and she carefully patted the dust off from it and then put it in the bag. The sound of neighing horses startled her.
Casting the bag aside she peered through a hole in the gate. A company of armed men were coming to the tower. “I thought Hiram said this place had been abandoned!” Tamar whispered. “They look like Tyrian soldiers. What would they be doing this far?” Hastily she took the bag with her and ran up the stairs that led to the topmost part of the tower, where the old watchtower seat had been located. A few moments later she heard them trying to open the gate. Tamar held her breath…
“Bring him here! There… bring that beast to me now! I will cut his throat for this!” cried the warlord to one of his men. Without thinking it twice, the man took the prisoner by the bronze chains which bound his hands and threw him at the feet of his hateful master. The prisoner looked up at his captor: the warrior’s black hair and beard glistened under the light of the sun and he held up his scimitar high above the victim’s head. “Now you will pay what you owe me or you will never see your family again. Your daughter I will sell to the Philistines or to the Ammonite slave traders. I know well where she resides. Perhaps I may take her as a concubine and share her among my men. Is that what you want?” asked the warlord.
The man on the ground could feel his heart pumping faster and faster witch each passing moment. He knew that the warlord was not one to trifle with: unless he fulfilled the demands of his captor, he would die and his daughter would suffer the consequences. “Please, I beg you: give me more time! I am sure that I with time I will gather the money!” the man pleaded. He thought of his daughter, whom he had not seen for nearly two years; she reminded him so much of his departed wife. Fortunately, he knew that his wife’s brother had taken his daughter in and would be as a father to her in the city of Sidon. Byblos, his birthplace, had been attacked before by the Amalekites, but this was the first time in many long years that the hated bullies had actually take prisoners. The death of the wife he had loved during the siege was a terrible loss, and his daughter’s care had been his only care.
All of these things passed through his mind as he looked up at the Amalekite warlord. “Give me one more chance and I will pay my debt. But please, do not harm to my family. Have not I lost enough with the death of my beloved wife?” he asked the warlord. Striking his victim’s face with the full strength of his opened palm, the warrior answered, “You have but seven more days! If by that time you have not gathered the money owed, I swear by Baal and Ashtoreth that you will die and your daughter with you!” Coming closer, he quickly took a dagger and placed dangerously close to the man’s throat as he said, “Do you understand me?” Assenting without any other choice while wondering how he would be able to keep his word, the man was freed from his bronze bonds. “Pray all the gods that this time you do not fail,” warned the warlord as the now former captive headed back to the tent that had been his home for the past two years and there gather the leather garments he used to sale.
The man never noticed it, but as soon as he entered his tent, another Amalekite came to the warlord. Leaning close to him, the warrior said, “Milord, why are you still troubling yourself with this beast? You already have more than enough money from his sales. Let us just kill him and be done with it.” The warlord looked at his warrior momentarily and raising one eyebrow he replied, “True, true… I do have more than enough. But these petty villagers need to fear us… to fear me. I give credit when it’s due: the man knows how to make useful leather garments and sandals. We still have to pillage the neighboring villages until our numbers are restored. That damned King Saul and his warriors decimated almost the totality of our people. I alone remain of Agag’s line, and my only goal is to make incursions into the Israelite territory and that of their allies, like the Tyrians. I have no intention of ever holding his dept paid. Besides, four days ago I sent a couple of soldiers after the man’s daughter.”
The warrior was surprised by those words. “You sent for her? If they were dispatched four days ago, they must have found her by now, have not they?” asked the young warrior. Answering, the warlord said, “I truly hope so! She is a beauty, one of the fairest females I have ever laid eyes upon; and I cannot wait to have her here and make her mine. Who knows? She may even like it. I will kill them both in the end, but until then we must have our fun until then, mustn’t we?” The two of them laughed at that. A few moments later, the captive came out from his tent and walked towards the warlord, carrying a large bag over his shoulder. “I am ready to go to the market! Will you be sending me alone or with one of your men?” he asked dryly. The Amalekite warlord pointed to the warrior at his side. “Haman, take this man Reuben to the village near Kanah.” Another soldier brought a donkey where Reuben placed the bag. “Remember the burden you carry!” the warlord warned the man before he left. “Reuben? Are you of the Hebrews?” asked Reuben’s companion. “My mother’s family was Hebrew”, Reuben said.
Not so far from the city of Kanah, Hiram decided to stop running at the quick speed he had developed since that terrible night of his transformation. The day was rather beautiful, and the breeze played among the trees and palms. So much beauty around, “it makes us feel little and insignificant” his father Ahiram once told him when they went in a tour of what was supposed to be his future kingdom. Hiram could not care less for the crown or the throne of Phoenicia. He loved his father very much, and the wellbeing of his people was very important to him; but most of all his heart was given to the young woman that had come into his life and turned it upside down: Tamar. Every flower he saw, every patch of blue in the heavens above, every sign of wonder in the world around reminded Hiram of her. Without thinking, he placed his hand upon his heart, and that act brought him back to reality. “My heart does not even beat. How can I feel so alive? I don’t feel the breeze or the heat of the Sun. Food has lost its taste to me. But when I am with her all of these things become nothing, and suddenly the spark of life comes to me in a way it never did before”, he thought.
