Hello guys. I know everyone’s been gearing up for the sequel to @tolubablo’s Gibeon so without much ado, let’s get to it! I did my best to create the “ripple effect” and I do hope you enjoy it. If you haven’t read the back story, Gibeon, just click here, and enjoy!
The prophets were gathered round King Nur-Adad’s throne. Their hooded figures formed a semi-circle round the king with the chief prophet in the centre, directly facing King Nur-Adad. The message from the gods had always been delivered by the oldest prophet whose thin voice could barely be heard.
“My lord, we bring you news from the gods. It would seem that Shapshu, our most beautiful sun goddess, began her descent into Sheol yesterday but her ascent to our sky has been halted on Ba’al’s command. The people of Ajalon have incurred Ba’al’s wrath by dishonouring him. My lord, as custom demands, the king must sacrifice the first-born of his loins to the gods, but your love for your daughter has blinded you to the needs of your people. The gods’ wishes must be met, else nights will fill our days and our fields will fail for lack of the sun’s warmth.”
The king glared at the frail-looking prophet. He could have had him killed with a flick of his thumb, but fear of his people held him back. He was a pragmatic man, and though he might have believed that the gods were responsible for the longer hours of darkness, he had sent messengers to Beth-Horon and Gibeon to find out if Ajalon was the only place afflicted by the stalled moon. But the messengers had not returned and his people had begun to panic, so he had called for the prophets. He regretted that decision now.
The prophet’s voice cut into his reverie.
“My lord, we must hasten to please Ba’al. Let the people of Ajalon meet at the temple to drink to Ba’al. They must bring their offerings of silver and gold to his feet. The Qadishtu are being prepared for the crowd; we will please the gods with music, merriment and coition. The king must remember that we are simply preparing the ground for his ultimate sacrifice. Princess Intisaar must pass through the flames of Ba’al. ”
The king’s stern command reverberated through the castle. His heart had constricted at the mention of his daughter’s name, but his face had not betrayed his pain. He wore a stoic mask, as was required of him as king. He looked at the chief prophet and gave a subtle nod. In the quiet manner they came, the prophets filed out of the room. Their message had been delivered, their counsel had been heeded.
“Count yourself honoured, my child for it is not every day that you get the chance to die for your people. Think about how pleased Ba’al would be when he sees you.”
Intisaar looked at her mother with vacant eyes. She had felt no pain when she heard about her father’s decision, only numbness. They were very alike, her father and her; practical, and pragmatic. Of course, like her father, she kept her thoughts about the gods to herself. She knew her father had been arm-twisted to make this decision but this knowledge did not lessen the bitterness she felt. Ba’al was a depraved hedonist, a selfish god that demanded from his people but never gave anything in return. She hated him and hated her people for all they did to please him. The festivals were always filled with lewd men full of wine and loud music. During the worship, she fled to her chambers to block out the music and the raucous laughter but most of all, the moans of pleasure that filled the air as men and women copulated with the Qadishtu. She saw depravity where her people saw worship, she knew she could die for that, and would have gone unafraid then. But now, she did not wish to die, not for Ba’al. If Ba’al wanted her dead, she would seek a god who sought her alive. Her thoughts went to the god of the Israelites. She had heard of this distant god who parted seas and fought for his people. She sought to plead with him to save her life but she did not know how to summon him. It seemed there was nothing but ill-luck for her.
Outside, the moon shone in the midst of the sky. Children wove in and out of their mother’s petticoats, restless from too much sleep. Groups of men and women were huddled in corners, talking about the long overdue dawn. Like half-empty wineskins, arguments were tossed back and forth. Some thought Yarikh, the moon god, had fallen asleep and forgotten to come down his perch. Others believed, Shapshu had given in to her feminine whims, and refused to ascend to the East. The different arguments weaved into each other, melding as one and separating to give rise to a fistful of fights and harsh words. Despair and fear had combined to infest the hearts of men and panic ruled in the valley of Ajalon. But neither all the despair of the men nor the quiet weeping of the women could make the moon budge from its position in the sky.
Intisaar looked in the mirror, a beautiful woman looked back. Her chambermaids had done a good job; they had made her beautiful for Ba’al. Several tendrils of her thick black hair escaped the silver brooch to frame her face. Black kohl accentuated her eyes, making them appear deep and raven-like. Her fingers traced her lips, they were full, blood-red and still throbbed from the bee sting. Purple robes flowed to her ankle and the gold trimmings near her arms and neck, made her skin seem whiter than it was. She inhaled deeply; myrrh and henna filling her lungs. Much had been done to prepare her for death; for Ba’al. Unshed tears and her proximity to death loosened her tongue, as the words fell so did her tears.
Cursed be the gods of my people! You remain far away, insouciantly watching us. You have turned your ear away at this time of need. If I be cursed, then so be it, but I spit on you Ba’al. You are a god of no repute. I call on the god of the Israelites, he who dried up the Jordan. Send me a sign; save me from death for I am yet young and have not suckled any child. I vow to you, if you save me, I will worship you till I die.
She looked in the mirror, black lines ran down her eyes. The kohl had come undone, revealing what had always been – she was never beautiful to behold.
The high place of Ajalon was bustling with activity. Wineskins passed from hand to hand, their contents intoxicating man and woman alike. Ballads extoling Ba’al were sung to eight-stringed lyres. The temple sanctuary was a moving canvas of naked bodies. Young and old; men and women discarded their vestures and joined with the Qadishtu to appease Ba’al.
The king looked out from his carriage. Liquor, music and coition abounded. Why was this not sufficient for the Ba’al? Must he require the spilling of his beloved daughter’s blood? Sadness gripped the vestments of the king’s heart and held fast. In anguish, the king looked up to the sky and like a mad man began mumbling; pleading with the moon to move.
Intisaar stepped out. The god of the Israelites was naught. She was to die, as a roasted pig. She clutched at her robes as her heart trembled with fear.
There was a stirring outside, the pitch of the music was dwindling and replaced by an excited rise in voices. She moved to remove her veil but her mother’s handheld hers. A few moments later her mother’s voice, tinged with surprise and joy, reached out to her.
“Dawn breaks my dear child. The sun is rising! Ba’al has heard us.”
In some distant part of her mind, Intisaar could hear mother calling to her chambermaids. She felt faint. Had Ba’al saved her? She had prepared herself so fiercely for death that when she realised she was to live, tears ran down her face. Gratitude welled up in her heart. She wanted to thank her benefactor, tell the gods how grateful she was. But which god was responsible for her fortune? Ba’al? The god of the Israelites?
She was led back to her chambers by shaking hands. She lifted her veil then and looked out the window. The sun indeed was rising. Amidst tears, a smile grew across her lips. Her heart took on a lightness and she knew her life would never be the same again.
As the day wore on,her father’s messengers brought word to the king. They told the tale of Ki-Jearim and his defeated army, of hailstones and blinded horses. They spoke of Joshua, son of Nun, who spoke to the sun and moon- Sun, stand still in Gibeon. Moon stay in the valley of Ajalon, until we defeat our enemies.
She knew the god of the Israelites was mighty but he had moved the moon because the battle had ended, and not because he wanted to save her. She hadn’t been saved by any god, but by luck.
“Are you alive or not? You asked for a sign, therefore, look and believe.”
She turned, looking for the person who spoke, but she was alone. She walked to the mirror, but instead of her face, she saw fiery horses riding on parted seas, and the moon and the sun were one. She knew then, the harbinger of her fortune.