04. Chicken

04 Tall Chicken

872 BC

Fort Jezreel, Jezreel Valley, Israel

Obadiah’s heart slapped his ribs. “Outta here!”

He whacked Ahab’s horse. Shochar leaped ahead.

Another arrow plunked in beside the first.

Ahab flattened on Shochar and kicked him into a dash for the fort.

Obadiah pounded Lavan’s sides, and the big gray sprinted after them. How could spies sneak in so close? Were the lookouts napping? Miserable Syrians couldn’t collect military intelligence and go home. They had to try to pick off a pair of wealthy-looking Hebrews. Three more arrows sailed over Ahab’s back.

“Go! Go! Go!” Obadiah screamed.

Ten years ago, as he pushed them down the ladder, Ahab’s father had told them to beat each other’s brains out and let him know who won. But a breath of air to the left, and that arrow would have sliced Ahab’s jugular, with no one the winner.

Obadiah pictured slinging Ahab’s body over Shochar and leading the stallion home. How would he explain the prince’s death to the king? Obadiah’s shoulders tightened. Better to die himself.

Yet, as they galloped up the rise to the fort, Ahab sat upright on Shochar, clinging with his knees.

Almost home and untouched by Syrian arrows. “Thank you, Lord.” The tension in Obadiah’s shoulders eased.

The gate guards stepped aside.

Lavan and Shochar rattled the loose planks of the bridge, trotted through the gate onto the threshing floor. They plowed through a pile of chaff, dodged flails, and jumped a pile of straw. As they clip-clopped across the stones of the plaza, Obadiah closed his eyes and breathed.

“A shekel for that ugly thing,” drifted from the potter’s shop, and in front of the bakery, a woman turned a horizontal grinding wheel as broad as a chariot wheel. But for these two lives, the plaza lay empty.

Where were the fifty bodyguards King Omri had assigned to escort his son? Two sauntered out from their quarters, stretching and rubbing sleep from their eyes. “Where’ve you boys been? Why didn’t you call us?”

Obadiah frowned at Ahab. “You never talked to the captain.”

“And you fell for it.” A grin spread over Ahab’s face.

“Like an egg from a tall chicken, my prince. But you almost got us killed.”

Ahab touched his throat. “Sorry. Shoulda listened to you.”

Obadiah bit his lip. Ahab’s sorry seemed as real as his grin.

With the thunk of arrows in pine echoing in his head, Obadiah slid to the ground. His hands shook as he gave the reins to the stable boy Ahab had slapped in Gibbethon. “Rub them down. I’ll be out to check on your work.”

The stable boy hitched the two stallions to the rail and rubbed Shochar’s sweaty back.

Obadiah approached the gate to the headquarters compound striding side by side with Ahab. They wore white linen cloaks and purple headscarves.

The king’s looking for you, my prince.” Staring first at Obadiah, then at Ahab, the guard opened the gate. “Sorry.” He blushed.

No worries.” Ahab cupped Obadiah’s shoulder. “Plenty of people think this ugly guy looks like me.”

A second guard grasped Obadiah’s wrist and scowled. “Wake up.”

When Obadiah jerked back, the guard put a finger to his lips and whispered, “Pardon me, sir. The Lord says to wake yourself.” Then his face lost its scowl and he stood next to the other guard.

Striding up the path beside Ahab, Obadiah cast lingering glances back. Why had the guard talked like the fishmonger in Gibbethon those many years ago?

As they approached headquarters, Obadiah’s brow wrinkled. Had lookouts reported those arrows? He touched Ahab’s arm.

The prince shrugged.

At the entrance, King Omri paced among bodyguards, his sandals slapping the marble porch and his cloak swaying with his tall form. His clipped, mostly white beard bobbed with each stride. He cracked his knuckles one by one.

“Left fifty good men in the compound. To go racing in the valley alone. A mere scouting party from Cyprus or Syria could have cut down my son and my right-hand man.”

Obadiah ducked his head. So, the king had not heard about the arrows. “My fault, your majesty.” A proper show of humility never hurt.

The king laughed. “Excuses later. I’ll officiate tomorrow’s race.”

Obadiah let out a long, slow breath. Lecture delivered. Crisis over. He crowded inside with Ahab.

As King Omri followed them in, he announced, “I’ve got another wife for Ahab.”


Background

Obadiah and Ahab – 1 Kings 18:3

Hiel of Bethel – 1 Kings 16:34

Tibni son of Ginath – 1 Kings 16:21-22

Baboon – I Kings 10:22

Threshing Floor – 1 Samuel 23:1-14, Ruth 3:1–18

Wake yourself and arise – Isaiah 51:17

Leave a Comment