[What if Grass, Tribes, and Fire came earlier in the book? Conform all chapters to Elijah’s date.]
26. A Few Blades of Grass [cavesi?]
Fort Jezreel, Jezreel Valley, Israel
Obadiah strolled beside Ahab through the fort gate. The two wore their signature white robes and purple headscarves.
Ahab draped an elbow over Obadiah’s shoulder. “Come help me find grass.”
A hoopoe called from the turret then fluttered down and landed on an acacia by the road. The Jezreel Valley spread before them under the dawn.
Obadiah said, “One time I followed you out this gate, and you almost got us killed.”
“This time we’ll take guards,” Ahab replied. “We need a few more blades of grass. The herd boys have spotted the large patches. But if you and I find enough to feed another mule, I won’t have to butcher it.”
Obadiah leaned an elbow on the king’s shoulder. Did Ahab know Yeskah and Ruthie had smuggled fifty bubblers into the Misliya cave and perfected their feeding network? Had spies told him the father of Obadiah’s youngest guard was feeding another fifty in a Galilee cave? It would feel so natural to tell him how much silver from the royal treasury bought the food for both caves. But no king’s pride could handle that kind of talk.
Instead, he scowled at Ahab. “You know as well as I do that kid in the goatskin called this drought down on your head because of Moloch.”
“My head?” Ahab glared. “His is the head that will roll. You’ve never caught on to priorities, Biah.”
“And I never will. Not to what you call priorities. But I’ll help you find grass.”
Obadiah led the way back into the fort.
When the two friends came back out, they rode in chariots and were surrounded by bodyguards. The king leaned over his chariot rail to Obadiah. “See? Guards this time. I’ll search toward Beitshan while you find what you can on the way to Akko. Meet me back here when the sun’s high.”
The king turned east, and Obadiah west.
With his guards, Obadiah peered behind boulders, under knots of oaks and sycamores and into folds in the bank. They disturbed gerbils and hamsters, sand partridge and quail but did not find enough grass to keep a goat alive.
When the morning sun had climbed high over the Gilead mountains, Obadiah paused under the low spreading limbs of a gigantic oak. Water trickled from the base of Mount Carmel into a tiny meadow. “The most grass I’ve seen today. How many mules will this feed?”
Zak replied, “A few. But to save the herd, we need twenty like this.” He scanned the valley and then gripped Obadiah’s shoulder. “Look. The caravan. Over by the acacias.”
An endless column of camels plodded in from the coast road with huge rectangular bales bouncing beside their humps.
Zak rocked from foot to foot. “See those two boys in front of the camel puller?”
Obadiah turned. “Tall and thin? Solid gray headscarves?”
“Right. The first one. In the goatskin. It’s been a long time.” Zak gripped Obadiah’s arm. “Trust me, sir. You want to talk with that young man.”
Obadiah tapped the driver. “I do?”
Zak turned his mount to walk beside the chariot. “I was there. I heard him tell the king, ‘neither dew nor rain.’ You’d have loved it. The bodyguards jumped for him, but he flew through the market. I mean that boy had wings. His name’s Elijah. I just heard it the other day. The king’s spies dug it out, but nobody knows where he’s from. Yet.”
Obadiah gripped the rail. What was the goatskin kid doing in these parts? “The king will want to meet him. Briefly.”
As Obadiah’s chariot neared the boys, Zak leaned in from his horse. “That’s the one. He’s starting a beard, and see how his knees and elbows poke out from that ridiculous goatskin? Everyone in the market was laughing at him.”
The two young men paused and eyed Obadiah’s approaching group.
The camel puller passed them, and a few white wagtails flitted out from the acacias, then the flock flooded the path, darting and racing under the camels.
Obadiah announced, “I’m going to give this boy the royal welcome.” Before his chariot rolled to a complete stop, he jumped to the ground and made a grand, sweeping bow to the young man in the goatskin. “Good morning. Would your name happen to be Elijah?”
The boy spread his legs wide and brushed his headscarf back. His long, hooked nose commanded a thin line of scraggly black whiskers sprouting along a broad chin. He kept his eyes on Obadiah as he reached behind and pulled his friend up close. “You know my name, sir. I don’t know yours.” The accent was pure Gilead.
“My name is Obadiah.”
“Glad to meet you, sir.” His eyes darted over Obadiah and his guards. His feet shifted. “You wear the king’s robe and ride in his chariot.”
“I work with the king.”
The boy pulled in a deep breath then slowly released. “Can you bring me King Ahab?”
Obadiah pressed his lips together, turned to Zak on his mount and whispered. “He’s asking for the king. Are you sure this is the one you saw?”
Zak shrugged then jumped down, reins in hand, bringing his barrel chest and broad jaw on a level with the boy. “I was there. I watched the king’s guards chase you through the market.”
“Sorry, sir. I wasn’t looking behind me.”
“No, you sure weren’t.” Zak laughed then raised an eyebrow at the second young man. “Who’s your sidekick? I don’t remember him.”
“My brother. He joined me later.”
Zak bobbed his head side to side. A few gray hairs strayed from his scarf. “Well, both of you listen up. No one can bring the king. He does as he pleases. Plus, there something you need to know—”
Obadiah grabbed Zak’s arm. “Where are you going with this?”
Zak backed off from the boys. He handed his reins to a nearby guard, pushed Obadiah behind the chariot, and whispered in his ear. “Relax. This kid is the bubbler with the highest price on his head.”
Obadiah released his grip. “You’re usually so careful.”
