The 4th Paladin Chapter 8

The 4th Paladin Chapter 8

A Chapter by Maria Mercurio
"

Delilah learns to fight demons.

"

Chapter 8

The Sorek Valley

1100 BC

 

 

     The city boasted an arena where we held games each summer.  It was an ideal spot to learn to fight.  I watched as the men trained.  Gideon more than delivered on his promise.  He brought twenty skilled warriors and enough spears, swords, and rods made from iron that they must have scoured the entire city.  Iron was rare as most things were made from bronze.  This pile of weaponry would be a small fortune.  Samson had them train him on the use of every different type of weapon.  He took to it very naturally.  He listened and watched as the warriors sparred against each other, then stepped into the fray and conquered any opponents daring enough to go up against him.  The warriors quickly learned to only approach him with a large group working together.  The mock battles that were just one on one gave Samson too much time to deliver a severe pummeling. 

     Samson had procured for me loose fitting pants and a short tunic like the men wore when riding horses in the desert.  I wondered if he would expect me to do more than watch, and  I was a bit anxious at the thought. 

     The arena was quite large.  The more elaborate battles took Samson farther from me.  The farther he strayed the more my breath would come in short raspy hitches as I fought the beginnings of jabbing pricks of pain all over my body.  After each victorious session he would come over to me, lay his hand on my shoulder, stroke his thumb over my cheek or grab my hand.  I am sure we looked like besotted lovers.  It was mortifying that I required his touch.  The pain receded quickly, but he would remain with me and talk about each fight.  Samson explained what he did and how he had won, as if I had not been privy to the entire exchange.  Finally I glared at him for treating me like a simpleton.  He laughed in a booming way and made a move to kiss me.

     My eyes went wide and I jumped away from him, but not quickly enough.  He delivered a hard searing kiss directly on my mouth.  I did the only thing I could think to do once I managed to break away; I punched him as hard as I could in the stomach.  It was incredibly satisfying to see him double over from the pain I inflicted.  I felt empowered seeing that I could do something none of the warriors had managed to.  That was until the warriors howled loudly having witnessed our little scene and Samson, after catching his breath, looked at me with pride and affection.  I expected anger or hurt from the rejection, but he seemed pleased.  It made me want to kiss him back for some strange reason.  Instead, I covered my face with both hands in utter embarrassment.  That embarrassment turned into a desire to flee as I saw the warrior’s faces.  They shot me heated glances that made me feel naked and exposed.  Gideon was the only one not snickering.  He appeared concerned and his lips compressed into a tight hard line as he watched his men.

     "It looks like you are ready to start fighting too, my wild cat."  Samson purred in my ear causing me to involuntarily jump again to a new chorus of guffaws.   

     "Stop teasing me in front of them."  I hissed at him quietly.

     "Fine, I can wait until we are alone."  He said just as quietly back, causing a flush to creep up my neck.  "I need some volunteers to work with Delilah."  He said loudly to the men.

     That request was met with a large range of responses.  Some were lewd, some were bewildered, some were angry, but mainly they were all confused as to what Samson meant.  Clearly they did not understand he wanted me to learn how to fight.  "She is very strong now, as you might have notice from the blow she delivered.  Do not take offense, but she will be a strong ally at fighting this darkness."

     The warriors did not like to hear about my strength.  Only two stepped forward and offered to spar with me.  I was not surprised to note it was the same men who had been offered as sacrifice and rejected.  Maybe having been there to see Samson emerge from the well through me made them accept this easier, or perhaps they were just grateful it had not been them.

     "I will work with the oracle."  Gideon announced signaling his men to step back.  "It will be an honor."  He offered me a slight bow and his hand to step down from the high stone wall I was standing on.

     I rested my hand only lightly in his.  I did not need help jumping down, but did not want to offer offense since he was the only one who had not been laughing at me.  I landed quite gracefully and was moderately pleased that I was quickly getting accustomed to being a giant.  Samson strangely glowered at us before he continued to spar with the group.  This was your brilliant idea, not mine!      

    Gideon showed me how to hold a sword properly; not too tightly that my movements would be strained and not too loosely that it would fly from my hands the moment it met with resistance.  He was graceful and fluid, a large difference from Samson    

who was quick but used more brute strength to win through.  I found Gideon's style of fighting to be much more suited to my frame and temperament.  It required thought and strategy and did not allow me to rely strictly on my new physique. 

