The 4th Paladin Chapter 6

The 4th Paladin Chapter 6

A Chapter by Maria Mercurio
"

Delilah agrees to bind her soul to a "god", Samson, in order for him to come here and fight off a demon invasion.

"

Chapter 6

The Sorek Valley

1100 BC

 

 

     I was extremely warm.  Before I opened my eyes, I worried that I might have a fever.  I was never sick and the thought of illness woke me up.  Everything flooded back to me then; the night out in the fields, those hideous creatures that I had never seen before, and the fact that I once again found I was encircled in Samson's arms.  He was the culprit of my unbearable heat.  I looked at his face ready to demand he release me, when I noticed he was breathing deeply with his eyes closed in sleep.  Being this close to him when he was awake was unsettling but while he was sleeping it afforded me an opportunity to truly look at him without being embarrassed.  He was beautiful, like a colorful sunset painting the dessert in orange warmth.  I wanted to touch his wispy blond hair, it looked so fine and soft.  I held my breath and moved my hand, so it was hovering over his head.  I was building up my courage when he opened his eyes. He smiled at me in greeting and I jumped off the pallet and on to the floor.  I was mortified that he caught me in an unguarded moment.  As I breathed, trying to calm my racing pulse, I realized we were no longer touching and I did not feel any pain.  I stood and smiled, Samson looked momentarily confused by my actions, but then offered a dazzling grin in return. 

     I am not sure exactly why, but standing there looking at him smiling made me want to desperately leave the room.  I turned and ran, fearful he would try to stop me.  I made it as far as the door frame when the shooting pains flooded my body.  I slumped to the floor immobile from the agony.  I watched as Samson clenched his jaw and dragged his body over to me.  He slumped forward in the final foot, and his forehead rested against mine.  He was breathing heavily from battling against the torment of our separation.

     "Why did you run?"  He asked bewildered and hurt.  His head was still pressed next to mine.  His face was so close it swallowed up all of my vision.  His breath was warm and moist on my cheek and neck.  I wanted to back away again but there was no room to move. 

     "I thought the pain was over."  I managed to mutter out of numbed lips.

     "So then you planned to leave?"  I heard the stirrings of anger in his voice.

     "Yes. No.  I do not know what I planned."  I swallowed and turned my face away.  He was too close and it caused feelings in me to resonate intensely.

     I heard him grind his teeth as he allowed me some space.  He was still very near, but we were no longer touching and I felt fine.

     "The pain will recede over time.  Maybe even tomorrow you could stand in another room and feel well.  In a few days time we can be out of each other's sight and not crumble to the ground."  He lifted my chin with his thumb and fore finger, so that I faced those tranquil blue eyes.  "You will always need to return to me Delilah.  The separation can only be so long before discomfort starts.  I told you this.  There is no fleeing from it, and I would appreciate it if you did not constantly test me."

     I jerked my head roughly to the side freeing my face from his grasp.  He was so infuriating.  Why should I simply trust him?  He just wants to control me like all the other men!  "Fine," I answered abruptly.

     Samson stood and extended his hand out to aid me rise.  I ignored it and managed to gain my feet.  The fact that I wanted to place my hand in his so badly that my palm ached, made me livid.  He changed me into this weak thing, a thing of needs.  I resolved then to stand only so close to him as was necessary and to push myself daily until the pull of him no longer coursed through me.  I would be strong again and want for no one.    

     "Delilah," he spoke my name so gently that my eyes betrayed me and leaped to his beautiful face.  "Let us not fight with each other.  We have dark enemies at our door.  I need you."  His words were spoken like a soft caress.  No one had ever told me they needed me.  It was a heady intoxicating phrase.  I shook my head to clear it, for those words took up too much space and focus.  I had to concentrate on what I needed; the monsters gone and my freedom back.

     "Will we be doing the same thing as last night?"  I directed the conversation into the more practical.

     "No," Samson pursed his full lips and continued to study me as he spoke.  "Last night was the easy kill.  We only tackled the lesser demons."

     "There are different kinds?"  I said alarmed.