By the time these thoughts crossed his mind, the sounds of the city of Kanah reached Hiram’s attuned ears. People went back and forth: some carrying large earthen jugs of water or wine, others with freshly baked bread and pastries. Still others loudly offered their services as tent makers, carpenters, and hewers of stone or cutters of wood. Hiram always loved the buzzing sound of the city, though at first he feared that he would not be able to control his thirst for human blood. Reaching the city gate, where two guards stood with large spears, Hiram waited for a moment. The little leather pouch which he held with his right hand had more than enough shekels to buy whatever he and Tamar needed; but the smell of human blood was now the only thing which plagued his mind. Taking a single coin out of the pouch and concentrating his mind on it, he thought of Tamar and how proud she would be of him. He entered the city and opened his eyes; they were still golden brown…
“Many years they spent in bliss
O’er malice Shadowed and hate
Passing through fire, iron and rocks
Dying in the forest morrowless.
Beyond the Sundering Seas in the West
Once again they met and kissed
Returning to their homes of old
Long ago they passed sorrowless.”
Didyme thus sang with joy as she did her needlework. “Long ago they passed sorrowless…” she whispered. For some days Didyme had been working with embroidery and making a complex pattern of Joshua’s name into a linen cloth which he could always carry with him. The boy’s laughter could be heard outside as he played with the puppy that unexpectedly had become their pet. “Come Dior, come to me boy!” Joshua cried happily to the pup. ‘Dior’ was the name Joshua chose as soon as he picked up the little dog some days before. Blue were the eyes of Dior as the unclouded sky, and black and grey the color of his soft fur. Suddenly Didyme heard the boy nor the puppy anymore and leaving her work on the table, she walked to the window that overlooked the garden.
Joshua’s play was interrupted by the coming of three horses: two of them were mounted by soldiers, one of them with long, black hair and the third carried someone whose hair was golden-white. Malchus it was who came in that very same hour with the request from Arom that Didyme could take care of Caius. Promptly, the lady brought three wooden cups and a jug of wine to receive her guests. “Good morning! Is this the house of the Lady Didyme, sister of Master Arom?” asked Malchus to Joshua, who stood near the garden’s gate. “Yes, she lives here. May I call her for you?” the young boy answered. “I would be most grateful for that! Tell her that her brother Arom has sent us requesting her aid,” Malchus said. Putting Dior carefully on the ground, Joshua ran towards the house. There he found Didyme coming from the kitchen with the jug of wine and the wood cups. “Lady Didyme, there are soldiers with a message from Arom. They are requesting your help!”
Didyme handed the cups to Joshua while saying, “Arom? Did they identify themselves? Is Arom well?” Joshua shrugged at the first question and then said, “No, but I believe I saw someone hurt with them.” Didyme replied, “Very well, help me with these.” Following after her, both of them came to the gate. There Malchus greeted her. “Lady Didyme, my name is Malchus, Captain of the Palace Guard of King Ahiram. Master Arom has sent us to request your help with this young man,” and at that he motioned the other soldier to bring the horse that carried Caius closer. “His name is Caius, a Hebrew from the city of Kedesh. Apparently he was attacked by an Amalekite soldier that attempted against his life. The crowd was too busy paying attention to the punishment of the murderer and Arom though it best that you would take care of him.”
The Lady took a step forward and placed the back of her hand upon Caius’ forehead. “How long ago did my brother tend to him? He has a high fever! Quickly, take him inside!” Malchus and the other soldier carefully took Caius as Joshua dropped the cups and ran to the door, opening it for them. “There, on the mat!” Didyme directed, and then she turned to Joshua. “Bring water from the well and two large towels. In the garden, near the large stone, there is a basket with leaves and barks that I gathered yesterday. Please, bring them to me at once!” Joshua ran to the garden to seek what Didyme had asked for as she spoke with Malchus. “Forgive me for not introducing myself properly. I am Didyme, sister of Arom and for my brother and me it’s always an honor to assist the King and his servants in any way.” She stretched her hand forward to salute Malchus, who was struck with the loveliness of her radiant smile. For a moment he forgot what and where he was: there was only the light that came from Didyme’s eyes and the sense of joy that overflowed from her.
“Um… Malchus at your service; the King is most pleased with the help your family has provided the Royal House over the decades. Arom has mentioned that you are skilled with herbs and flowers and have hands of healing,” Malchus said with a smile on his face. Didyme blushed at his words. “Sometimes my brother makes things a little grandiose than they really are: he is the one that apprentices for the Royal Physician. What I know of healing comes from my mother. She used to spend hours in the garden, teaching me the names of the plants and herbs, roots and barks that could be useful for healing the body. Arom’s attention was given to the secrets of the mind, but I rejoiced in the things green and fair that grow around us.” Didyme had not realized that Joshua was already behind her with the things he had asked for. “Here are the towels and the basket. But I need help with the water-jar,” the boy said.
Malchus stood up and went outside to bring in the jar as Joshua knelt besides Didyme, who took one of the linen towels and put in on Caius’ brow. “He has lost too much fluid: his body canno
PLEASE READ AND LEAVE FEEDBACK
The week’s seventh day began at twilight when Arom and his men arrived at the city of Hazor, where the road that led southwards to Jerusalem met with the Way of the Philistines, or the Road of the Sea as it had been called since the days of old. The first thing which Arom noticed was that the market was closed, as the vendors had departed with their families to their homes. The sound of the ram’s horn, the shofar which the Hebrews blew at special occasions filled the streets and then the cry of the watchmen, “The sun has set, and the holy Sabbath has begun! Let no more work or chores be done! The seventh day is here!” The young physician dismounted his horse and spoke to the soldiers that were with him, “Let us be careful not to offend the locals. This day is the holiest of their week, a memorial to their God. We will take the horses to the closest stable and then look for Prince Hiram on foot.”
