As a kingdom drowned in poverty and despair, one man rose up and rescued the nation from its downward spiral of negligent, psychopathic rule.
The forgotten kings of ancient Israel are slowly uncovered as the journey from the ashes of Tirzah to the splendor of Samaria begins.
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By Helen Cass
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Helen Cass
All rights reserved.
Tirzah, Israel. 884 B.C.
Zimri's spirits soared, he had to stop himself from jumping for joy at the fortuitous circumstances that were unravelling around him. He grinned wickedly as he thought about what had suddenly come within his grasp. The plan was coming together almost effortlessly. In fact, the whole sequence of events leading up to this moment had practically tumbled into Zimri's lap, begging to be set into motion, refusing to be ignored.
He was the commander of half of the chariot force in the army of Israel and his warriors were undeniably loyal to him. They were an elite fighting brotherhood, brave, brutal and fierce in battle, disciplined and deadly from their speeding chariots.
Earlier in the year, his entire unit had been commanded by King Elah to remain behind during the siege in Philistia. Normally such a specialized fighting force would take serious offence at having to perform the menial task that they saw as babysitting the king, a duty usually reserved for the junior un-blooded recruits and the old worn out war veterans who were unable to be of any further use on the battle field because of age or former injuries.
Initially the soldiers had grumbled at their orders, they still felt a little cheated at being left out of the siege, losing the opportunity for heroic bravery and the promise of plunder and eternal glory, but Zimri saw an ambitious opportunity to gain an advantage and he couldn't afford to let a chance like this pass him by.
He kicked out absently at a loose stone on the road, sending it skipping into the long dry grass beside the hard packed dusty path that he was casually strolling along towards the outskirts of the city. He appeared to be consumed by his thoughts while wandering aimlessly, but in fact, his mind was razor sharp and focused on the goal. He attracted no unwanted suspicion dressed in his simple tunic, with only his sword belted loosely around his hips and without his tell-tale armour to identify his rank to the local peasants.
He continued unhurriedly until he knew he was out of sight of the city walls, and then with a sudden burst of speed, he ducked into a copse of trees beside the road and ran quickly through the heavily wooded section until he came to a small stream. Launching himself over the two-meter wide gently flowing water, he rested for a short while allowing his breathing to return to normal. His first day of recognisance was going well so far and Zimri sneered, permitting himself a moment of self-satisfaction as he carefully settled himself under a large bush from where he would be able to observe his quarry.
Sweat trickled down his temple, the intense heat searing him and he reached out and grabbed a nearby pomegranate laying on the ground. Using his knife he split the ripe fruit open and enjoyed the sweet juicy refreshment immensely.
His thoughts turned to the newly appointed general of Israel's army, he knew that Omri had disliked him from the moment the two of them had first crossed paths. He knew it like he knew how to breathe, like he knew how to walk, he didn't know how he knew it, he just did. It was second nature to him, a gut instinctual ability to read the subtleties in the behaviour of those around him and Omri had an annoyingly sanctimonious attitude that grated against every single fibre of Zimri's being.
He felt that Omri always seemed to be conspiring against him, always just one step ahead and outwitting him at every opportunity. Omri had somehow gained the moronic king's confidence which had given him the upper hand in their on-going vendetta against one another.
A slave girl walked briskly out of the house he was watching, he held his breath and froze, laying absolutely still. Her robes were faded and thread-bare, she carried a large pottery jug to the well at the centre of the beautifully manicured garden. Zimri watched silently as she placed the jug carefully on a smooth well-worn rock placed beside the well as a handy table. she lowered the leather bucket down into the well, drawing water for the household while singing softly to herself and her melodious voice carried through the hot still air to where Zimri lay as she filled her jug with the cool clear water. Quickly, the girl guiltily splashed a hand full of the crystal clear liquid over her head to cool down, making the dark tendrils of escaped hair around her face curl and glisten, dripping tiny shining droplets onto her bare sun-kissed shoulders.
Zimri felt his terrible dark urge hit him suddenly. 'Not now,' he groaned softly to himself, 'I need to focus, there's no room for error, I can't be distracted ... no matter how tempting that tasty little morsel appears.' With an extreme effort of will, Zimri watched the young girl walk slowly to the back of the large house before turning the corner and disappearing from his sight. He lay quietly in the cover of the bush for a long time carefully noting the movements and routines of the domestic surroundings and his mind inevitably turned back to thoughts of his nemesis, Omri.
He knew that it was Omri who was behind the royal orders to have his force stay behind and left out of the upcoming battle. King Elah had whined and used the pathetic excuse that Zimri's men should remain in Tirzah to protect the city against any attacks from another enemy in the area who might try to take advantage of Israel's main army being away in Philistia fighting at Gibbethon.