      "Oh yes, as many as there are types of life.  Last nights were akin to vermin, destructive and plentiful but with little reasoning.  The kind killing the livestock are closer to large predatory animals.  Those killing people are as clever as people but much stronger.  They all want the same thing though.  To take life."

     "Why?"  I trembled.

     "They have an intense craving for it.  Their hunger has been left unchecked for too long.  They are insatiable and will not stop until all life is extinguished.  It is why I needed to come here.  Their numbers need to be cut down in order for the world to live."  Samson spoke in a grim voice which caused dark images to tumble through my mind.

     "Why do you care about us?  What are you?"  I felt an overwhelming desire to know these things.  To fully understand what I had promised to devote my lifetime to.

     "What I am now and what I was are two different things."  Samson shrugged.  "I remember my old self but it is not completely clear to me.  I know that I watched you, watched the world.  I know that I felt compelled to protect it.  I do not know if something or someone compelled me.  I know I was not alone, that I was part of something bigger.  Now I am just me in my mind, not sharing my thoughts unless I speak them aloud.  I know that you are my anchor to this world and if our bond is severed I will die, where death was not something I knew before.  Does that answer your question?" 

     No, it just makes hundreds more.  "I suppose for now it will suffice."  I demure, lacking the courage to ask more.  My stomach growled and Samson laughed at the sound, causing me to blush again.

     "I have not yet tried food."  He looked excited.  "But after last night I feel empty.  Where can we find some?"

     I looked down at my clothing dismayed at the sight.  I had not eaten either since all of this had happened and I felt I could eat wood chips I was so famished.  "I need to visit the wash woman first and see about a new tunic.  As the oracle I eat with Elon's  house.  As the leader of the city, Elon sees to the needs of the temple and its servants."

     "I want to try bathing too."  Samson said with boyish exuberance as he opened my door and pulled me outside.  I almost fainted at the thought.

 

 

 

     As quickly as my legs would carry me, I raced down the streets to the wash woman's home.  We received more then a few open mouthed stares.  I was humiliated to be dressed so indecently but I knew Ishbel would provide something suitable for me. 

     Her home was not near the center of the city where I lived, but she was the fastest seamstress I had ever seen and worth the longer journey.  I paused before her door and knocked.  "Ishbel?"  I called out.  "Are you in?"

     The door swung open and a tiny old toothless woman gaped at me.  "Hello Grandmother, I am looking for Ishbel."  I said respectfully hoping the woman to stop staring.

     She nodded her wizened old head and showed us in.  Ishbel was hard at work with her daughters making soap.  The room smelled strongly of cassia oil.  Ishbel was a woman past her prime years with daughters much older then I was.  She was a kind woman and her face was well wrinkled with laughter lines.  Her head was covered and held back by a white wool cloth and her tunic was a dingy grey.  This surprised me as she was usually much better dressed, but seeing the large oil stains down her front I understood the necessity.

     All the women looked up as we entered.  Her daughters gasped out loud at the sight of Samson but Ishbel just looked at both of us and beamed.  "Delilah dear, is that you?"  She spoke with a heavy accent.

     "Hello Ishbel, I am in rather urgent need of a new halug.  This is Samson.  I fear you may have nothing to fit him, but as you can see he needs a tunic."  I stood awkwardly as they assessed us.  The old grandmother was even brazen enough to pat Samson on the thigh as she cackled measuring him .  Her head did not even reach his waist.  Samson just smiled bemused down at her but did not speak. 

     Ishbel barked out a command at her youngest daughter, who then fled with alacrity out of the room.  "I was just finishing a fine halug that might work well for you."   The wash woman looked with curious eyes at Samson then spoke to him in her native tongue.  I was about to tell her that he would not understand when Samson answered her back fluently in Hebrew.  I supposed after seeing fire spring forth from his hands I should not have been surprised to hear him converse with her in this language.  It was, however, the first time he spoke that I was unable to understand.  I did not like it and looked at them both suspiciously as they conversed.  The women all gazed at Samson with rapt expressions and sighed in wonder at whatever he said.  I balled my hands into fists and pointedly ignored them and their silliness.  Ishbel seemed to ask a question of him, and Samson burst into laughter.  This caused all the women to giggle and sigh even more heavily.  I tried my best not to glare.