Following his orders, the soldiers also came down from their horses and led them in file behind Arom until they reached the large stables that were on the north side of the city market. About to close the heavy doors was a middle-aged man with grey hair and bushy eyebrows. “Forgive me, sir. We have come from a very far journey and our horses need food and rest. We plan to stay here a couple of days. I understand that this day is sacred for your people. We are willing to pay for all extra expenses incurred in the care of our animals if you can assure us that there is room for them.” The man turned to face Arom. “Oh… you are Phoenicians, are not you? Indeed, today is our holy Sabbath. But there is room here in the stable. Your animals may find rest and food.” Arom answered, “Thank you sir!” and the man replied, “Of course. But you must hurry, lest I break our law of not working on the Sabbath.”
Taking his horse, Arom led it inside the large, roomy stable. Mangers filled with fresh straw were set orderly for each of the cubicles where the animals would stand; also large receptacles with water and some space where the riders could hang the saddles and accompanying equipment. Some of Arom’s men were already taking their horses to the empty cubicles when the man in charge of the stables motioned him to come to the door. “How many men are with you?” he asked, to which Arom replied, “Twenty-seven strong men, the same number of horses and one camel with provisions. A question if you may, kind sir: how did you know that we are Phoenicians?” The man smiled at the inquiry. “Your accent, though very proper and refined, shows that you come from Tyre. I used to spend time talking with the architect Hiram of Naphtali when he was working for King Solomon and your accent and his sound very alike.”
Arom thought for a minute before speaking. “Hiram of Naphtali, may the gods preserve his soul, was one of the men that best served King Ahiram. My name is Arom of Tyre, an apprentice to His Majesty’s Court Physician. My Lord the King has sent us to search for his son, Prince Hiram. We have traveled for some days, and after spending some more here we will depart to Ramah. Have you heard of any strange events in the city or the areas nearby? Are there stories or incidents involving violent deaths or attacks upon civilians or livestock that might have occurred recently?” The man smirked. “Well, if they have happened, I have not heard of them. As for ‘seeing’ them, despite what you behold, I am blind.” At those words, Arom gasped. The man’s sky blue eyes were opened wide and others would have judged him as someone healthy. Arom waved his hand before the man’s eyes. “I am blind, not deaf: stop waving your hand before me,” the man said smiling.
“Sir, forgive me. I could not…,” Arom began, but the man interrupted him, “No need to apologize. If I hear of any strange tales I will let you know. My house is just after the next corner. Feel free to come by whenever you need someone to talk too. Most people here keep to themselves: decent folk those that live here. If we seem suspicious of strangers is because most have come to abuse our hospitality. Still, we remember the Law that rules our life, the Law of Life which YHWH gave to us; and that includes sharing our means with those that need it.” Arom closed his eyes, his mind meditating in the non-verbal response, the body language of the blind man. “A little rough around the ages, but he means well and seems sincere,” Arom thought. “I thank you for your offer; and I know that today is a sacred day for your people. I shall take upon your offer and visit you tomorrow. You seem to have lots of interesting stories to share!” said the young apprentice.
The blind man did not answer, but to Arom it seemed that he approved of the idea. Turning his back to Arom, the man began the way back to his home. Arom returned to his men, some of which had already set down to talk with their companions as the waited for the young physician. “Alright men: this is what we do. We set camp outside the city, and we will need two to stay watch during the night. Tomorrow we will search the lands about Hazor and then return for our horses at sundown. In the meantime, it would be wise to take a good measure of this city: visit the public places where the people gather, ask questions of the locals, and above all be on the watch for any signs of Hiram. Only the gods know where he is, and remember that he is dangerous.” The men, pleased with their orders, lost no time complying with it. In pairs they broke off, two that went to the main plaza, two others that went to a small tavern and the rest took to other places of the city. Arom remained alone, and headed to the small hill that was before the city gates. Though the sun had not fully set, the moon came out earlier than usual. He was thinking of Didyme. “O Sister, if only you were here! I know how much you love the sight of the early moon. And little Joshua: perhaps we met for a day, but the gods know that I care for you, dear one.”
Night passed without any disturbance, and the sun rose golden crowned with warm light. Arom had spent the night outside his tent looking at the stars and wondering where Prince Hiram could possibly be or how they would find him and most importantly: how they would convince him to return without resorting to violence. “Master Arom, we will continue our search. Shall we get you anything to eat?” asked one of the younger soldiers. “Thank you, but I will stay in the city and speak with the older men,” Arom responded. As some of the soldiers drank water or wine, others ate bread, meat, and pieces of fruit, Arom again gathered them and repeated the instructions given the night before. Not losing time, the pairs broke off again to their different assignments. Left alone, Arom began on the short road that led to the gates of Hazor. As he entered the city he could see men with their families standing near the door of their houses facing south-southwest towards Jerusalem; and they whispered words Arom had read before: the confession of their faith in their One God.
“I must admit: these Hebrew are faithful to their beliefs. Time and time again, no matter what circumstances, they have somehow being able to keep their faith,” Arom’s mind whispered. He spent the next few hours on his errand, looking for the Prince, asking questions of the men, women and even children. Some said that they had never heard of the missing Prince, others that they have heard tales from travelers which spoke of a hidden terror in the ways. The sun neared high noon when Arom remembered the blind man’s invitation to speak with him. After going to the stable and making sure his horse was well fed and that there was enough water, he knocked at the door of the keeper’s home. “Come in, Arom!” said the blind man. “How did you know it was me?” Arom asked. The blind man smiled. “I know much more than you would suppose. Please, close the door after you are in!” the man said.
