The 4th Paladin Chapter 2

The 4th Paladin Chapter 2

A Chapter by Maria Mercurio
"

This is a re-imagining of the Samson and Delilah story

"

Chapter 2

The Sorek Valley

1100 BC

 

 

   

     I heard Elon as he paced restlessly before the men assembled.  A great evil has been devastating our lands, and the men argued about what was to be done.  I chewed at my nails in frustration as these old men squabbled, but never acted.  The fools hastened our demise with their wailing and moaning.  If they had known that I was huddled in the corner of the room behind a large urn, I would have been immediately escorted out.  They saw me as only a girl, and that meant I had no place.  To them, I had not the mind to solve great problems.  To them, I was just weak and young, but I knew I was the key to our salvation.

     Elon cleared his throat and stopped the disputing in the room.  "I see no clear way to win this battle.  If it were just a matter of numbers of men and supplies, then we could rally and plan.  This malevolent force kills our men sleeping in their beds in the dark of night, sickens our herds, and spoils our crops.  I do not know how to fight against this."  He sounded broken and frightened.  I scowled and had to restrain myself from shouting at him.  Stupid man to give up when he has not yet tried to listen!

     "What word from Gaza?  Will they send assistance?"  A scratchy old voice croaked.  It must be Jair.  The man was older than dirt and could barely see, yet he was allowed to voice council.  I heard a buzzing of responses, but made out little more than that the answer was negative.  I crept forward wanting to see faces and reactions when the discussion finally moved on to what I wanted to hear them speak of.

     "The Oracle spoke of this evil before she died.  Was there no hope from her final words?"  A stronger and younger voice called out.  I knew this must be the warrior Gideon.  He was the youngest man on the council and the most likely to have hope and some fight left.

     Elon sighed and scratched his bald patchy head as he composed his thoughts.  "It was this very evil that caused her death.  She was going to commune and try to find an answer to our woes when the pillars of the temple crumbled to dust and the walls collapsed in."

     The loss of Abiela was still new.  I felt raw and ached when I thought of her.  She was mother and father to me.  She said she found me as an infant on the steps of the temple and took it as a sign that I was born to serve.  As I grew it was discovered that I too possessed the gift of the oracle.   She was not surprised, or even pleased.  She simply expected that it would be.  She believed I would do great things.  She believed in me. If only these witless men would just listen!

     "Is there not another who may make the attempt?"  Again it is Gideon who spoke the words I wished to hear.

     "There is the girl, but she is untested."  Elon spoke dismissively.

     "She would be little use to us."  Ancient Jair shook his head.

     "Certainly if we have nothing, then something of little use still has a purpose."  Gideon countered.  I could almost have kissed him if I did not dislike them all so.

     "The temple is in ruin.  We would need to get her inside."  Elon mused.

     "I have a team of oxen that can clear the rubble."  A darkly tanned man I did not know offered.  Then from that comment many jumped in to aid.  Apparently even the fools were getting tired of hearing their squawking and were ready to do something.  I felt a sense of euphoria.  I would show them all I had a purpose.  I had worth.

 

 

 

     It took three precious days to clear my way to the temple.  The room I needed to enter was built deep below the earth.  I worried as I watched the men work that the tunnel might have collapsed too and I would not be able to make it inside.  When they cleared the marble slabs and shattered stones, the tunnel was found intact.  I was elated.  I had a moment of sorrow to know that Abiela would have been safe had she been inside the tunnels, but the temple's destruction had happened upon her entering the domain.  The darkness had claimed her.  It flittered in the back of my mind that I should be fearful, the darkness may come for me as well.  I pushed the thought aside.  The evil would have us all in the end if I did not find a way to destroy it.

     Elon and Gideon planned to accompany me inside.  I bristled at this.  Abiela would have refused and they would have listened.  I told them it was not the way.  I should go it alone.  They denied me entry if I did not meet their demands.  I came close to telling them to enjoy their eminent death, but I desperately wanted to commune.  I am ashamed to say I acquiesced.       

     "You will relate everything you hear and offer no questions that we do not give you girl."  Elon lectured me as we traversed the musty tunnel. 

    "I will say what is needed.  You may not consider the correct line of questions."  I straightened my spine and held up my head.  I am the oracle now, this old man can not call me girl!

     Elon turned an ugly shade of red as he glared at me.  He might be the leader of our people, but I did not fear him.  I glared right back.  They needed me.  What was he really?  He was nothing but a debilitated shell of a man with no hope.  I had the power here.

