09. The Curious Prince
Shemer’s Hill, Israel
Obadiah woke to the scratchy voice of Ahab. “… how will you defend our nation?”
Fumbling with his headscarf, Obadiah stumbled into the hall.
Ahab’s voice came from far away. “Wake up, right-hand man. Wake up. I got the sun out of bed for you. And me with neither harp nor lyre.”
With Zak in the lead and the other bodyguards crowding behind him, Obadiah hustled out to the veranda.
A chorus of crickets greeted him, and he closed his cloak against the cold.
The courtyard gate rattled.
Ahab called, “The Syrians are upon you, sleepy head. While you concern yourself with fruits and oils, someone must defend our nation.”
Beside him in the pale light, ten royal bodyguards gazed over the wall and laughed.
“‘My entire life will I sing and make music.’” Ahab spread his arms and sang, “‘The Lord is my light and my salvation.’ Take the tenor, Biah.”
“My prince!” Obadiah scooted down the ladder. “It’s too early for your songs.”
“Tell me about early. Not all the Lord’s faithful get to curl up on a comfy rug in a room warmed all day by the sun.” Ahab’s shoulders slumped for a beat then straightened. “We who are relegated to shiver in the dark—we miserable ones must stretch on the dirt and tuck an old robe under our bones. For us, the morning never comes without our calling it.”
Open-mouthed, Gera gazed down from the veranda. “Come in, my prince. Come in.”
Ahab pushed through the gate and wrapped Obadiah in a hug. “The king sent me. Said to make sure his construction is on course. What he really wants is to impress me with his plan.”
Obadiah pushed back from his embrace. “Did Syrians attack you on the road?”
“Nothing so exciting. We got a late start and arrived long after dark. The only safe camp was with the cavalry. Tell me, what kind of training do we give our troops that they seek the cold side of the hill? I clutched my arms to my ribs in the dark and finally rolled out, so I could flail around and get warm.”
Hodiah appeared at the parapet beside her husband. “Children, cease your gossip and bring yourselves up here, so I can feed you fresh flatbread and olive oil.”
Obadiah turned to her. “Oh, ma’am. You don’t—”
Ahab put a hand over Obadiah’s mouth. “What my friend means is, you’ve already got Biah’s bunch, and if this army behind me climbs up, you’ll think a cloud of locusts has settled in your wheat field.”
While Gera laughed, Hodiah planted a fist on her hip. “Child, I appreciate your mother taught you respect. Bring your manners and your locusts up here, because I’ve got five ovens to feed and two goats to milk.”
Obadiah twisted a fist against Ahab’s ribs. “You’ve met your match, my prince.”
With a crooked grin on his face, Ahab waved his bodyguards forward. “Thank you, ma’am. I send you the best pita-baking crew this side of Mount Tabor.”
By the time Obadiah stepped onto the veranda, Hodiah stood over the bodyguards patting shoulders and laying on praise as her subjects chopped firewood, kneaded dough, fired ovens, and milked goats.
Gera leaned against the wall in the dim light. “Welcome to our home, my prince.” He flopped three goatskins on the floor in a triangle.
Obadiah, Ahab, and Gera sat facing each other.
“From the lady of the house.” Zak placed a tray of three cups in Obadiah’s hands and filled each cup with milk.
Obadiah handed cups to Ahab and Gera. “My prince, while you beat your arms against your sides in the dark, did you meet the newly wealthy Shemer?”
“I did not. I had mercy and left the man buried in blankets. Quilts which he must have painstakingly sewed during his years of shivering in the shade. Imagine building on the north side of this awesome hill. What’s wrong with people?” He glanced at Gera grinning in the sun. “The Lord has blessed you, sir, with a gracious wife and four rooms in the sun.”
Liev came out of the hallway. His cheeks glowed as he glance at Keren behind him. She averted her eyes from the men.
In three strides, Hodiah had an arm around Liev and Keren and turned them back into the hallway. “The cheese room, children. That wheel I’ve been saving from two years ago. And the hen house. Every egg you can find.”
As the two disappeared, she called after them. “Don’t touch Batya. She’s broody.”
Obadiah turned to Ahab. “So, what brings you to this part of the kingdom?”
“Curiosity, Biah. But I got a late start.” Ahab rocked from side to side. “I had one foot in the chariot, ready to roll out the gate. But my father got to talking about Shemer’s Hill. How it’s the perfect spot for his capitol. High. Isolated from either valley. Central. And the double walls he’s planning. Cisterns. Tunnels.”
Obadiah stroked his chin. “I saw a tiny bit of it yesterday.”
Hodiah put a tray in Gera’s hands. A stack of hot pitas stood between a dish of olive oil and a dish of spices. “Now Gera will show you children how.”
Gera dipped a folded pita in oil then in the spice dish. “Salt and sumac mixed with sesame and hyssop. From far back in Hodiah’s ancestors time out of mind.” He nibbled the spiced end of the pita. “Mmm!”
Obadiah and Ahab each folded a pita, dipped in oil then in the spices. And nibbled. “Mmm!” came from them both.
“Pardon me.” Zak refilled each cup with milk.
Gera lifted his cup. “I can give you men a tour of the king’s construction projects on the hill.”
Wake up. I got the sun out of bed. – Psalms 57:8 & 108:2
The Lord is my light and my salvation. – Psalm 27:1
The morning never comes without our calling it – Psalm 130
Batya or Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh – 1 Chronicles 4:18
Milk – Isaiah 7:15, Judges 5:25, Deuteronomy 32:14
Eilat and Ophir – 2 Chronicles 8:17-18
Za’atar – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Za%27atar