     The youngest daughter soon came back carrying an elaborate heavily embroidered tunic.  It was much finer than anything I could ever have owned.  "I do not have ample trade for an item like this."  I swallowed looking down at my shabby scarf. 

     "It is yours child."  Ishbel spoke kindly.  "I was making it for the warrior Gideon.  You are about his size now I think."

     Oh no!   "I can not accept a halug you have made for another.  I am sure Gideon will pay you well for such as this and I can offer you little."

     Ishbel answered by removing the knots I had made in my scarf that covered my legs.  She motioned with her hands for Samson to turn around and he complied after giving me a playful grin.  The woman had me undress down to my small clothes before I could voice protest.  Then all the women converged on me, sloughing the dust from last night off my skin and brushing and plaiting my hair. 

     "Such an attractive girl.  Gideon would surely wish you to have this."  She clucked as she slipped the tunic over my head.  "I will simply charge him double for the next one I make him."  She laughed girlishly at her own joke and it forced a smile from me.  No one had ever accused me of being attractive before.  Ishbel not only gave me the tunic but a new head shawl and sandals.  I left her my old things as my only form of payment and she accepted them cordially.  Getting Samson attired was a different problem.  Ishbel would have to sew him a tunic as she had nothing that fit his measurements.  She was able to craft a temporary piece of clothing that at least covered his bare chest, and for that I was grateful. "I will have something more fitting for you tomorrow end of day."

     "Thank you Ishbel for your generosity."  I nodded to her.

     "It is the least that I could do."  She answered looking only at Samson.  He spoke to her again in Hebrew before exiting.  I wrung my hands as I waited for him to finish.

     When we were outside I decided to head directly to Elon's.  "What did you talk about with Ishbel."  I asked feeling shy.

     Samson looked perplexed as he thought back on his conversation.  "She said she knew I was sent here by God to aid them in this dark hour.  They had been praying for one like me."

     That halted me.  The Israelites believed in the one God.  The Oracle raised me to be open to any possibilities, to not cloud my mind with one group's words but to acknowledge that I did not hold all answers. "And are you?"  I asked.

     Samson looked pensive. "I have given you all the answers I have.  My thoughts are not what they once were.  I feel things now.  I experience the world around me.  This body hungers, thirst, needs and wants.  It clouds my mind to my true self before this.  I am different and now think differently.  What I was, I no longer am."

     "But you do remember things."  I pressed.  "You knew who we were and how to destroy those dark creatures.  You remember things you have said to me before you came here.  You can speak languages other then mine."  I looked back at the wash woman's home.

     "It is true I do not come here without knowledge, but it is also true that I am newly born.  I do not have the answer to you question.  Perhaps I did not have it before."  Samson studied me as a slow smile grew on his face.  "You are very pleasing to look at Delilah."

     I snorted in disbelief.  He means to divert me.  What is he hiding?  "You said you never lied to me Samson.  There is no need to start now."

     His forehead crinkled and he cocked his head to the side.  "I speak in genuineness."

     I glared at him for a moment before continuing.  "What did you say to Ishbel in return?"  What did she say to you to make you laugh out loud?

     "I told her words that I thought would comfort her.  Her husband is a merchant, a trader of cloth.  He is often away and she and her family are removed from the comfort of her people.  I told her that I would protect them if they ever had need of me."

     "That was generous of you.  I suppose that means I will need to comply with this promise?"  My words were bitter. 

     "She was generous to you," Samson's fingered trailed over the new shawl resting over my head.  "For no other reason than she has a good heart.  Will you be less generous in return?"    

     His promise irked me but I did not understand why.  Of course should Ishbel's family be of great need I would want to see them given aid.  "I offered my life as sacrifice for the lives of these people.  Did I not?"

      Booming laughter was his response.  "True, yet you keep trying to negotiate the terms after the deal has been struck."

      I flushed with anger and turned and walked quickly away, knowing he would keep pace to avoid the pain of too much separation.  Let him laugh at me.  What do I care what he thinks?  My thoughts scurried away from Samson and to a subject of lesser importance, but one that was all encompassing at the moment.  I wanted food.  Elon's table had suffered of late.  The sickening livestock and rotting crops affected all of the city.  I desperately hoped he would have something more filling than olives and cold bread.