     As if sensing my thoughts, he did not rebuke my impertinence.  Instead, he huffed loudly and increased his pace, presuming that his shuffling steps would leave me behind.  Only Gideon and I held torches, so the stupid man could not walk too far away, or he would find he was unable to see.  Sure enough, Elon slowed his pace when he stumbled on a long deep stair.  I could not help but smile as he cursed.

     "Elon," My voice held a mild rebuke.  "We do not say such things in this place."

     I watched him take a large indrawn breath and glance about nervously.  It was such fun making him squirm.

     "We waste time," Gideon urged us to continue forward.

     I did so eagerly, and we soon entered the chamber at the end of the tunnel.  I felt an immediate change in the air.  It was fresher here, as if we were not far from the outside.  The walls of the room were little more than mud bricks, and the floor was packed dirt, but in the center of the room held a golden well.  It was not beautiful or finely crafted.  It looked like it was made by the hands of giant children.  Large misshapen globs of gold formed a less than perfect circle in the center of the room.  I liked to think that it bubbled up from the earth this way.

     I kneeled down and signaled that the men should do so as well.  Miraculously they complied without complaint.  The mood of the room was subdued.  Even those without an oracle’s gift could feel an other worldly presence here.      

     "I come before you humbly and with great need."  I spoke barely above a whisper.

     "Delilah," a delicious deep voice echoed through me.  "I have been waiting for you."

     This surprised me a little, but did not unnerve me.  "Abiela is dead."  It was hard to say the words with out a hitch in my tone.

     "I know."  There was a timber of sadness in the response.

     "I have come to ask you the question that Abiela meant to."

     "You wish to know how to defeat the darkness."  There was no question.

     "Yes," I replied.

     "Ask what weapons will be needed.  How can we get our crops back?  How can we stop the killings?"  Elon hissed at me.

     I shook my head at him.  There was no need for me to ask such things.  It knew why we were here.

     "There is no way for you to defeat the force you are up against."

     "That can not be.  You must have the answer!"  I was not ready to abandon all hope.

     "What does it say!  Are we all to die?"  Gideon yelled at me.

     I held up my hand to silence him waiting to hear it speak to me.

     "You can not defeat the evil, but I can."  I was not certain, but I felt it was excited.

     "How can you defeat the evil?  What must we do in return?"  There was always a price to pay.

     "I must come to you."

     I swallowed down the lump forming.  "You can come here?" I squeaked.

     "For me it is a great sacrifice and therefore will require a sacrifice from you in return."

     "What do you mean?"  I asked breathlessly.

     "I will need to take on a mortal form and to do so I need a pure soul.  A person to anchor to on your plane."

     "You want a human sacrifice?"  I was shocked.  The very notion sounded wrong.

     "I do not require a death, only a life."

     "What is being said girl!?"  Shouted Elon.

     "In order for the darkness to be defeated we need a pure soul to be an anchor to  . . ." I pointed down at the well.  "Then it can come here."   

     "Do we want that?"  Gideon looked at me frankly.  "We could be bringing down more harm then good upon us."

     "I care a great deal about all of the innocents, Delilah.  I would never cause you harm.  I have watched this evil spread and want only to stop it from destroying you."  I could hear the passion.  The words rang true deep in my core.

     "I think we should listen.  I think this is our deliverance."  I looked directly at Elon as I spoke.

     He nodded looking fearful but resigned.  "What needs to be done?"

     "I need one willing to make a voluntary vow.  They must come to me pure in body  with no scars or markings on their flesh.  They must abstain from all intoxicating liquors and have a mind that is clear.  When those requirements are met they must then sever the seven locks that hold my power."

     I repeated the wording precisely not fully understanding what was being asked.  Elon and Gideon whispered back and forth as if debating.  Did they think it could not hear them?  I would have found this amusing if I was not concerned.  What were the seven locks?  How would we sever them?  What would happen once we did?

 

    

     The debate over which of the men should be chosen took much longer then it should have.  Not surprising, given the high level of stupidity of the arguments, but completely indulgent since people were dying every night.  No wards, prayers or pleas could stop the nightly loss of life.  Seeing that the evil came at night, I did not go to sleep till early dawn.  Very few men heeded my most wise advice, stating that they needed to rise early to mind the herds or work the fields.  Utter nonsense, since the herds were clearly dying and the fields were plagued with insects and rot.  Most of the women, fearful more for their little ones then their own persons, readily adapted new sleeping hours.