Inside the first thing Arom noticed was the simplicity of the furniture. A wooden table, a few chairs around it, two large chairs near a small fireplace where the visit could sit, and then a kitchen well supplied with food. “Eli is name. Eli the Levite, from the city of Hebron in the south,” the blind man spoke, answering Arom’s silent question. The young apprentice was surprised at Eli’s keen senses. “Have you eaten? I have freshly baked bread, figs and honey, and wine. Come, eat what you want! It is too much food for a lonely man!” Eli said with a chuckle. “I was wondering if you would be willing to share some stories from your younger days,” Arom stated. “You mean, when I had use of my eyes. I shall, but first I want to hear more about you and Tyre. Your nation’s help to mine is significant and to being able to help you I your search, I will need to hear everything.”
Arom took sip of wine from the cup that was set before him. “Very well, but I am still interested in hearing your stories.” And then he began the tale from the night of Hiram’s return…
Tamar went into the tower, and after taking a careful look to the east and to the west she quickly closed the doors and placed a wooden bar to lock it. “Good thing that he left the windows opened!” she thought because of sunlight that filled the place plentifully. After placing the knife on a large boulder near the entrance, Tamar went about to gather her things inside the large cloth bag she had. Hiram’s cloak was still on the floor and she carefully patted the dust off from it and then put it in the bag. The sound of neighing horses startled her. Casting the bag aside she peered through a hole in the gate. A company of armed men were coming to the tower. “I thought Hiram said this place had been abandoned!” Tamar whispered. “They look like Tyrian soldiers. What would they be doing this far?” Hastily she took the bag with her and ran up the stairs that led to the topmost part of the tower, where the old watchtower seat had been located.
A few moments later she heard them trying to open the gate. She held her breath with expectation, and without making any sudden moves, she tried to get a good look at the number of soldiers that now entered the Tower. “Here, be careful now! We don’t want to alert anybody that might be inside. Close the gate and then bar it with the wood beam as soon as all are here!” said the soldier whose helm was that of a captain. A dozen soldiers went in after him and a pair stood just near the gate as if guarding it. The first thing they noticed was the circle of stones around the residue of what had been logs of wood: the remains of a fire. “What do we have here?” the captain asked half speaking to himself, half speaking to his men. “Hmm… it’s made out of gold!” he exclaimed as he unsheathed the golden knife which Hiram had given Tamar. “The knife!” Tamar thought, and she groaned as she cursed her carelessness of just placing it on the boulder instead of taking it with her.
“It’s got jewels, rubies, topazes… this is no mere trinket!” the captain exclaimed again as he took a careful look at the blade and the sheath. One of the soldiers, however, noticed the large bulk that formed the bad where Tamar had placed Hiram’s cloak and her own robes. “Sir, I think I found something!” the soldier said eagerly. “Their accents… they do not sound like Tyrians. But their uniforms are of the Royal Army,” Tamar said in her mind. “Look, there are woman’s clothes and a magnificent cloak here. Whoever stayed here was not alone,” the soldier continued while taking each of the garments out of the leather bag one by one. Putting the knife back on the boulder, the captain came closer and brusquely took one of Tamar’s clothes from the soldier’s hand. He smelled it and smiled. “A young woman was wearing these. She was here,” the captain said in a low tone. And as he looked up, Tamar’s blood froze in her veins.
She could recognize those eyes anywhere: it was the eyes of the murderer. The last time she had seen him it was back in her village almost two years before. That day, as was her custom, she would walk with her mother to the town’s well and bring back jars filled with water and food from the nearby market. Her father would go to the neighboring villages to sell the leather clothes and sandals he produced manually, as his father and grandfather before him had done, while her only daughter stayed home and learned the crafts of a homemaker: baking bread, mending clothes, caring for the garden, reading and writing, preparing different types of food, cleaning the house and making sure that it remained orderly. “One day, Tamar, you will be a most beautiful bride!” her mother said, smiling at her daughter. “I know that there are many young men here who notice you. Dathan and Abiram look at you with wonder and admiration. They know that one of these days another will come and sweep you off your feet forever!”
Tamar thought momentarily of Dathan and Abiram; and she knew that they’d been very interested in her. But as she prepared herself to reply to her mother’s declaration a startling cry broke the silence. “They are dead! They are dead! They are both dead!” were the words that forever changed that day and shattered Tamar’s life. “Dathan and Abiram are de- agh!” yelled the same voice and it was heard no more as a poisoned arrow pierced his heart and darkness took him. Hooves of horses were heard thundering as they approached the village. “Amalekites! Amalekites are attacking! Men, to arms… kill the dogs!” the watchman said sounding the great horn of war; the horn fell cloven in two from his bloodied hand when a sword hewed his helm and broke his skull. Two hundred armed Amalekites rode the horses, some with torches in their hands whilst others carried bows, axes, swords, javelins and spears. Still others were throwing rocks from slingshots to the horrified civilians that ran to and fro looking for cover.
“We must hurry! Quick, grab that basket of bread and follow me!” Tamar’s mother instructed. They left the house for the nearby stable. “We must hide in the haystacks until they leave. These Amalekites will forgive no one as long as they have their chance at sport!” she said again. Tamar held on to her mother’s right hand. Running for their lives they went into the large wooden stables where some of the horses, scared by the sounds of war outside, had broken lose. “Two went over there!” one of the Amalekite invaders said pointing to the same building to the captain. “Leave none alive! The chieftain wants the place razed to the ground. “Aye captain!” the soldier said as he led two others on horseback with torches on hand. Tamar’s mother had found the perfect place to hide her daughter. “Now be still and try not to make a sound. They will need the horses and will not burn these stables. The houses may be ransacked, though I doubt they will much anything worth their time. Shh… I feel them coming!” she whispered and with that she laid right next to Tamar, holding her daughter close.