     It felt like over an hour had passed before Gideon called a halt.  I was panting and sweaty, my much unused muscles burned in protest, but I was not overly tired.  Fighting was exhilarating.  For the first time in my young life, I could almost understand men.  It was gratifying to best your opponent.  Winning could become very addictive.  Against Gideon, a warrior since a small boy, I was holding my own.  Even better, I was winning more times than he when he called the lesson to end.

     "Well done Delilah,"  He gasped as he bent over to catch his breath.  "I have never had such a quick pupil.  The elders will not be pleased to hear it, but given time there will not be a man here you could not beat."  He stood and wiped the sweat from his brow.

     "Truly?"  I was unaccustomed to such praise.

     "Truly," Gideon answered more gravely.  "Although I do not like the idea of you having to battle this evil."

     Last night I had just stood by while Samson had done all the work.  I liked feeling useful but the idea of what was to come terrified me.  "I doubt I have much of a choice."  I looked at Samson then and nervously chewed on my lip.

     Gideon stepped in very close and rested a hand on my shoulder.  "Is all well with you?"

     I was perplexed by his inquiry.  "What do you mean?"

     "I am unclear about the nature of the sacrifice you made to save us.  You seem at odds with him.  Is he taking liberties with you?"  Gideon's tone was grim.

     "I would not allow such a thing!"  I colored at the notion.

     Samson had finished his last scrimmage and all twenty of the warriors lay at his feet groaning and trying to stand.  Samson did not have a single long golden hair out of place and was clearly not fatigued by the exercise.  I was aware it made my statement of allowance border on the absurd.  Clearly if Samson wanted something enough, what could there be to stop him from taking it?  Gideon gave me another searching look and backed away when Samson approached.

     "Did you see that?"  He smiled like a delighted boy.

     "I was too busy learning things from Gideon to have the time to make moon eyes at you."  I felt irritated.

     "I watched you."  His tone was playful.  "You are a quick little thing."

     "Little?  I am hardly that any more."  I snorted.

     "Well, compared to me."  He tucked a loose tendril of my hair behind my ear and tilted his head to the side and gazed at me.

     I was aware we had an audience.  "Are we done here?"  I asked hoarsely.

     "Not quite."  Samson procured a knife from his belt and slashed his forearm.  I was mystified as I watched bright red liquid bubble up and spill out.  He bled like any other man.  He called each of the warriors to him and drew a triangle with his own blood between their eyes.  I noticed he had to cut his arms numerous times to complete this as his wound kept healing over.

     "My blood will allow you a temporary gift of sight.  When it is full dark meet back here and we will hunt the evil that has been killing the livestock.  Do not wash or smear the mark, once the lines are broken you will no longer be able to see, and tonight I need you to see the beast.  Your job will be to herd them to me.  I do not expect you to fight directly but it will still be dangerous.  Each man should have a weapon of iron for nothing else will harm them."

     "Samson,"  Gideon said as he stood by my side.  "I would like the mark too.  I wish to finally see this invisible enemy."

     I had found it odd that Samson had not offered Gideon the mark as he had done all the others.  I felt that Samson did not like Gideon and that was strange, for out of the many men that lived in this city, Gideon was the only one I could tolerate.

     Samson spread his blood on Gideon's forehead coldly meeting the man's eyes.  "Until tonight then."

 

 

     The sliver of moon and scattered stars casted a weak light to see by.  We kept watch out in the grazing fields.  The warriors had tied up eight goats on to a post.  The livestock slept fretfully, seemingly getting spooked and bleating at nothing on occasion.  It made us all on edge.  I wanted to crawl out of my skin as I strained my eyes to see what the dark might hide.  The hours passed and the men grew restless, but Samson was forever patient.  He kept a steady vigil.  His eyes constantly roamed for our prey.  I was not able to be as disciplined.  I told myself I would rest my eyes for only a little while, but I constantly jerked awake as my head fell forward in sleep.  During one of my lulls the evil came.