     On the fourth day when Elon called the elders to gather, it was discovered that one of the elite was killed during the night.  Unsurprisingly, it took fear of their own death for them to finally reach a decision.  A young man by the name of Ginton was chosen.  I am not sure how, I was just grateful they made a choice.  At first Elon did not plan for me to accompany them back into the temple.  I have no words to express my annoyance with this manHow would they know what to do if I was not there?  Thankfully, Gideon was the voice of reason and said the oracle must be present to communicate, before I had a chance to grab something heavy and bash in the side of Elon's thick head.  I am not a violent woman, but I should not have to suffer the inane.

     The chamber felt crowded with so many bodies pressed in to see the omniscient one take form.  I must admit that I wanted to free our lands of this pressing evil, but a small part of me was aware that there would be no future need for an oracle if there was no being to commune with.  I would be useless again.  I firmed up my resolve that useless was better than dead, but I felt it was by a slim margin.

     I knelt before the gold well and Ginton joined me.  "I come before you humbly and with great need."  I intoned the ritual greeting.  "We have brought the sacrifice."

     Ginton flinched at my choice of words, but I was unclear what else to call him.  He nervously licked his lips and tried to peer down the well trying to see what was inside.  His pale brown eyes widened in fear as he observed the dense darkness.  No color or shape could be seen beneath the lip of pooled gold.  I was fearful the first time I peered down the well's depth too, and I almost took pity on this poor boy.

     "Delilah," the harmonic deep voice caressed my mind.  "Have him lie on his belly and place his face over the well lowering his arms over the side."

     I instructed Ginton on what to do, and watched as he forced his shaking limbs to move.  His ragged breathing escaped his mouth in little hisses.  He tightly squeezed his eyes shut.  He lacked the courage to see what would happen.  He hovered his thin arms over the well, but it felt like an eternity before he managed to lower them inside.  I wondered what it must have felt like.  The Oracle always communed kneeling from a distance away, I was almost tempted to move closer and dip my hand in.

     "Ask him if he can see me." 

     I never had the chance to repeat the question.  Ginton screamed and jerked back shaking his head from side to side. 

     Elon strolled forward.  "Are you injured?"

     Ginton rocked his small frame back and forth.  "No," he managed to stammer.

     "Did you see something?"  I inquired eagerly.

     Again Ginton managed to stammer out "No."

     "Then what is wrong?"  Elon and I both asked in unison.  It took me aback when we did.  That man and I were never of one thought.

     Ginton was unable to manage an answer, he just continued to rock looking frightened and child like.

     "The sacrifice will not do."

     I snorted in agreement.  It did not take divine knowledge to see this truth.  "The sacrifice has been rejected."  I stated aloud.

     Ginton crumbled with relief and Elon looked to be enraged.  "Let us try again.  The boy was just nervous, but he made the vow willingly and he meets the requirements."

     "No.  He is not the one I need."

     "No."  I repeated.  "You must offer up another."

 

     I woke the next morning to the horrible news that an entire family of ten had been slain during the night.  Their home was little more then shredded rags, blood stained walls, and smashed clay fragments.  The keening and wailing could be heard in the streets from the grief stricken.  Hundreds of wagons were being loaded as people became desperate to flee.  I watched them with great sadness.  The open roads held little safety.  Those who had fled earlier, when the evil was just starting to spread, were never heard from again, but their belongings were found on the roads or smashed in the fields.

     The only way to survive was to fight.  All our young warriors came forward to offer the vow of sacrifice.  I had hoped that one of them would be brave enough to see this through.  The trouble with the warriors was the requirement of purity.  Very few of them abstained from anything in life.

     The elders choose two sacrifices, hopeful that one would be found worthy.  They were both young men, the outside of their bodies held no marking, and they were both whole and hearty.  I had some slight reservation if they would be as pure on the inside, but I held my tongue.  No one would listen, and we would know soon enough.

     Before the sun took it's highest position in the sky, I found myself once again in the temple chamber.  I was more daring then ever before and knelt with my knees physically touching the gold lip of the well.

     "I come before you humbly and with great need.  We have two willing to make the sacrifice."  I peered down into the inky darkness wanting desperately to feel inside.

     "Delilah."  A shudder ran through me at hearing my name.   The closeness to the well sent vibrations through my legs.

     "Should the first approach you?"  I gasped.

     "If you wish."  Strangely the voice was amused.  What did it mean if I wished?  I motioned for the closest warrior to lie flat with his face and arms in the well.  He complied quickly showing no hesitation like young Ginton had.

     "No."  

     "The sacrifice is not accepted."  I frowned as I informed the elders behind me.

     The second warrior approached the well, but before he even was able to lay his body down a bored voice bounded through me.  "No."