“Trust me on this. These boys will not hurt us.” Zak patted Obadiah’s shoulders and returned to the two boys. He waited while a camel puller passed behind them. “He is cautious with good reason. You need to know, this is the man who hides a hundred bubblers from the queen.”
“Bubblers?” The boy shuffled back next to his brother. “But you…” He turned to the House of Omri insignia on the chariot.
Obadiah rested a hand on the chariot wheel. “Some things are not what they seem, son. I run the king’s business, but I feed those his queen tries to kill.”
The boy linked arms with his brother. “Sir, a few days ago the Lord told me, ‘Show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’ That’s why I’m here. So, please bring Ahab.”
Obadiah went still. For three years, the king had talk about removing this young man’s head. He seemed determined to meet the king, yet he shouldn’t be left alone with Ahab.
“Listen, son, um, the king’s been searching for you. Every principality and kingdom swears they don’t have you. So, if I tell Ahab you’re here, and he finds an empty spot on the road… Look, if you want to talk to the king, hop in with me, and I’ll take you to him.”
“I’ve never ridden in a chariot.” He refocused on Obadiah. “I’d be honored to ride with you, sir. But, my business with the king has to do with this mountaintop.” He pointed to Mount Carmel. “I can’t think of a reason you should trust me. But as sure as I stand and face the Lord who commands angel armies, we will not move from this spot. We’ll wait right here for Ahab.”
Stroking his beard, Obadiah glanced at Zak then faced the boys again. “Well, young man. Let’s try this.” He pointed to the base of Mount Carmel. “See that patch of green under the oak with the low limbs?”
“That’s where Ahab will find us, sir.”
Obadiah tapped Zak on the wrist. “Take two guards and protect these young men while I try to fetch Ahab.”
As his chariot rolled toward the Jordan River, Obadiah nudged his driver. “That boy better not be playing games with me.” They passed Fort Jezreel. Beyond the Dothan cutoff, they found Ahab sitting under a dried-up fig tree.
“Biah.” Ahab called, ducking out from beneath the branches. “How much grass did you find?” He frowned as the chariot pulled up. “What happened to your other guards?”
“They’re with your goatskin boy.”
Ahab knit his brows. “Goatskin?”
“‘Neither dew nor rain.’ That day at the fort, the kid who left without saying goodbye.”
Ahab sputtered. “The goatskin boy. My people have been starving for three years. You should have wrapped that boy in chains and dragged him behind your chariot.”
Obadiah shrugged. “He says he’ll see you now.”
“He’ll see me?” Ahab glared at Obadiah. “The arrogant twerp.” His nostrils flared. “Wants to jerk my chain like I’m his pet lamb. I should have grabbed him by the neck that day he pranced up to me in the market.” He raised an eyebrow. “Did he say when we’ll get rain?”
“Um, rain.” Obadiah pursed his lips. “The Lord told the boy to show himself to you, then the rain.”
Ahab climbed into his own chariot and tapped his driver on the arm. “Take me to this charmer.”
His horses wheeled around and galloped past Fort Jezreel.
Obadiah followed in his chariot. “I sure hope you’ve got this one, Lord.”
At the low-spreading oak next to Mt. Carmel, Ahab’s chariot rolled to a halt in a cloud of dust. Ahab jumped out and stomped over to the two boys sitting with Zak.
They grasped the huge oak knees where a root poked above the ground and pulled themselves to their feet.
The king shook his finger in the face of the boy in the goatskin. “Troublemaker! I should have your head. You’ve ruined our harvests.”
“Thank you, sir,” Elijah called to Obadiah then turned his gaze on Ahab. The boy had perched his solid gray headscarf in a roll over his tight black curls. No longer the meek and mild child by the acacias, he would see and be seen. He still wore the old goatskin which exposed his knees and elbows, but his attitude had changed.
He spoke in soft, clear tones. “My king, you and your father destroyed our crops when you turned from the Lord and followed idols.”
Ahab’s face turned gray as ash.
The boy leaned toward the king. “I didn’t come to argue, my king. The Lord says to bring the tribes.” He aimed his long, bony arm up the mountain. “On Carmel. The fourth day of next week. At sunrise.”
Obadiah held his breath. Gideon and Saul had called the tribes together, but to declare war. Ahab would either laugh this soft-spoken youngster out of the valley or slice off his head.
Yet the king did neither. He lowered his eyes under Elijah’s silent stare and took a step in reverse.
The boy tilted his head back. “And please invite the four hundred and fifty Moloch agents along with those four hundred Asherah officials Jezebel takes to dinner.”
Obadiah pinched his lips together. If not for these friends of Jezebel, the bubblers could come out of their two caves.
The boy raised his chin toward the king. “Don’t leave anyone out. Understand?”
Ahab bowed his head.
Obadiah’s jaw dropped. Ahab was reacting like any junior officer who knew a dismissal when he heard one.
The king trudged to his chariot bent so low his purple robe dragged in the dirt.
“Ride with me, Biah.”
Obadiah climbed in beside the king.
Under the giant oak, the boy and his brother watched the royal chariot bump along toward the fort.
Ahab looked straight ahead. “I don’t know what his secret is, but that kid has me by the short hairs. I can’t just…” He slapped the chariot rail. “If we don’t get rain…”
As Obadiah covered Ahab’s hand with his own, dragged his gaze away from the boy under oak. He spoke softly. “I’ll notify the tribes, my king.”
iDo the Elijah chapters update us on caves well enough?