Fort Jezreel, Jezreel Valley, Israel [Start here?i]
Twelve years after giving Ahab a bloody nose, Obadiah turned his horse on the planks bridging the moat. “Where’s our squad, my prince? Since your father became king, he drills his gaze through to the back of my skull and commands, ‘Keep my son safe.’”
Ahab tipped his head toward the fort. “They’re right behind us, Biah.”
“Invisible bodyguards?” Obadiah scanned the gray slopes of Mount Tabor. In the last nine months, Syrian scouts had killed two farmers and a sentry in those foothills. He reined his mount toward the gate. “I can’t let you escape the fort without guards.”
“Wait up.” Ahab twisted toward Obadiah. “Just this once without my father’s chaperones.”
Race without fifty bodyguards? Hunker low over his stallion and thunder through the grass? Scream, “Lavan! Lavan!” while he burrowed into the wind-snapping flow of the mane? Obadiah thrilled to the race as if he were still a village boy.
Yet he shook his head. No guards. No race. The king trusted him with Ahab’s safety, and three days ago lookouts had reported enemy scouts in the valley. “Lord, protect us.”
Ahab smirked. “Our protection is about to ride through the gate. Let them find us.” He patted his stallion’s glossy black neck. “This big fellow needs to run.”
“Not without guards.” Obadiah scanned the hills again.
“Okay. Okay. Leave it to me, Biah.” Ahab wheeled his horse around and trotted through the gate.
Back home in Shunem, Obadiah’s father would say, “If you want a job done right, do it yourself.” He should go check on the guards himself, yet he his stomach churned at the idea of not trusting his old friend, the prince.
In a few moments Ahab returned. “A horse went lame. They’re at the stable selecting a fresh mount, and the captain says they’ll be right behind us.”
Obadiah waggled an eyebrow at Ahab. Why was the whole contingency of bodyguards waiting on one rider? (This does seem irregular, which makes me wonder if Ahab frequently spins yarns to get his way, and if so, does Obadiah suspect he might be lying but wants to race?) He shrugged. The captain was a responsible man. He would bring the squad soon enough.
Obadiah clicked his tongue, and Lavan, his big dappled gray stallion, clip-clopped down the grade with Ahab beside him on black-as-night Shochar. As they turned onto the road, Lavan flipped his ears forward and back. Did he smell Syrians? (A horse’s ears will point to where they’re looking. You may already know that. Just thought I’d put it out there.)
They trotted toward the Jordan River.
Obadiah scanned the valley, lifting his headscarf and easing a hand through his hair. He downplayed his jitters with a verbal jab. “Careful you don’t push that tired nag too hard, my prince. Shame to stress (I couldn’t find the word stress in use before the 1300s AD) such a weak old thing.”
“Stress?” Ahab snorted. “You sit on that sad excuse for a horse and talk stress?” He glanced back at the fort and frowned. Then slowed Shochar to a walk. “Those guards are babysitters, Biah. Three little ones wrapped around my ankles and two more on the way, but Dad treats me like I’m a kid.”
“Not so, my prince. The king wants his heir to continue breathing.”
Ahab pulled Shochar to a standstill. “Do your parents treat you like a child?”
Obadiah stopped next to Ahab. “My mother.” He glanced behind. Where were those guards? “You remember how she hovered and always knew exactly who’s house we were in.ii Was always the last one in bed. So, when Yedidah and I visit Shunem, if we go out to see old friends in the village and return late, everyone is sound asleep. Except Mom. She’s sitting there with a lamp lit and only blows it out after we pull the covers over us. She’ll be mothering us as long as she breathes.”
Ahab nodded. “I like your mother, Biah.”
“She likes you.” Obadiah gave Lavan a light slap on the neck, and the stallion shook his big, dappled head. Intruders in the valley?iii (A head bob with a neigh or a whinnie might be more obvious that the horse is alerting to possible danger.)
Ahab collected the reins. “Is Lavan ready to run? He’ll have Shochar’s tail flapping in his face.”
Obadiah opened his mouth for a smart retort then closed his lips. The bushes seemed to move. “We’ve no guards, my prince. We should return.”
Ahab followed Obadiah’s gaze. “Just the wind pushing the junipers.” He nodded toward a row of small stones under a pine tree. “Anyway, here’s our starting line. Race you back.”
Wiping Syrian invaders from his mind, Obadiah pulled the reins short. As he aligned Lavan’s front feet behind the stones, the stallion’s withers rippled under his touch.
He sucked in the sweet fragrance of the lilies and barley grass. Because a sideways look had cost him the race three weeks ago, he faced straight ahead.iv “My prince, this stallion is about to run the legs off that tired old donkey under you.” He shifted his heels, ready to hammer Lavan’s ribs and thrust him into a gallop.
Ahab plucked a pinecone and guided his horse in beside Obadiah’s.
Their finish line, a pair of acacia trees, stood far up the valley toward the fort.v
Ahab gathered the reins, leaned forward, and dangled the cone by Shochar’s nose.
An arrow whistled past Ahab’s throat and thunked into the limb of the pine.vi Obadiah’s heart slapped against his ribs.
iGreat work, Dave! I like the first scene, seeing them as kids and Obadiah standing up for the stable boy, but my honest opinion is that this second scene is your best start to the story so far. Obadiah has a clear goal—keep the prince safe, and you’ve done a good job of showing his conflict—he still wants to race and have fun like Ahab. Great banter between the friends. See what others say, but you might use the scene as kids for memory flashbacks as he considers how Ahab changes. Use what works of my suggestions and keep up the great work!
iiShe stays awake until her children are in bed.
iii(Don’t horses shake their heads all the time?)
ivEH would delete this “sideways look” line.
v Becca – I like the comparison of the race in the first chapter with this one. These races tell us a lot about the relationship between Obadiah and Ahab. I wonder if they might have other significance too as the story continues.
vi Consider adding another word or two here calling attention to Obadiah’s sudden surprise. Such as “ Obadiah’s heart thrashed/pounded/slapped against his ribs.”