The soldiers came in on foot after leaving their horses outside. Drawing their swords, they began to poke at each of the haystacks, one by one. “They must have left. See? That door over there,” one of the soldiers said, tired of just walking and poking, pointing to the stable’s backdoor, “is opened! I bet they are in the desert by now!” The head of the group smiled. “Not so far!” and with a quick motion he pulled a piece of cloth from the mother’s dress, grabbing her by the hair with the other hand. “Take the other one! These two will make for fine slave-girls or concubines. What are your names?” They did not answer. “I am asking, what are your names?” and he slapped Tamar’s mother. “You Amalekite pig! How dare you touch my mother?” Looking at her, he replied, “Ah… feisty too! Maybe the captain will find you amusing!” and with that they brought them outside the stables, pushing them roughly to where the captain stood.
“I said no survivors!” the captain grumbled. “Yes milord, but I thought you would be more please of these ‘delicacies’. Are not they just mouthwatering?” the soldier said, trying to placate the evident anger in the captain’s eyes. The tall man drew his sword and placed it near Tamar’s neck. “I would have you!” he said to her, too close to her face, his eyes looking rather to her chest. He turned back to get on his horse. “Take the young one to the chief. Kill the other!” he said without even bothering to look at them. Tamar’s mother eyed her daughter while the soldiers began to bind her with ropes. She could not allow it. Tamar was young, full of life; it could not end like this. With only the rage a mother that watches her child in danger could muster she broke free from the two soldiers that held her she ran towards the one that had Tamar. “Run Tamar!” were her mother’s last words as she collapsed on the floor being held by her chocolate-eyed child, a spear having run her through. Tamar looked up at the captain, the man that had killed her mother. Those eyes that filled with sadistic pleasure and wickedness: those eyes that she would never forget.
Now again she was looking at them, and right then and there she felt her soul sinking in a deep mire of despair…
Malchus took the mortar and placed a handful of the bark and leaves from the basket nearby. With the mortar he crushed them, then poured water into the bowl and crushed and mixed again. Handling the bowl to her, she took the mix and after cleaning the wound she put some of the paste on the cut. “How did you know of that remedy?” Didyme asked with her eyes fixed on Malchus’. “I am no doctor but have seen my share of wound in battle,” he answered. In that moment Joshua was back again with the remaining two cakes. The other soldier, who had witnessed the entire operation, was already savoring his and Joshua’s cake had disappeared in a couple of bites. “Thank you for this cake young man!” Malchus said to the boy. Didyme nodded at Joshua, again smiling. And Malchus could not help but take in that smile. “Ashtoreth herself could not be as beautiful as this maiden,” Malchus thought with joy.
Caius’ condition immediately began to improve. His breathing became less arduous and the fever on him gave way a little. “There, this paste always works wonders with people with these types of hurts! I think it best to leave him rest peacefully and serve him just water or the juices of fruits until tomorrow. Then we can think of moving him and changing his clothes,” Tamar said almost whispering to Malchus. The Captain of the Guard agreed with her and nodded. “I will look after him, Lady Didyme!” Joshua offered with enthusiasm. “Thank you Joshua! Just stay close to him and call us should his situation change. In the meantime, you can bring Dior if you wan to play with him. But be careful of disturbing the man’s rest,” Didyme said to the young boy. Joshua did as she asked and went outside to bring Dior into the home. Less than three minutes later he had returned, holding the puppy tenderly in his arms, and sat by Caius with the small dog playing with it.
In the meantime, Malchus and Didyme were seating on two large chairs that were very close to the door of the small, gated garden. “I am most impressed by your healing skills. You did not waste any time trying different methods to tend the wound and the paste was the first thing that came to your mind,” Malchus said smiling. The sister of Arom replied, “I like to test different methods. On occasions demanding less urgency I have made trials of some of the remedies against fever, coughs, boils, pains and other maladies. I regularly visit the temple of Baal by the palace in Tyre and also the temple of Enlil and Ashtoreth both in Tyre and Sidon to speak with the sick, tend to their needs and comfort them.” Malchus was both surprised by her answer, and also a little ashamed. As Captain of the Guard he was responsible for the security of the palace and of the King and his family. More than once he had to turn beggars and sick people from the palace doors because they make the place look undesirable. And here he was speaking with a young woman who spent her days taking care of those same people. “Why do you do it?” he asked her, truly intrigued and wanting to hear her answer (a part of him also wanting to hear her voice alone…)
“Why should not I? I have been given so many good things that it is only fair I share them with others. I must admit: sometimes to see suffering that close does take its toll on me. And that is why I try to cheer them up, light their day with a smile or a word of comfort and make them see that there are many reasons to feel joy and gratitude,” she answered and her words and her eyes were filled with such assurance that Malchus could only stare into her eyes as if they were deep pools where the stars reflected and from which he could neither turn away nor wish to. “What of your brother?” Malchus inquired without blinking. “Arom my brother, though I would say is less passionate, feels much the same. Perhaps that is why he has devoted himself to become one of the best physicians in the Kingdom. King Ahiram has been very graceful allowing him to apprentice with the Court’s own physician. But as I said earlier, Arom is also very interested in the study of the mind and its effect to the overall effect on a person’s health.” Didyme could not help but notice the way that Malchus peered into her eyes and she blushed.