     Samson, of course, was the first to spot it.  He woke me fully when he grabbed my elbow and pointed me in its direction.  The men around me hissed with indrawn breaths.  I could see the fear on their faces and the disbelief in their eyes.  Samson's blood was making it possible for them to see.  The goats went mad sensing the danger approaching.  Their pitiful cries masked any noise the men made. 

     My eyes were well adjusted to the darkness now, but I still had a fair amount of trouble getting a clear image of what was coming.  They were darker than the night and moved like shadows, soundless and fluid over the ground.  As they drew near I was able to see more.  They were formed like great cats only more nightmarish.  Instead of soft paws, they ran on long flexible claws that opened and closed with each step.  The tails that swished behind them were forked at the ends like a serpent's tongue.  They had large scales like festering scabs covering their bodies, and wide yellow eyes that caught the light and glowed.  One of the beast stood out among the rest for it was three times the size of the others, or as much as four horses combined.  It had what I can only describe as a mane, an impossibly dark halo encircling it's head.

     I looked despairingly at the small sword I carried.  I would not want to get close enough to have to use this.  Samson instructed the other warriors using hand signals to break apart the pack but to not engage in a direct fight.  He would be taking me in with him for that.  He feared if I stayed behind we would draw too far away and the pain would set in making us both vulnerable.  I was to stay to his left side and only defend if anything came too near.  My heart pounded against my chest so loudly I was sure the creatures would hear it.            

     The goats managed to uproot the post, and even though they were still tied together, they were off running.  This seemed to excite the demons more as they picked up speed to move in for the kill.  I knew the goats would never make it to safety.  The plan was to let them be slaughtered and then start the fight while the creatures were occupied, yet still I hoped in vain that they would live.  It seemed a truly terrible way to die.  

     Samson crouched down low looking to spring up if one got close enough.  I counted seven in total, although I wondered if the great beast should not be counted at least twice.  Even with the warriors, I felt we were greatly outnumbered.  Samson had explained that the men would most likely lack the strength for a true kill and the best they could hope for was to send the pack in various directions.  I worried if Samson would be able to handle so many on his own.  I knew I could not be counted on.  Fear gripped me and my mouth tasted sour as I struggled to keep down the meal I had recently consumed. 

     When the goats started dying I froze.  Those large talons ripped the animals apart with such force that the blood splattered in high arcs.  The metallic smell filled my nostrils.  I expected Samson to lunge forward leaving me behind to curl into a ball.  Instead, as if sensing my dread, he pulled me to him gently and nuzzled his face against mine.

     "You have it in you to do this," his words whispered against my ear.  "Do not doubt it."  He pulled back and stared into my eyes.  I nodded and swallowed hard trying to show him I would follow.  I gripped my sword as I had been taught and jumped when he jumped and ran forward toward the sounds of death.

     The warriors started making a loud ruckus then, banging swords or spears on shields and screaming.  The beastly cats, engaged in their meal, were startled by the sound.  Four fled, two turned toward the noise to defend, and the big demon continued to eat unafraid or unperturbed by the distraction.

     Half the warriors went after the ones that fled trying to get them going in the same direction towards the ground traps we had dug.  The other warriors continued to lure the defending demons in closer.  Samson moved with such speed that I struggled to keep to my assigned spot behind him.  The first beast did not even see him strike. The ugly thing was snarling at the men and faced away from us.  Samson cleaved it in two with one blow from the broad sword he wielded.  It's death cry echoed forcefully into the night.  The second demon spun around at the sound and snarled showing great sharp yellow teeth dripping with goat's blood.  It swatted a talon spiked paw at Samson that caught on his sword and almost wrenched it from his hands.  I caught my breath as I watched him struggled to free his weapon from the creature’s grip.  Unable to pull the sword back, Samson used all his force to propel it forward.  The iron sparked as it shot through the talons and directly into the creature’s throat.  I saw the tip of the blade as it exited the other side of the beast's neck directly before it crumbled at Samson's feet.  The giant lion like demon roared upon seeing his pack dying.  I could feel the deep vibrations from the sound fill my belly.  The demon lion was completely focused on Sampson and in one incredibly large leap was almost upon us.  A rancid odor made my eyes water as it stalked closer.  Samson was unable to retrieve his weapon in time, it was so deeply wedged in the body of his second kill.

