(epigraphs, if I decide to use them, could go on a page before each chapter.)
4. From a Tall Chicken
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. Lookouts had been napping. Allowed spies in too close. Plus, miserable Syrians couldn’t collect military intelligence and go home. They had 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, Ahab’s father had told them to beat each other’s brains out and let him know who won. But a breath of breeze to the left, and that arrow would have sliced Ahab’s jugular—no one the winner.
Obadiah pictured slinging Ahab’s body over Shochar and leading the stallion home. How to 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 crouched on Shochar, alive and clinging with his knees.
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 cut around two farmers flailing barley, plowed through a pile of chaff, and hurdled 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 grinding 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 next to the stable, stretching and rubbing sleep from their eyes. “Where have 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. Should have listened to you.”
Obadiah bit his lip. Ahab’s ‘sorry’ seemed as real as his grin.
Seba met them by the hitching rail. The stable boy from Gibbethon had grown as tall as Obadiah. He owned full biceps and a thick black beard. He and Jebus, the Philistine boy Ahab had fed in Gibbethon, were courting girls in the nearby village of Harod.
As Obadiah slid to the ground, the thunk of arrows in pine echoed in his head. His hands shook as he gave the reins to Seba. “Rub them down. I’ll be out to check on your work.”
Seba draped the reins over the rail. He removed the stallions’ blankets and rubbed their sweaty backs with thick robes.
As Ahab and Obadiah approached the gate to the headquarters compound in their matching white linen cloaks and purple headscarves, the guard stared at Obadiah. “Good morning, my prince. The king’s looking for you.” He turned to Ahab and blushed. “Sorry, my prince.”
“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 backed up next to the other guard.
Striding up the path beside Ahab, Obadiah cast lingering glances back. The guard talked like the fishmonger in Gibbethon those several years ago.
The prince shrugged.
At the entrance, King Omri paced among bodyguards, sandals slapping marble, long cloak swaying. “You left fifty good men in the compound.” His clipped white beard bobbed with each stride. “To go racing in the valley alone.” He cracked a knuckle. “A mere scouting party from Cyprus or Syria could have cut down my son and my right-hand man.”
Obadiah ducked. So far, no mention of arrows. “My fault, your majesty.” A proper show of humility never hurt.
King Omri laughed. “Excuses later. Tomorrow I’ll come out and officiate your race.”
Obadiah let out a slow breath. Lecture delivered. Crisis over. He crowded inside headquarters.
As the king followed them in, he announced, “I’ve got another wife for Ahab.”
Threshing Floor – 1 Samuel 23:1-14, Ruth 3:1–18