Omri's suggestion had obviously seemed very logical to the King because Israel was constantly being plagued by opportunistic enemies from the regions around them and a strong force left behind in the capital would be a deterrent to any invading army looking for a vulnerable target, but on the other hand, Zimri felt that Omri had cunningly left him behind instead of his son Ahab, who was Zimri's counterpart, the commander of the other half of the elite chariot force and was just as capable a warrior to defend the city.
Omri had also slyly chosen to omit the crucial little detail that the entire army could be back in Tirzah within a matter of two days if they rode hard and fast enough from Gibbethon, a smaller detachment could arrive back much sooner if not slowed down by the large numbers of the men in the full infantry and cumbersome baggage train.CHAPTER 2
Moab was a constant threat and Judah to the south was a permanent thorn in Israel's side with raids and border disputes in villages and small commercial centres on the outskirts of the kingdom taking place almost daily. Had it not been for the plan emerging in Zimri's fertile mind and the opportunity that presented itself from remaining behind, with no one looking over his shoulder during the siege, he would have been extremely annoyed and resentful at the missed chance of shedding blood in the chaos of battle.
Zimri enjoyed the camouflage in the heat of a clash; he could be openly brutal and bloody, killing for his own sadistic pleasure, giving in to his dark lust for blood in new and imaginative ways, trying to slice his opponent using painfully different techniques to torture and maim while staying just out of reach of the enemy's sword, it was always a challenge Zimri met with extreme pleasure. He often killed slowly during an encounter, loving the sound of dying men screaming and moaning around him, and it never seemed to arouse any unwanted suspicions, or so he believed. If anyone did ever notice his unusually gory behaviour, it could be easily laughed off and dismissed by him as the heat of battle in the brutality of war.
On one occasion when Israel was fighting against the Phoenicians in the Valley of Jezreel just outside of the wealthy city situated there, Zimri had separated a young Phoenician soldier from the main battle ground. He had feigned cowardice and had run from the battle field in terror just like a spineless deserter would have done, the inexperienced but brave Phoenician gave chase seeing an opportunity to kill a weak frightened enemy, an easy target, and blood his sword for the first time, gaining honour and glory for himself easily, but that had been Zimri's intention all along and he expertly sprung the trap like the predator that he was.
As soon as the two of them were out of sight of the main armies, obscured behind a line of trees, their swords clashed together, steel flashed in the brilliant sunlight and a bead of sweat ran from under the Phoenician's decorated helmet. The boy's dark hair was plastered against his forehead with sweat and his eyes began to register the fear he felt. The boy realised he was doomed and outmatched almost immediately but fought on heroically regardless. Seeing his death mirrored in Zimri's murderous eyes and knowing that it was only a stroke of good fortune that would spare his life that day.
The Phoenician was a talented swordsman. With his skills and plenty of practice, the boy might one day have almost equalled Zimri's level of expertise. He was dressed in the armour of the higher ranking Phoenician officials and Zimri guessed that he was a son of one of the generals, promoted because of lineage and birth and trained for battle since the moment he could walk.
The adrenaline surged through Zimri's veins at the thrill he felt and the scent of certain death in the air, he danced lightly around his young prey encouraging the youth to lunge towards him with sly deceptive moves, creating openings he wanted the boy to take advantage of. He had concealed his skill and pretended to be a much lesser fighter, feigning fear, which bolstered the boy's confidence and gave him some false hope as he lunged into another opening that he could not resist. Zimri swiftly stepped aside at the last possible second just brushing his razor sharp blade against the enemies exposed neck and nicking the main artery as the boy stumbled past him.
The youth didn't even register the deadly wound until he saw the blood streaming down his chest and over his sword arm and then he began to feel abruptly weaker, the blood flowed steadily making his fingers slick with the sticky red ooze, filling the air with a sharp coppery metallic scent.
Zimri killed him unhurriedly, watching intently, teasing his foe, taunting him to thrust and lunge again and again towards him and each time the young Phoenician tried to attack him, Zimri, gracefully danced just out of reach, driving the youth viciously to push the last drop of strength out of the pulsing red gash in his neck, with each movement becoming more sluggish.
The weight of the boy's beautifully jewelled sword became more then he could bear, his arm shook as he tried the lift the magnificent weapon, his armour weighing him down and each tiny effort all contributed to the enemy's heart rate rising, forcing the last of his life-blood out of the small but precise incision.
Zimri cherished the memory of that young and courageous Phoenician who had given his every fibre fighting a cause that was lost before it had even truly began; he claimed the young man's sword as his own to keep as a trophy and a constant reminder of the bloody fight, as well as the gratification and release he had felt that day.
The Phoenicians had tried to claim the Jezreel Valley for themselves but they were routed by the well-trained and disciplined army of Israel, they fled back in defeat to their strongholds in Tyre and Sidon with their tails between their legs like the cowardly dogs they were. They had tried to take the Valley by force, seeing that the Israelite king was weak and the moment to attack was optimal, a temptation to enticing for them to ignore, but their defeat would hopefully serve as a bitter reminder and deter any further attempts of conquest in Israelite territory for the near future.