      "Here take this."  I offered him my small sword, but he shook his head.

     "You keep it."  He ran forward before I could protest and engaged the beast with nothing but his bare hands.  This time I did not follow.  I just stood shaking all over as Samson crashed into the beast and they both tumbled down.  Gideon approached and a few of the warriors circled around the pair as they wrestled.  I could see other men running off to help the others try to trap the remaining four demons. 

     The monster raked it's claw across Samson's chest, shredding his beautiful skin.  I covered my mouth to stifle my scream as his blood poured out.  I did not want to distract him and have him look at me instead of the beast he was grappling with.  It's enormous jaws continuously snapped a mere fingers distance away from Samson's face.  He had his hands on both sides of the demon's head using his brute strength to keep it at bay.  I could see the muscles in his arms shaking with the effort, and for the first time, I began to doubt that he would live through this.

     The doubt was quickly replaced with amazement when with a powerful turn of his arms Samson snapped the demon lion's neck.  I rushed over to him, not completely certain the creature was dead, but needing to check on Samson.  He was sitting on the ground with the beast still at his feet.  His breath was labored and his chest was bleeding profusely.  I removed the scarf from my head and wrapped it tightly around his chest hoping the pressure would help slow the blood flow.  The thick material soaked through quickly and Samson looked pale.  He started to stand but I detained him.

     "You are in no condition to move."  I stated sternly.  "What could possess you to attack without even a knife for protection?"

     Even through his exhaustion he found the strength to laugh at me.  "Do not worry my lovely one.  I will heal quickly enough.  There are still others to deal with."

     "Then it will have to be another night.  You are spent."  My eyes crinkled with concern.  If what was killing the livestock was this ferocious, how are we to deal with the demons taking human lives?

     "We need to check on the other men.  Help me stand."  He ordered firmly but offered a smile when I grudgingly complied.  He placed his arm over my shoulder and to my disbelief I was able to hoist us both up to standing position.

     "Gideon," Samson called out.  "Have these men burn the bodies or else they will come back again at dusk."

     Gideon's eyes went wide at hearing this but no one hesitated to follow Samson's directions.  They all looked at him in awe.  I had to admit, I felt great admiration for what he had undertaken, even if it was foolishly done.

     With the carcasses burning behind us to light our way, we headed for the traps that had been dug.  Our pace quickened when we heard the growling.  We arrived to a desperate scene.  The warriors had managed to capture two of the demons in the pits, but the iron gates that had been dragged to cover them were being pushed off by the demons attempting to escape.  I noticed two warriors lay dead on the ground and those remaining were either desperately struggling to keep the gates in place, or trying to spear the creatures below and kill them.  They all looked up with obvious relief when they saw Samson.

     He called for a spear and the men with us produced two for him.  Samson swayed slightly when he reached for one and I had to steady him.  He grimaced and handed the spear to me.  "Aim for the throat or eye."

     "What?" I took the spear and just stared at it.  "You want me to do this?"

     "Want, no."  Samson shook his head.  "Need, yes."

     I gazed at him.  He was wobbly from all the loss of blood and had just wrestled a lion demon.  I felt a certain amount of guilt for expecting more from him.  He risked himself to save us, the least I could do was attempt this.

     Gideon reached for my arm.  "You should not put her at risk."  He scowled at Samson as he radiated anger.

     Samson glared back.  "Your men do not have the power to kill the demons.  I do not like it, but Delilah has the strength."  His features softened as he looked at me.  "You are part of me now.  Leave no room for doubt."

     Just then a man screamed as a claw shot out from the bars and ripped at his shin.  The gate shifted when he fell back and the creature almost got free.  Gideon and the warriors with us jumped forward to secure the gate and without another thought I plunged into the fray.  The demon cat's eyes singled me out as if sensing I was the true danger.  It hissed and lashed at the bars I stood balancing on.  I had to hop to avoid the talons from tearing at me.  I adjusted my grip on the spear not sure how to throw it, having only worked with the small sword.  I waited until it's eyes found me again and took aim.  I used all my might to hurl the spear down.  It sailed true going straight through one huge yellow eye and cracking through the skull.  The force of my throw even embedded the spear solidly into the ground below.  The beast stilled instantly as its body was pinned to the earth.  I looked at my hand in wonder and felt a tremendous rush of power.  The warrior's gave me the same look of awe they had bestowed on Samson. 