“I want to hear about you, Captain. How long have you been serving the King? Do you have any brothers or sisters? What do you like to do?” she asked kindly. Malchus took a deep breath before speaking. “I had an older brother; Simon was his name and he served as guard to King before his death. The Ammonites and the Amalekites raided our village and he was killed. My father serves the King as one of the main suppliers of wine from Babylon and other commodities. King Ahiram named me after Simon as the new Captain of the Guard and ever since I have been serving the Royal House. When Prince Hiram disappeared I knew I had the duty to search for him. It was him who saved my village and almost routed out the invaders, though too late to preserve my brother’s life. Prince Hiram told me that everything would be alright and that I only had to trust the gods. And I did. And now he’s gone, where we don’t know. Arom seems to think that the Prince’s condition has turned him into some kind of monster. But I know the Prince: whatever happened to him I am sure it was out of his control. Deep inside there is a lot of good in him.”
Didyme smiled. “That is a long story. But you still have not answered my question, what do you like to do?” Malchus gulped and took out his sword to look at it while talking. “You ask me what things I like to do. I tell you that despite me being a captain, a warrior, my delight is in peace. I long to have a family and a place to call my own where I can find refuge from the heat of the sun and comfort under the cool moonlight. What I want most is to find a lady of whom I will be worthy enough to call wife and spend the rest of days with her. I don’t have much to offer: war does not pay a lot. But I will protect her from everything else and hold her at night, waiting for the breaking dawn to come upon us. I must do battle, but I long for peace!” he exclaimed and with that he threw the sword on the ground and placed his foot upon it. “Yes… that is what I like to do. I am searching for that special person. The gods may know… it may be you.” Arom’s sister blushed at his words. “You are too kind and I also wait for the day when I will be blessed with a husband. I don’t know if I will be able to be the best wife, but I will surely be the best friend of his days.”
She smiled again, and the light of her eyes was like white flames, like stars shining amidst the dark night. Malchus’ breathing stopped for a brief moment at the sight of her eyes and without event thinking about it he sat near her and took her right hand in his, lifted it carefully and tenderly kissed it. “After all of this is over and the Prince is safely returned and Caius recuperates his health, I will come for you. Though I’ve heard a lot of you, now that I have met you face to face and heard your own words, I find the reports lacking. You are truly wonderful. Will you wait for me?” Didyme pulled back her hand from his and held his face with it. “I will wait for you, Malchus. And we shall see the days ahead together!” He closed in and his lips brushed against her. Such bliss he felt, as the spring that triumphs against a cold winter or as the fire that breaks the spell of ice. For once he felt happy again, and in his heart was set burning the light of a great love.
“Very well, so be it and the gods are witnesses of this oath!” Malchus exclaimed. Just in that moment Joshua came out with the pup Dior. “Lady Didyme, are you in love?” he asked when he saw both their faces. “Dear one, I believe I am!” she answered slowly. Malchus helped her to stand up. “I think it best if we return to Caius’ care. I do not want Arom to think that I forsook my mission because of you.” Didyme laughed. “Arom needs to find love…”
CHAPTERS 23 AND 24
The sounds of the city of Kanah reached Hiram’s attuned ears. People went back and forth: some carrying large earthen jugs of water or wine, others with freshly baked bread and pastries. Still others loudly offered their services as tent makers, carpenters, and hewers of stone or cutters of wood. Hiram always loved the buzzing sound of the city, though at first he feared that he would not be able to control his thirst for human blood. Reaching the city gate, where two guards stood with large spears, Hiram waited for a moment. The little leather pouch which he held with his right hand had more than enough shekels to buy whatever he and Tamar needed; but the smell of human blood was now the only thing which plagued his mind. Taking a single coin out of the pouch and concentrating his mind on it, he thought of Tamar and how proud she would be of him. He entered the city and opened his eyes; they were still golden brown and he breathed with relief.
“Good day gentlemen! Beautiful day today, would not you agree?” Hiram said politely to the two guards who stood by the gates, sentinels bearing a large bronze shield and a tall spear each. One of the soldiers turned his face and smiled. “Indeed, this day is rather beautiful. What brings you, traveler, to Kanah?” the soldier asked. Hiram smiled and answered, “I have come to buy supplies, clothes and some food for a young woman and for me. We have now a home and I want her to want for nothing.” The soldier could see the joy that radiated from Hiram’s voice and the way his golden brown eyes seemed to be looking at something far off that was dearest than anything else. “Then go with peace, and I hope that everything goes well with you and with her!” were the words of the gate guard. Hiram replied, “Thank you for your words soldier. I shall not forget your kindness. With that he went forth to the city market which loomed just over the corner of the street.
The vendors were busy ordering their little kiosks and storehouses. A pair was selling large water jars and wine jars; while nearby a woman was announcing the new clothes and patterns for linen cloths that she had designed. A young man offered his services to fix doors, wooden carts, windows and furniture as a woman sold fresh cut flowers and blossoms of different kinds and colors. A man of middle age was carrying a large yoke from which hung on each end a metal vase with milk and the other of oak-wood with olive oil. “Fresh meat, lamb chops and fish for your pleasure!” yelled the butcher as some of his helpers were hanging the large chops from hooks in the little store. Hiram had so missed the sight of a budding market. How much it reminded him of Tyre and the view that he had from his room in the palace of the different vendors, sellers and buyers; and of the rich treasures that were sold in Tyre.