     My frown deepened.  I felt we were being toyed with.  "Is this all the answer we are to expect?"

     "They are not what I need." 

     The second warrior looked over at me curiously waiting for instruction.  "You are not accepted."  I spoke tersely.

     Angry mutterings buzzed behind me.  "I thought we were being offered the key to this power?"  Elon yelled at me.  "Maybe girl you are not hearing right!"

     I ignored Elon and turned back to the well.  "We are all going to die if you do not aid us.  You said you cared about the innocent, and the innocent are dying.  Three times we have offered a sacrifice for your great power and three times you have denied us.  Why will you not help us?"

     "You are not asking the right question.  I will help you."  The voice was soft and eager.

     I paused and considered.  "You said they were not what you needed.  What do you need?"

     "You Delilah.  I need you." 

     I sat back hard on my heels, reeling.  I was surprised.  I never considered that I could be the answer.  I did meet all the conditions set forth.  I was the Oracle and the only one able to commune.  I thought my part was only to communicate what needed to be done, I had not imagined that I could actually be the one to bring hope and healing back to my people.  Still, I did have reservations.  What does it mean to be an anchor?

     The chamber had fallen silent.  The elders cast glances at me expectantly wanting me to convey what I heard.  Should I dare tell them?  How could I not?  I most certainly would never be considered useless ever again.

     "I am the one."  I uttered the words with a mouth that had gone dry.  "I am the required sacrifice."

     There was disbelief on many faces and confusion on others.  The warrior Gideon broke the quiet.  "Will you make the sacrifice Oracle?"  He asked very gently.

     All the men looked at me then.  All these men, who never even bothered to learn my name.  I meant little to nothing to them.  At this moment though, I was all they had.  It was not much of a choice really, certain death or the unknown.  I did not want to die.

     I did not give my answer in words.  Why waste effort in assuring these men?  I gazed at the well and ran my hands along the edge.  The vibrations were even more violent under my sensitive fingertips.  I laid flat on my stomach and placed my upper body over the opening of the well.  I thrust my hands inside and opened my eyes wide.  My entire body hummed as the resonance flowed through me.  I breathed in the darkness and it tasted sweet like wet spring grass warming in the sunlight. 

     "Can you see me?" 

     I started to answer no, but stopped when I saw soft blue lights.  "I see light."  I whispered.

     "Yes!"  I felt the excitement bounce at me.  "You see the seven locks."    

     There were seven lights.  I reached out and my hand brushed through one and it vanished.  "What happened?"  I pulled my hand back quickly.

     "You severed the first lock.  Touch the others!"

     The second and third lights were very close and I ran my hand through both of them at once.  When they vanished the smell of spring intensified.  I had to stretch out farther to touch the fourth and fifth.  The last two lights, though, were out of reach.  "The others are too far."  I panted.

     "You can not fall.  Imagine them closer to you."

      I wiggled more of my body over the well opening and willed the lights to come to me.  I held out my hand as far as my arm would allow.  The strain burned my muscles and I shook with the effort.  The heat caused me to sweat, and I felt slippery and exposed dangling so far into the pit.  Slowly the lights moved towards me.  I grasped at the six and it felt almost solid as it faded.  Then I turned to the seventh lock and severed it with the barest tips of my nails.

     A tremor shook my body followed by the sensation of falling and crashing into something bright and searing hot.  The impact jolted my body backwards and I floated above the floor of the chamber before the force shot through me.  I was on fire and blind from the intense light.  It passed through my being, but parts of it melded into me.  I felt my body stretching and expanding to accommodate this power.  It was excruciating, and I screamed till my throat closed and I was unable to do more than whimper.  Time slowed, and my mind raced to find comfort.  The light passed and some how the event had left me standing on wobbly legs.  The force that ripped through me had taken form.  It was a man.  Taller than any other in the room.  He was golden and glimmered and completely naked.  The elders looked like dirty shriveled husks beside him.  He was staring in awe at his hands and arms.  Then he looked at me with eyes the color of the ocean.  He radiated joy.

     The shock that had numbed my mind was leaving me, and all that remained was a horrible unbearable pain.  "What have you done to me?"  I croaked with a broken voice.  The last thing I saw before a welcome darkness claimed me was him, catching me in his arms as I fell.        

           

    



© 2013 Maria Mercurio


Author's Note

Maria Mercurio
The novel goes from present to past with each chapter

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Added on March 1, 2013
Last Updated on April 24, 2013
Tags: young adult, paranormal, angel, demon