Loyalty

Moses seemingly glides along the path atop his mule while his second lieutenant’s mule bounces uneasily as they make their way through the narrow valley. One third of his troops in front of them, one third behind, and the remaining third split atop the ridges to ensure safe passage below and provide lookout.

“Moses, what’s your plan?” His lieutenant asks.

“This should be an easy victory, my friend. These Zephon raiders have become more brazen this season. It means they are growing in number. We’ll deal with these raiders and then ask Apepi to pair with Seqenenre to eliminate the threat for the coming generations.” Moses replies.

With a slight chuckle, his lieutenant responds, “No, Moses. I mean, what’s your plan with Tharbis? You marry the most beautiful woman in all of Cush and bring peace for all the lands? Is that the plan?”

Moses solemnly stares at his lieutenant, “You don’t like that plan?”

There’s an awkward pause as the lieutenant cannot determine if Moses is joking or not. The sound of the mule hooves and troops steps are deafening. Then Moses lets out an enormous laugh that echos through the canyon!

“My plan, my friend, is to go off and enjoy the rest of my life in peace and harmony. Let the Egyptians do their thing. Let the Hyksos do their thing. Let the Cushites do their thing. And let our people do ours. We’re at a crossroads of monumental peace between all our people. That’s my plan.” Moses gleamingly smiles towards the heavens.

A commotion begins to stir among the troops ahead of the men. A small cloud of dust is seen off in the distance by the troops on the ridge, and they signal down to Moses. A messenger is coming on horseback.

#

Moses has ascended the ridge with his lieutenant, and they are watching the small dust cloud far off in the distance. They notice a dark cloud of ash beginning to rise even further off in the distance beyond the next range of hills where the messenger is riding from. Followed by a second and third cloud of ash. All three are shortly snuffed out.

“Bring out the merechayin,” Moses commands.

His lieutenant ushers over a group of men carrying a large wooden crate that they set before Moses. Four of them open the lid of the crate and gently place the lid upside down on the ground and level it. They remove the poles they were using to carry the crate to set them into each of the corners of the lid. Another four remove the merechayin from the crate while the original four lift a rounded out wood structure from the crate and fit it to the four poles attached to the upside down lid. The merechayin is placed on top of the rounded out wood structure.

Moses is holding his wrist while the assembly is taking place. “Either my heart is beating slower, or your team is getting faster. Great job, men!” He smiles and the entire team is filled with great appreciation.

Moses stands atop the wooden platform, and the men slide it along the dirt as he gives commands to adjust the platform while looking through the merechayin. He steps down from the platform and motions to his lieutenant, “Five and eight.”

The lieutenant stands atop the wooden platform and performs the same commands as Moses. “Yes, Moses.”

While Moses and his lieutenant have been looking through the merechayin, the eight men who assembled the apparatus have also setup a sun dial to measure the time and a scribe writes down five and eight on a scroll of papyrus.

“Send the Darom ahead with clear instructions to stand down under all circumstances,” Moses commands. “And half Maarav to follow my lead.”

“Yes, sir.” The lieutenant answers. “And the rest?”

“Flank.” Moses commands.

#

Moses arrives with the half Maarav contingent at the camp setup by the Darom contingent who has setup a stronghold on the ridge overlooking a small city that’s under siege. The horseback rider, Meaachad, has met up with Moses along the path and briefed him on the siege taking place that’s been underway for 4 days. The walls are expected to be breached at sunrise.

Moses sits down with Miriam in a goat-skin tent that’s beaming with light inside as Meaachad draws on the ground the map of the town and the siege ramps being built against its walls. Meaachad reminds them of the number of troops at each post as well as the second contingent their spies have determined are on the far side of the hill just north of the town. Moses looks on with skepticism as Meaachad continues to explain the details the spies had relayed to him before he left to seek help.

“You say, these men are wearing Amalekite garb?” Miriam asks.

“Yes, my lord.” Meaachad responds confidently. “I have seen them with my own eyes.”

“These siege patterns are not the patterns of Amalek,” Moses asserts.

Miriam asks Meaachad to leave the tent. “Moses,” she begins, waiting for Meaachad to be ushered away from the tent. “These are our siege plans.”

“I know, sister. I would not expect this from Amalek. We have been at peace with them for generations. If they were in need, Amalek would come to Apepi as he has in the past and ask for grain and substance.” He turns to Miriam as the two look at each other in deep contemplation. “Do you think the conspirators are making their move?”

“There have been no signals, and they are much too cunning for something simple like this.” She responds.