In a little corner near a large wheat-storehouse, Hiram saw one last seller accompanied by a soldier. The man’s hair was black and before him was set up a large wooden table with folded leather garments, cloaks and clothes and also beautifully crafted leather sandals. “She may have use of those garments. And I need new sandals. Mine are all tattered!” said Hiram as he looked at the pair of sandals that barely protected his feet. “Pardon me sir, would you buy a bushel of apples?” offered at that moment a girl, her smile adorned with dimples. “How much are they?” he asked her, smiling also, and the smell of her blood made the hair on his back to stand to end. “One whole bushel for half a shekel and these I picked up myself this very morning. You will not find a better offer like that,” said she. Hiram fought back with the urge that rushed from the desire to taste the girl’s blood. He once more thought of Tamar and the light of her eyes. “Here, I have a shekel. Give me two bushels!” and she did. “Thank you! Thank you so much, sir!” the girl exclaimed happy. The sound of her voice filled with gratitude dispelled the remains of want for blood. Hiram came closer and tenderly kissed the girl on her head. “Run along! Have peace!” The girl’s laughter could be heard as she joyfully ran back to her mother and sisters that waited for her in the distance.
Hiram watched her with pride, knowing that he had just set another triumph against the desire that coursed throughout his being. Turning his attention to the seller of the leather garments, he noticed now that the soldier was not there. Hiram looked to and fro and figured that either the soldier was friends with the vendor or perhaps the seller carried large amounts of gold and had requested for security. Approaching the man, Hiram saluted him with sincere pleasure. “Good morning kind sir! I see that you work with leather!” The man looked up at the Prince and said, “Good morn, young man. Yes, this is my trade. I specialize in the making of leather garments and leather footwear.” He looked at Hiram’s feet and noticed the Prince’s abused sandals. “You may need a new pair of leather sandals. Let me take a good measure of the sole of your feet. I may be able to make a pair that will be just perfect!” the sandal maker said, motioning Hiram to sit on the table. Hiram sat, putting the bushel of apples nearby.
He grabbed one of the reddest apples and took a large bite. Though not as satisfying as the blood of animals or humans. “Want an apple?” Hiram asked the man who was knelt before him and removing the tattered sandals from his feet and the man answered, “Thank you! Please, put it over there until I finish my work.” The Prince did as the man asked; and after taking another bite off his apple he said, “How long have you been working in this trade? Did you learn it from your fathers or was it something that you decided to do of late? Rarely have I seen such finer work as the one you have here.” The man responded, “I thank you for your kind words. This trade I learned from my father and him from his father and so it is a family tradition. I would have passed it to my child. As for the quality, I do try my best to make clothing and sandals that will last my customers many years.” Though the man seemed content, Hiram could sense that something was troubling him inside. “You speak of your child,” Hiram said, “as if you will never see him again: as if something terrible befell him.”
The man looked up again into Hiram’s golden brown eyes. “Actually, I only had one child and it was a daughter. She resembles her mother most with hair the sheen of a young raven and eyes dark brown as the bark of the cedar trees from Lebanon. Only in the whiteness of her skin does she have any likeness to me. Her mother died some time ago and I had to leave her with her uncle. I do not know what has happened to her. But a father can sense if their children are alive; and my heart tells me that she is alive and that I will see her again.” Taking Hiram’s right foot, the man exclaimed, “By the gods, why are you so cold? And do you run a lot? Your skin is so hard and yet soft as the granite from Sinai. I think that you are sick my boy. Don’t you want to…” but before he could finish, Hiram said, “I am fine. I feel fine. Please, just take the length of the sole of my feet. I assure you kind sir that I am well.” Looking at Hiram with a bit of suspicion and yet feeling that the young man before him was speaking truthfully, the man did as the Prince asked.
“So you have a daughter? Does she have a name?” Hiram asked the man. “Yes, her name is-,” but just then the soldier that had been with him returned. “Just do your work and with haste. There are others that would like to buy your merchandise!” the soldier sharply stated. Hiram took a good look at him and the soldier was stayed for a moment, feeling uneasy, as if the young man that looked at him was about to leap and eat him. A low but deep growl reverberated inside Hiram’s chest. The sandal maker was surprised and taking Hiram’s cold hand he said, “These will be ready tomorrow. I may be able to adjust a pair I made a week ago.” Hiram took the apples and the money bag, still looking at the soldier but addressing the man. “Very well, and it was a pleasure to meet you. I will make the payment tomorrow. My name is Hiram of Tyre.”
“Reuben of Sidon and the pleasure was also mine,” Reuben said to Hiram. “And thank you for the apple!” Hiram just nodded and began to walk away. But his thoughts were no longer fixed on the soldier; his mind was anxious and the only thing he wanted to do was to be back with Tamar. “Tamar…”he whispered and none saw him running as a fast blur back to the oasis…
The first thing Arom noticed was the simplicity of the furniture. A wooden table, a few chairs around it, two large chairs near a small fireplace where the visit could sit, and then a kitchen well supplied with food. “Eli is name. Eli the Levite, from the city of Hebron in the south,” the blind man spoke, answering Arom’s silent question. The young apprentice was surprised at Eli’s keen senses. “Have you eaten? I have freshly baked bread, figs and honey, and wine. Come, eat what you want! It is too much food for a lonely man!” Eli said with a chuckle. “I was wondering if you would be willing to share some stories from your younger days,” Arom stated. “You mean, when I had use of my eyes. I shall, but first I want to hear more about you and Tyre. Your nation’s help to mine is significant and to being able to help you I your search, I will need to hear everything.” Arom took sip of wine from the cup that was set before him. “Very well, but I am still interested in hearing your stories.” And then he began the tale from the night of Hiram’s return.
Eli heard the entire tale, nodding at certain moments, sighing at others while Arom recalled every single detailed that he could remember or that he had been involved with as the hours passed and it was already but two hours before the beginning of the first day of the week at twilight. One part did interest Eli more than the rest. “Describe again the way you discovered your friend,” he asked Arom. “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. It felt was granite, like the marble hewn from the cliffs near the sea in the isle of Kittim. When we brought him inside the palace, and after a few days, his eyes were red. We knew that there was but one thing to do and it was to keep him and the rest of us safe. The way he had reacted when he returned was dangerous. It was more animal, more savage and less human. King Ahiram was dismayed at this, and very worried that he would lose his only son and heir. But thank the gods, his were taken care of and his wounds mended.”