     We entered Elon's spacious dwelling only to realize that a meeting of elders had been called.  The men made their usual racket of whines and complaints, but everything drew silent when Samson entered the great room.  My heart beat loudly in my chest four or five times and then mayhem erupted.

     "Where have you been?"

     "Did you burn our fields?"

     "We still had deaths last night!"

     "Are the crops safe now?"

     "What is your plan?"

     The questions continued to rain down on Samson but he remained calm.  He held up his hand for quiet.  "I was unable to meet you and introduce myself properly yesterday.  I am called Samson.  I have promised to aid you in the battle against the dark and that is what I have been doing.  Both Delilah and I have been out in the fields curing them of the rot and contamination that had spread.  You should find your crops in good health and the soil fertile and ready for planting.  It will be difficult to make what you have last, but it is only early spring, there is still time to plant in order to harvest by late summer."  The elders responsible for farming nodded at this.  They did not look pleased, but were resigned to the hard task ahead.  "I cannot fix all that ails this city in one night.  There will be much hard work ahead and I will require aid from your warriors.  I will work tirelessly until you are safe, but you must work with me."

     "What would you have of us?"  Elon asked.

     "Neither Delilah nor I have eaten or drank in over a day.  I have expended much energy in clearing the crops.  The first thing we need is food.  After that I need to work with the best warriors you have." 

     I was so thankful he brought up food.  I was swaying slightly on my feet, feeling light headed.  My mind must have been playing tricks on me.  These men, who never glanced my way, stared at me with something akin to hunger.  I did not understand how, with a being as magnificent as Samson in the room, that they could look at anything else, but they were.  Those whose eyes were not devouring me looked upon me with cool appraisal.  Perhaps they think I can bring more aid.  If I brought Samson here maybe they believe I can bring others too?  I squashed the idea quickly even if it was possible.  There was no way I could split myself again. 

     Elon signaled his servants to bring out food and sent the elders back to their homes.  Gideon stayed on Samson's request so they could speak.  I sank gratefully onto the floor cushions placed around a low table.  Samson sat close to me so that our knees touched.  The shaky feeling that I attributed to hunger vanished.  I was distressed to note that I was feeling weak from the lack of his touch and not food.  Elon and Gideon joined us at the table and we all washed our hands before the meal was served.

     My mouth watered at the heavily laden tray set before us.  There was hot steaming bread.  It was not the fine bread made from wheat but the coarse bread made from ground barley.  Not usually my favorite, but it smelled delicious.  There were dried figs and finely chopped apricots sprinkled over curdled goats milk.  A large bowl of dark olives sat next to a plate of fat walnuts drizzled with honey.  It was a feast by the day's standards.  Elon must have pulled from his private stores to serve us.

     Samson started eating with no formality.  He was so eager and delighted at each bite.  I watched him enjoy his first ever taste of food before my stomach prompted me to join him.  I had no more than a few mouthfuls when Elon soured the mood.  "Why is the . ." he twisted his lips and looked at me.  "girl still with you?  Surely now that you are here she no longer has a use?"

     I felt rather than saw Samson stiffen beside me.  "Without Delilah I would not be here at all."  Samson spoke to Elon coldly.  "Her role in defeating this darkness is greater than yours."

     I swallowed my mouthful of bread with difficulty as an uncomfortable silence settled in.  Samson looked enraged and Elon cringed under his heated glare. 

     "Have you tried the walnuts Delilah?"  Gideon asked smoothly.  "They are from my family’s own field."  He held the little plate out to me. 

    I obliged and took the proffered nut.  The exchange broke the tension and everyone began eating again.  Honey dripped down the sides of my mouth as I ate and I licked at it hungrily savoring the sweetness.  Gideon's eyes widened as he stared at my mouth making me feel ungraceful and messy.  He did not lower the hand that held the plate.

     "Would you care for another?"  His tone was heated. 

     I wanted to eat the entire plate, but something was holding me back. "No, thank you."