“There is a third party?” Moses asks.

“There is always a third party, brother. And a fourth and so on.”

“So, we just sacrifice this city?” Moses says in anger.

“The flanks won’t reach their positions until the following day. The walls will be breached tomorrow.”

“I won’t let this happen!” Moses clenches his fists in anger.

“It is too early to intervene.” Miriam warns. “And we don’t know the numbers on the other side of the hill.”

“We can take those men too!” Moses shouts.

“At what cost, brother?” Miriam understands Moses’ anguish. “Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Our losses will be catastrophic to defend this town without the flanks. You know that. Has your dreams of your Cushitic bride clouded your vision?”

“That is uncalled for, sister. She has nothing to do with this.” Moses snaps back. “And for the record, she will never cloud my judgement or make me soft in my dealings on the battlefield.”

“She merely softens your heart?” Miriam says sarcastically.

Moses smiles his overwhelmingly handsome smile, which disgusts Miriam. “That’s a poetic way to put it, sister!”

#

The morning of the siege breach arises. The roosters of the town are crowing, unaware of the pending doom about to befall the people of the city. The raiders begin their fires at four points around the city and pile on timber to grow the flames.

As Moses’s contingent on the mountain watch, he reasserts that they are to stand down no matter what and must watch on to see the brutality of their enemy. Some of the men in the ranks are visibly upset and are uttering against Moses. Suddenly, one of them breaks ranks and begins running down the hill towards the city.

“Stop him!” Moses shouts.

“He is too fast! Not even a messenger can catch him. He is too light of feet.” One of the soldiers says.

Moses turns to one of the archers. “Shoot him down!”

The archer and the surrounding men stand in disbelief at Moses’ command. “I cannot, sir. He is too fast.”

Just as he finishes speaking, a young soldier grabs his bow and an arrow, steadily takes aim and shoots down the soldier running down the hill. He turns to Moses and stares him in the eyes without saying a word. Then he turns to the archer and throws his bow back into his arms. The men look on, stunned as the young soldier walks away.

Moses looks back down the hill at the fallen solider who is still alive but has an arrow threw his right heel and can no longer run. He turns back to the soldier walking away, “Either your aim is incredible or you are a terrible shot and got lucky!” He shouts.

Not turning around, he replies, “I have terrible aim. I was aiming for his left heel.”

Moses looks back down the hill at the soldier grasping his right heel as he snaps the arrow and removes it from his leg. The soldier picks up a pile of dirt from the ground and pours it over his head and weeps.

Turning back to see the young soldier return to his rank, Moses asks, “What’s your name?”

“Sir, Caleb, Sir!”

Moses hears the soldier next to the archer utter, “A dog.” The two chuckle as Moses looks at them sternly.

“Yes, loyal. Faithful. Honorable.” Moses says to them.

“Obedient.” The archer says as Moses begins to walk away.

Moses pauses and turns back to the archer. He growls, “If you ever disobey me in front of these men again, I’ll hack your head off myself and roll it down this hill.”

#

The gates of the city are burning. A handful of archers and their assistants position themselves atop internal watch towers and await for the breach. The raiders stand just out of shot of the archers, as they begin to hoot and chant. The sounds can be heard atop the mountain by Moses’ men as they begin to grow increasingly enraged.

“Channel that anger, my brothers!” Moses shouts! “Feel that rage grow inside you just as the flames are growing against the gates of our beloved city below! Pull that anger inside you and prepare for battle. We will unleash our wrath upon these men when the moment is right. They will reap what they sow when our time is right!”

The contingent from beyond the other side of the far hill begins to march towards the city. It’s massive! More than ten times what Meaachad had estimated. Miriam stands next to Caleb, who was promoted to Moses’ assistant in the morning. She looks at Moses as the two silently confirm they made the right decision to not intervene against the siege.

The men of Moses watch as the massive fleet descends upon the city. Moses walks over to the soldier shot through the heel by Caleb and pulls him up against him, relieving the soldier who was helping prop him up so he could watch the siege unfold.

“I am sorry, Moses.” He says with tears streaming down his face.

“Your heart was in the right place, Jaleel.” Moses pulls the soldier in tightly. “I’m sorry I failed you as a leader. That you did not have enough faith in me to understand my plan. I promise you, these men will receive revenge two fold.”

The city gates crumble under the fire. The raiders begin to hail down arrows upon the towers containing the archers as they send men through the gates. The massive contingent from beyond the far hill begin running towards the city as quickly as possible as the defenses of the city walls topple. Crying, yelling, and wailing is heard atop the mountain where Moses’ men watch on boiling over with rage.

