29. Micaiah Out of Uniform

The two soldiers stared over his head. Did they see him move? What drew their attention? If he looked, they would notice him turn.

His shoulders tightened, and his calf muscles cramped. Micaiah shifted a foot.

29. Micaiah Out of Uniform

868 BC

Jezreel Valley, Israel

1 Kings 20:13-14

Micaiah’s foot snapped a twig.

Hear that?” The dim form of a sentry leaned toward him in the dark.

Hear what? We’ve been out here all night. You’re jumpy.” Both sentries turned back to the fire. “The sun should be up by now.”

Micaiah smothered a gasp. The soldiers spoke Aramaic, the language of his village. He clenched his teeth and felt again the pain of his grandfather’s grip, the quaver in his voice as he recounted how he hid in the woods and watched the Assyrians murder his parents.

The Assyrian general had turned the village into an armed camp. The troops took Hebrew girls and bred bilingual children. One such family took in the little boy who became Micaiah’s grandfather. At home, the children spoke Hebrew, and on the village paths, Aramaic.

[ianimal sounds?]

As Micaiah crouched in the dark, the ground behind him shook. Wheels crunched gravel, and axles squeaked.

The two sentries stepped out to the road and stood at attention while chariots rolled past. The fire light on the side panels showed a yellow-winged torch on a blood-red field, the flag of Assyria. The men who packed the chariots held spears pointing to the sky and broadaxes resting on the floor.

He shuddered. While he hid with his friends in Ruthie’s cave, the Assyrians had invaded again. If they discovered a Hebrew among them, they would slit his throat as quickly as their ancestors had killed his great-grandfather. He would never move the Lord’s message past these troops.

Where was the king? Why wasn’t he defending their country? King Ahab was never content to sit in the palace and send directives to his commanders. He draped himself in flamboyant robes, buckled on his sword, and swung his broad-axe from the royal war chariot.

With Assyrians invading, the king should be in Fort Jezreel preparing his troops, but the Lord had said give this message to the king in his palace at Samaria City.

Micaiah screwed up his mouth. How to get past these enemy troops?

As he massaged the muscle in his calf, stars disappeared one by one. Rocks and trees formed outlines in the mist and took shape as the sun washed the last bit of night from the sky. Yet the chill hung on. Would the day be hot or cold? He’d been under that rock roof so long, he’d forgotten how to read the weather in the morning sky.

A faint rumble from Akko grew into a steady shaking of the ground. Micaiah poked his head out of the bushes. Soldiers. Multiple feet thumping in step. They wore dark red tunics and marched toward the Jenin intersection, the route to Samaria City.

The moment they passed, he darted onto the road and fell in step behind the column. Micaiah swallowed. Had the sentries seen him? Yellow-winged torches spread across the shoulders of the men he followed. Would anyone notice the tired gray of his robe?

Chin back and chest out, he marched. Sweat formed on his brow, but he forced his eyes straight ahead, took shallow marching breaths, and suppressed the normal bounce of his step.

A warbler on a low-hanging oak flipped his long, tapered tail. Zerlip, zerlip, zerlip. The breeze carried the smell of ashes from the dead sentry fire. Several more paces, and the trees inside a slight bend in the road ahead would block the sentry’s view of him.

Stop that platoon. Man out of uniform.”

Micaiah’s pulse raced. He followed the sentry back to the dead fire, pushed his heels to the ground and puckered in silence.

An officer strode up, curled his lip, and paced a tight circle around him. “Where’s your uniform, soldier?”

Sir. Gone, sir.” Micaiah’s mouth went dry.

The officer tightened his lips and squinted in Micaiah’s face. “Lost, you mean. Where?”

Micaiah rolled his eyes. “Sir. Akko, sir.” He blinked.

That miserable waterfront patrol again. Pulled you out of the wine room?” He curled his lip. “Money gone? Uniform gone? So they draped you in this native rag. Can’t find your unit, so they tacked you onto the nearest one headed for Fort Jezreel.”

Sir. Yes, sir.” Why was the officer explaining? Not asking Micaiah to identify himself with a password.

Third one this week.” The officer took a step back and shook his head. “Can’t fight in that getup, son. Fall back in with this platoon, but report to the quartermaster right outside Fort Jezreel. Get yourself into a proper uniform.” He jabbed his finger in Micaiah’s chest and rocked him back on his feet. “And find your unit.”

Micaiah’s pulse slowed, and he studied his feet. “Sir. Yes, sir.” He saw no reason to challenge the officer’s story. He grinned as he again marched toward Fort Jezreel at the back of the row.

Next to the road, soldiers in red tunics milled or sat, small groups at intersections and larger companies along the road. At each site, the red flag with the yellow flame of Assyria waved in the morning sun.

No donkeys carried vegetables or chickens to the market in Megiddo. This road belonged to Assyria.

Micaiah marched with a column headed for Fort Jezreel, but he carried a message from the Lord for the king in Samaria City.

Micaiah scratched his temple.

i animal or bird sounds?

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