     Gideon continued his staring.  "That is very fine embroidery.  The colors suit you well."                      

     Is he toying with me?  "Well I suppose I should thank you then since this halug is yours."  I said with a slight grimace.

     "Is it now?"  He asked delighted.  Gideon set down the plate leaned back to look at me more fully.  I tried not to squirm, but the attention was unusual.  "Is it the one I commissioned from Ishbel?" 

     I nodded.  "My apologies, I was in the greatest of needs.  I have changed since yesterday."

    "I have noticed."  Again a heated tone flavored his words.  "I am happy to see you in it.  I would be a poor replacement to wear it, now that it has graced you."

     Flattery was as foreign to me as the Hebrew language.  I did not understand it.  Clearly he must want something from me.

     "If you are finished with your meal, I need you to pick out ten of your most fearless warriors."  Samson still looked to be in a rage, but now it was directed at Gideon.  I wondered what had upset him.  "Is there a place we can train?"

     Gideon took Samson's gruffness in stride.  "Allow me to make the arrangements.  When would you like to start?"

     "As quickly as we can.  I will need the use of weapons.  Find anything made of iron."  Samson visibly calmed as he listed out what would be needed.  He made demands on Gideon and Elon and both men listened attentively and left to make ready.  The clearing of the fields made an impression on the elders.  They believed Samson would save them.

     "What will I be doing besides not trying to move too far away from you?"  I asked once we were alone.  I started to devour the remaining food, happy to no longer have an audience.

     "You will be learning how to fight."  Samson did not look happy at the idea.  "I need to know you can protect yourself if the need arises, as I am sure it will."

     I paled at the thought.  I saw the dark vermin from last night and recalled what Samson said about there being demons larger and smarter.  The idea of knowing how to wield a weapon suddenly sounded less like lunacy.  "The warriors will scoff at my presence.  Women do not wield weapons.  They will stare at me oddly."

     "They will certainly stare at you."  Samson grumbled unexpectedly. 

     "What do you mean?"  I was bewildered at his statement.

     "You have no idea, do you?"  He looked closely into my eyes and I looked back at him blankly.  "Those men could not even think clearly once they saw you in front of them."

     "Oh stop with this nonsense," I scoffed.  "Those men do not even know my name."

     "I do not know what you looked like before.  I did not have these eyes to see with then."  Samson lifted the beaten metal tray that our food had rested on and wiped it clean.  He held it up to me and I almost jumped away from the image reflected in it.  There was hardly a trace of me left in the face I saw.  Large luminous eyes the color of burnished gold widened in alarm.  I held up a hand to touch my face and was in shock to see the action mirrored back.  My features, my skin, my hair and eye color, were all different.  I had to admit, as beautiful as I thought Samson was, the woman I saw in the mirror was even more so. 

     "That is not me."  I was breathless.

     "It is now."

      I looked closer at my entire body then.  I knew I was taller but had not thought much past that.  How could I not have seen this?  My skin was smoother, my muscles more supple, even my hands looked different.  "How could this have happened?"

     "I think it is the part of me that resides in you.  I changed you.  I am sorry if this upsets you."  He apologized looking truly contrite.

     I continued to stare at my high cheek bones, straight nose, and full lips.  "It is just unexpected."  I shook my head to clear out the foolishness and lowered Samson's arm holding the tray.  "It matters little how I look.  What matters is you teaching me how not to get killed."

     Samson breathed out relieved.  "Today you need mainly to watch.  If we can find you something more suitable to train in then you can do a little more.  You still need to get used to this new frame."
     "At least I had a body before."  I countered.  "How is it you know how to fight?"

     "I do not."  He looked taken aback.  "I am sure I will be quick to learn though."  He appeared just as excited at the prospect of fighting as he had at eating.     I will never understand him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



© 2013 Maria Mercurio


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It has so much detail and is really great. I can't stop reading.

Posted 6 Years Ago


Maria Mercurio

6 Years Ago

Many thanks! - I really appreciated that you kept reading.

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Added on March 27, 2013
Last Updated on April 24, 2013
Tags: young adult, paranormal, angel, demon