Moses is sitting in the tent with Miriam and Caleb, discussing the patterns of the siege and the raiders that they have witnessed so far. Moses orders Caleb to separate the soldiers according to genealogy in each of their ranks.

“Miriam, I have a suspicion that there is dissension against us.” Moses says softly.

“The folly Caleb handled earlier was an omen?” Miriam smiles.

Moses ponders deeply and runs through the events in his mind and the reactions of the soldiers. “Miriam, where did Caleb come from?”

“He’s the son of Yefuneh. From Judah.” She replies with a puzzled look on her face. “You suspect Caleb?”

“No, sister. And also no,” Moses replies. “How did Caleb end up in this contingent? According to my reckoning, he should be with the Shamalla.”

“Brother, I’m not sure you should be having these mental problems at such a young age,” Miriam chuckles. “Is there some sort of trouble?”

“No, sister. And also no,” Moses replies. “My mind is as clear as the evening sky. Despite this day of tragedy, Our Creator is smiling down upon us this evening. I’m going down in the day break with our brothers in arms. I want you to stay here with the foreign soldiers. If our prophecy is correct…” Moses pauses and looks to Miriam’s soul through her eyes.

Miriam nods.

#

There’s a sudden flash of light against the tent. Then another, coming from the different direction. The flashes repeat three times.

Miriam is holding a large bronze mirror as she comes running to Moses. “The flanks are ready, brother!” She yells, almost in song.

“You heard our sister, my brothers!” Moses raises his arms. “May no mercy be felled upon any of our adversaries this day. Not one prisoner shall be taken, my brothers. Not one!” Moses rallies his men and sends them down the mountain.

Six men remain with Miriam at the top of the mountain along with Caleb. Moses turns to them and says, “May we pray that we not need you on the battlefield today, soldiers. But if it is called for you to join, Miriam will do as accordingly to plan.”

Moses mounts his mule and heads down the hill as Caleb and Miriam take distant positions from the six foreign soldiers who watch the flanks begin to close in on the smoldering, sacked city. Moses’ contingent from atop the hill converge like a wave on the city.

The raiders, drunken from their spoil from the invasion, are easily overcome by the flanks and Moses’ men. Meaachad signals to Moses that the leader of the raiders is attempting an escape through one of the breaches in the wall. Moses quickly rides his mule with a handful of horse mounted soldiers in the direction of the breach. They take up position against the enemy and single out the leader.

The leader stands defiantly in front of Moses wearing his armor helmet and mask.

“Remove your mask, so I may see you face to face before I kill you!” Moses commands.

The leader says nothing and raises his sword to challenge Moses. The soldiers laugh. An archer raises his bow against the leader. Moses holds out his hand to stand down as he dismounts his mule.

Smiling, Moses unsheathes his sword. “You’re not from Amalek.” Moses says as he takes up an attack position against the leader.

The leader nods.

Moses begins a sequence of sword moves, attacking the leader. All of which are defended by his opponent with ease! Moses’ soldiers look on in amazement as they’ve never seen anyone defend themselves so well and for so long against Moses.

Moses can sense the leader is a greater combatant than he initially thought. He’s well trained. Perhaps even better trained than he, Moses thinks to himself. Moses continues with another onslaught of maneuvering and attacks, each defended against easily by the leader. Then the leader makes an attack against Moses! It’s furious and treacherous, nearly getting the best of Moses were it not for a rock that causes the leader to stumble and miss Moses with what would have been a fatal stab to the heart.

The soldiers look on in amazement and prepare to attack the leader if he bests Moses. Moses has a vision of when he was younger and in military training and sparing against others in the royal guard. He begins anew against the leader with different tactics. A flurry of moves and the leader is slashed on his arm opposite his sword.

Moses switches his sword to his other hand and begins another onslaught of moves against the leader. The soldiers of Moses look on in amazement as he maneuvers even more skillfully with sword in opposite hand than with his normal hand. He artfully slices wounds in the leader’s body, slowly and painfully weakening him until the leader collapses on to his knees and falls to his left side.

Moses slashed the leader’s arm holding his sword and he drops his sword. With the leader completely defenseless, Moses kicks the sword away and tosses his own sword away. He sits down behind the defeated leader and removes his helmet and mask.

The soldiers gasp!

Moses begins to weep as he holds the leader’s weak body in his arms, “Seqenenre, why did you do this, my brother?”