The blind man listened carefully and for a few minutes he remained silent and still, and Arom even thought that Eli had fallen asleep. Taking a deep breath Eli no said, “I can judge by the things you have spoken what has afflicted your friend. Among my people there is a story that goes back to the days before the Deluge when this world was younger and the race of men had not been on existence for more than two thousand years. In those days closer to our beginnings the daughters of men were very beautiful. Extremely beautiful more like it: their faces left the light of the moon in shame and their bodies were not only well proportionate but also stronger. Perhaps you have heard of this tale among the Sea-comers or from the lands north of the Great Sea though the truth of it remains alone with my people.” Arom smiled and replied, “Indeed, the day before I was commissioned by the King to search for his son I read from an old parchment this story. Would you please recount it? If the truth is with your people then there might be a way to save Prince Hiram.”
“Where will I begin? Oh yes! Like I was saying, the daughters born to men were very beautiful. In those days there was, how can I say it? There was much communication, intercourse between the world we see and the world unseen.” Arom lifted one eyebrow, his mind how altogether very interested in what the blind man was going to say. “There was but one language, not many as now, and the race of men lived relatively closer, together in communities that did not spread very far. And that was mankind’s downfall. For unbeknown to these women, they were being watched: at sunrise, at noon, at sundown, during night and the vigils of the night. Beings of great power, invisible to the eyes of mortals, were spying these lovely women. They watched and waited until one day they made their move. A young woman, the most beautiful of all women in that time, was near a river and taking her clothes off to wash herself.”
“Her eyes were grey and her hair black, her limbs were comely and her body most agreeable. This young woman was found a few days later pregnant. And what came out of her shocked the world. It was a boy with the beauty of her mother but the strength of a full grown man. When asked about who had fathered such a child she replied, ‘A man tall with white, cold skin and black eyes came to me. He said he had been longing to lay with me and that if I should accept him together we would father a new race to populate the earth.’ The boy grew up much faster than a ‘normal’ child. He was strong as ten men, his skin white as marble but hard as granite and his eyes were ever black as night. To feed had to consume the flesh and blood of men. Faster than a breeze he could move and under the light of the sun he shone as new diamonds. Suddenly he was alone anymore. More and more men like him began to appear on the earth.”
“And all the mothers reported the same story: that they had been approached my tall, elegant men that promised them a new beginning and the fathering of a new race. These men our Lawgiver revealed in his writings as the ‘sons of the One’ or what you would call demigods. They were ‘Malachi’ or angels that left their position in the precincts of Heaven to dwell among mortal men and enjoy the company of women. And their issue did not limit to handsome men that devoured blood but also to tall men, the ‘nephilim’ as we call them in our tongue. Men and women fell to their spell of charisma for they had the ability to draw large masses after them who not only admired them but then began to follow their ill example and the earth was ruined. Only one man and his family remained true for which he survived when at the uttermost end of The One’s patience the world of his time was drowned; and the blood-drinkers and their brothers the nephilim were gone along with it,” said Eli and he waited for Arom’s response.
The young Tyrian weighed heavily on what he had just heard trying to find a correlation with had he knew from the scrolls in the library at the Palace. “In our writings we have the mentioning that only one thing may end their lives: the gift of the Gods… fire! And yet you say that the world was drowned as our own stories confirm. Then how is it that our Prince Hiram has become like one of them? What could possibly explain that?” asked Arom. Eli grabbed Arom’s right hand with a quick motion. “My dear boy, I thought that was obvious. Only one has the power to recall such deeds of the past and bring misfortune. Only one could have the motivation to do such an abhorred deed: the great Enemy himself whose servants are the fathers of those ancient accursed races. Life unending only The One can bestow and happiness eternal with it but attempting to find such a gift without His approval comes from a hard heart bereft of true love. Prince Hiram’s redemption lies in living against what his nature now dictates. Beyond that there is no other help or answer than can come to him.”
Arom thought sadly of this. “Then there is nothing that can be done to help Hiram? Will my friend remain forever like this?” Eli leaned in closer. “What worries me most is not your friend’s fate, but yours. In you I sense the potential for greatness and also a shadow that seeks to swallow you up. Order is what you want in the world, but control seems to be behind it.” At that Arom stepped back and though he did not immediately reply he knew the man had marked near the truth. “Are they not the same thing, control and order?” asked the young physician.
Eli turned his face towards the east before replying, “Order comes from love and justice and the desire to bring good to others. Control stems from the want of power and the imposition of such power over other wills. You will face a great trial in the days to come. Be careful of what road you take: it may not be undone!” Arom felt a bit uneasy and took a good look at Eli, wondering how he knew so much. Shrugging the blind man’s concern aside as unnecessary Arom said, “Eli, thank you very much for your help. I will now rejoin my men. Tomorrow I shall come again and hear more.” Eli chuckled as Arom left in a hurry…
Very interesting! I can't wait to see how things develop further!
I wonder what will happen when/ if they find Tamar in the tower? What will it mean for her relationship with Hiram? And what about the warlord's men who are looking for her? Things are certainly getting more complicated for this couple. And Didyme is so gentle and beautiful, inside and out, no wonder Malchus is so enchanted by her. Now she has to look after the wounded Caius. I wonder what will happen there?
This story has so many twists and turns! I can't wait to see what happens next!
You will love the next few chapters.
Looking forward to it!
Chapters 23 and 24 are here.