     Gideon met my eyes and wordlessly handed me the spear he carried.  The demon in the second cage was smaller then the last.  The warriors had even managed to wound it.  I had a moment’s hesitation feeling that killing it like this was somehow unfair.  Looking at the two dead warriors still crumpled where they had fallen erased my doubts.  I let the spear fly and offered the thing a quick death.

     "What of the other two?"  My voice sounded harsher and deeper to my ears.

     "They were too fast for us.  I imagine the beasts are well away from the valley by now."  The warrior with the slashed shin spoke as Gideon wrapped up his injury.

     "You all did very well."  Samson's voice carried strongly into the night.  He already looked less winded and was able to stand with out assistance.  "The pack leader is dead.  The others will not return to plague us.  Unfortunately this is still the beginning of our battle.  There are many more demons defiling this valley and some will be more difficult to kill than these beasts."  Samson knelt down next to Gideon.  "I am sorry for the loss of your men, but we will need even more in the days to come to take this evil on."

     Gideon looked grim.  "I cannot say that they knew what was coming tonight, but all of us were prepared to die to defend our city and loved ones."  Gideon's eyes rested on me.  "The city will never truly understand the debt we owe you Delilah, but know that I do."

     His words made me flushed.  "Thank you."  I muttered unable to look anywhere but at my sandaled feet. 

     Samson rested his arm over my shoulders and drew me close.  I did not think he required my support and had not yet felt the pain from being apart from him.  It was nice to be held though.  I had never killed anything larger then an insect before.  I felt a bit shaky. 

     "Be sure to burn them."  Samson spoke over his shoulder to Gideon as we walked away.  "How are you?"  He spoke softly to me.

     "I am fine."  I straightened my shoulders.  "I did not get cut to ribbons."  It saddened me to think of his beautiful skin being scarred.  "What do you need?"

     Samson's blue eyes sparkled in the moonlight.  He offered me a lopsided smile that tugged at my heart.  "The answer to that question, Delilah, will always be you.  I need you."

     "I am being serious," I sighed.  "You are injured."

     "I am being serious too.  I am mending quickly, but being totally practical I could use a bath.  So let me amend my statement.  I need you and a bath.  Preferably both at once."  His tone was mischievous, but I could hear the undercurrent of passion in his words. 

     My heart started pounding a fast and uncomfortable rhythm in my chest.  Too much of my life was changing so quickly I was unsure if I was ready for this.  "I know where I can find you a bath house.  Luckily for us we can be in separate rooms now.  I do not believe the proprietor would allow us entry otherwise."  

     "Surly it would not be inappropriate to tend the wounds of an injured man?"  We had walked out of sight of the warriors and Samson stopped and spun me to face him.

     "I thought you were mending?"  I tried to step back but he held me tight.

     His eyes raced over my face and I could feel him grappling with strong emotions. "I find that coming here is very different then I expected.  I feel so much here.  I want things when I never had wants before."  He looked at my lips and I knew he was thinking of kissing me.

     I struggled to back up and this time he let me go, but I could see the disappointment on his face.  "Will you always run from me, my love?"  He asked gently.

     "Do not call me that. We are strangers."  I folded my arms over my chest.  I would not give in to his wants simply because he pretended to feel for me.

     "That is a lie."  He growled and reached for me again.  His large hand clasped the side of my face while his thumb brushed over my bottom lip.  "Our acquaintance may be of short length but you mean more to me than this entire world.  For now Delilah, I will settle for just the bath."

     A floundering breath escaped my lips.  His thumb sent tingles over my mouth that went directly down my spine.  I leaned closer into him feeling my legs grow weak.  He angled my chin up and leaned down, so our faces were practically touching.  I almost let my guard down and allowed him to kiss me.  Instead, I broke free of his grip and turned to resume walking.  "Then follow me."  I gasped as I stumbled blindly back to the city.  If I do not get some distance from him, he will certainly consume me.

    



© 2013 Maria Mercurio


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Added on May 5, 2013
Last Updated on May 5, 2013
Tags: young adult, paranormal, angel, demon





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