The Valley was the largest in Israel and its promise of huge wealth was extremely attractive to the neighbouring nations. Its vast fertile plains lay at the foot of Mount Carmel, which is not a single mountain but a mountain range spanning for about twenty-one kilometres long in northern Israel. This range forms a massive natural defensive wall on the south side of the Valley and trade caravans and armies traveling to or from Egypt along the popular coastal route must travel through one of the several Carmel mountain passes, which when properly managed would give an income of huge wealth from tolls and taxes along the roads to whoever holds the area.
The hills surrounding the Valley were beautifully lush with thick forests and vegetation, fields, vineyards and orchards flourishing mostly due to the moist winds blown in constantly from the Mediterranean Sea. A very prosperous piece of territory that supplies enormous amounts of produce to the nation that controls it, as well as wealth from the tolls in the passes, a constant and bottomless income in every way.
The Valley was constantly coveted by many nations looking to add to their own countries wealth and the useless King Elah had almost carelessly lost it because he was unwilling to acknowledge that the area needed more military protection. Omri had mobilized most of the army at the last possible moment while King Elah was passed out after a night of heavy drinking and debauchery, his depraved drunken orgies were legendary throughout the entire region.
Omri had risked the displeasure and wrath of the king who could have ordered his immediate execution for disobeying orders, but he had gambled his life and had secured the Jezreel Valley and surrounding area for the good of the kingdom of Israel. He was highly praised by the people and honoured by the king who had gone along with public opinion and had overlooked the slight insubordination. Instead Elah had rewarded the ambitious Omri with the promotion to the illustrious position of General of the Army.
Zimri roused himself from his pleasant reflection of the blood covered Phoenician boy and touched the sword hanging from his leather belt at his hip, stroking the jewelled hilt lovingly and smiling with satisfaction as he caressed his favourite trophy. He knew there were other strong warrior units like Ahab's charioteers that could have stayed behind to defend Israel during this siege, but Zimri refused to let it bother him any longer, thinking instead of the crown he desired and the throne he would seize.
The sun was sinking below the horizon and the cool evening breeze gently ruffled the damp dark hair on Zimri's head. He decided to head back towards the road before he lost all the fading light. 'Nothing worse than fumbling around in the pitch dark,' he admonished himself quietly, 'once I know my way around a little better, I can stay a bit longer.' Rising slowly and stretching his stiff and cramped muscles, he began to silently and stealthily make his way unseen back towards the city.
Zimri considered his strategy once more, analysing the details and searching for any weak points, but he could find none. His charioteers were now the only warriors left in the city except for the few existing old and tired soldiers on the Kings guard, who, were already more loyal to Zimri than to the alcoholic King Elah simply because they could not respect a king who couldn't rule the kingdom. There was no one there to oppose him and if need be any opponents could be quickly despatched at the flick of a sword. It was the opportunity of a life-time. Zimri smiled again, a slow, lazy calculating smile as he thought about how everything had turned in his favour at last.
Excerpted from Forgotten Kings by Helen Cass. Copyright © 2014 Helen Cass. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter One, 1,
Chapter Two, 5,
Chapter Three, 10,
Chapter Four, 14,
Chapter Five, 18,
Chapter Six, 23,
Chapter Seven, 27,
Chapter Eight, 31,
Chapter Nine, 34,
Chapter Ten, 38,
Chapter Eleven, 41,
Chapter Twelve, 45,
Chapter Thirteen, 49,
Chapter Fourteen, 54,
Chapter Fifteen, 58,
Chapter Sixteen, 63,
Chapter Seventeen, 67,
Chapter Eighteen, 72,
Chapter Nineteen, 76,
Chapter Twenty, 80,
Chapter Twenty-One, 84,
Chapter Twenty-Two, 86,
Chapter Twenty-Three, 92,
Chapter Twenty-Four, 96,
Chapter Twenty-Five, 99,
Chapter Twenty-Six, 103,
Chapter Twenty-Seven, 107,
Chapter Twenty-Eight, 110,
Chapter Twenty-Nine, 114,
Chapter Thirty, 118,
Chapter Thirty-One, 122,
Chapter Thirty-Two, 126,
Chapter Thirty-Three, 129,
Chapter Thirty-Four, 134,
Chapter Thirty-Five, 138,
Chapter Thirty-Six, 141,
Chapter Thirty-Seven, 146,
Chapter Thirty-Eight, 152,
Chapter Thirty-Nine, 155,
Chapter Forty, 160,
Chapter Forty-One, 163,
Chapter Forty-Two, 167,
Chapter Forty-Three, 173,
Chapter Forty-Four, 178,
Chapter Forty-Five, 181,
Chapter Forty-Six, 184,
Chapter Forty-Seven, 189,
Chapter Forty-Eight, 193,
Chapter Forty-Nine, 196,
Author's Note, 199,