The 4th Paladin - Chapter 10

The 4th Paladin - Chapter 10

A Chapter by Maria Mercurio

Wedding Day


Chapter 10

The Sorek Valley

1100 BC



     "How did this happen?"  I am amazed and curious.  Late in the morning Samson and I were back in the grazing fields.  The warriors had burned the demon carcasses, and I had expected to find only ash.  Something magnificent had taken place though.  In the spot where the great lion like beast was killed, the form of it’s body still remained.  Except it was not made of flesh and darkness, but of a giant lion shaped bee hive, swarming with bees and bursting with honey.

     Samson's booming laugh startled me.  "The demons are eaters of life.  Our gift is to return some of that life to the earth with their deaths.  Remember how once the diseased crops were burned the soil smelled fresh and fertile?"

    I did recall the air had felt cleaner and the soil rich.  "Yes."

    "This is another result.  The great beast had eaten more than its share of life, now out of its death, we gain something to eat in return."  Samson stared at the sight, clearly proud of his exploits.  I nodded, thoughtful.  Surely this was a fortuitous sign then.  We must be restoring things. 

     We were not alone in our taking in of the strange sight of a giant cat shaped bee hive.  At least a hundred of the city’s people came to marvel and whisper.  A few of the warriors from last night were scattered through the crowds.  I could hear them retelling the story over and over of Samson killing the giant beast with his bare hands, as new people emerged and demanded to know what was happening.  The mood was jubilant.  The feeling of hope was growing larger than despair.

     "Come," Samson grabbed my hand and turned us in the direction of the city.  "I want to break my fast."  He walked with his usual long strides, and I trailed slightly behind him.  The throng of people was tight and threatened to separate us, but he only held my hand tighter.  People, seeing it was Samson, moved back to offer him room.  They murmured words of thanks to him, some even touching him and offering blessings.  Strangely, most eyes avoided looking at me.  Some women gave me openly hostile stares, but most ignored me completely, especially while they were smiling and praising Samson.  The men were the worst though.  I either endured swift glances of scorn, or suggestive leers that brought heat to my cheeks.  Samson was oblivious to my discomfort.  He kept charging through and yanking me to follow.

     It was true that most felt uncomfortable around me before.  It was a strangeness to be the Oracle, but they had always accorded me with a modicum of respect.  The walk back to the city was both confusing and enraging.  What more do they want of me?  I have given everything to save them!  Why would they look at me with such scorn?  I was not going to be reduced to tears before them, so I quickened my pace.  Soon I was ahead of Samson, and tried to free my hand from his grip.

     Samson chuckled at my efforts.  "Do you have a great appetite as well?"  He called out and my cheeks reddened further as I heard the crowd gasp and laugh at my expense.

     "Release me you stupid man!"  I hissed through clenched teeth.

     Samson's eyebrows raised at the insult and he let go of my hand.  I stumbled backwards as I pulled away.  Before I could hit the ground, he quickly caught me and drew me in close to his chest.  We were at the edge of the gathering, but all eyes were aimed at us.  A quiet settled on the crowd, and I was acutely aware that I was trembling in Samson's arms in front of them all.

     I squirmed.  "Release me," I repeated.

     Samson arms, impossibly, grew firmer.  His head angled down near mine and his lips brushed against my ear as he whispered.  "No, I can not.  Even if I had the power to do so, I would not."

     I was dazed and mystified as he spun me around and continued walking.  I felt the stares like daggers boring into my back as we departed the field and entered the city's streets.  Samson was quiet.  His jaw line ridged, and I noticed a slight tick in his cheek.  I fumed silently as well, wondering what he was upset about since I was the one most put upon.  I dragged my feet a bit mulishly slowing him down.

     "If you are tired my precious one I could carry you."  Samson words were a tease, but his eyes were like flint.

     We were in a more deserted part of the city.  I heard people nearby, but no one was in view.  I did not like the way Samson was hovering over me, appearing ready to carry out his threat of hauling me through the streets like a sack of grain.  I truly despised the way my blood raced at the image of being swept up in his arms.  I avoided looking at him directly, fearing he could read my errant thoughts.  "It is not necessary.  I just wished to go slower."

     "Hmmm," he leaned against me, pinning my body to the wall behind me.  He placed both his hands on either side of me, essentially trapping me.  His eyes glittered dangerously as they bored into mine.  His face, so close I could feel the heat of his breath.  "A man could starve going at the pace you set."

     I was surprised when the instinct to flee did not set in.  Instead of trapped, I felt safe with him so close.  I sensed a hunger forming in me.  I wanted that kiss I denied him yesterday.  I even moistened my lips with my tongue as he watched in fascination at the simple act. 

     A group of boisterous young boys turned the corner breaking the spell, causing me to duck under his arm hurriedly, so to not be seen in such an inappropriate position.  The boys chatter grew loud with excitement when they spotted Samson.  He greeted them and answered all their questions, but a scowl marred his perfect face.  I was grateful for the escape the boys had granted me.  I decided to continue on without him, needing the time to compose myself.  I walked even faster than before, so Samson, once he was able to leave the happy children, had to run to catch up.  At such a fast pace we soon found ourselves at Elon's.  It was past meal time, but Samson entered the closed court yard where the cooking was done.  The cook and the other women in service smiled at him warmly and bid him enter, and with the same breath told me to leave, that I was no longer welcome.

     "What is the meaning of this?" Samson bellowed his bad mood changing to rage in an instant.

     The plump cook was ruffled by his demeanor, but continued to hold her ground.  "She is no longer a member of Elon's household.  It would not be proper to house her kind."

     "Her kind?"  Some of Samson's anger deflated as he grew perplexed by the cook’s statement.  I understood her meaning well enough though, and the blood drained from my face and pooled around my heart.

     The cook lacked the nerve to answer the question aloud.  One of the serving girls gave me a sad smile in condolence.  I hated her pity as much as the cook's poor opinion of me.

     "Come Samson," I croaked.  "We can get bread and cheese in the market place."

     "No Delilah. I will speak to Elon about this slight."  He turned to me and noticed my agitated state.

     I shook my head to deny him.  "Please, I want to leave."  At the same time I spoke the cook called out.  "He must not be disturbed.  The elders are meeting."

     "Perfect," Samson said with grim determination.  He claimed my hand and headed for the great room used for the meeting of elders.  I tried several times to plead with him to leave off before he confronted the elders, but he was deaf to my words.  An inferno was growing inside him, and I actually felt the heat from his anger.

     We stormed in, interrupting warrior Gideon in his recitation of last night’s events.  Samson made no apologies as he strode by and hovered menacingly over Elon as the elder sat in his stone chair. 

     "Samson," Elon's voice was not nearly as strong as usual.  I was surprised he even had the courage to look Samson in the eye.  "Gideon was just telling us of your great accomplishments last night."

     "You ungrateful wretched man!  What is this I hear that you have cast out Deliah from your household."  Samson growled out the words and Elon flinched.

     The old men muttered aloud at his outburst in a mixture of fear and temper.  I was pleased to see Gideon looked almost as outraged as Samson at the news.  At least I was not completely friendless.

     "You of course are always welcome Samson.  We know we are in your debt."  Elon stated smoothly with his hands raised in a calming gesture.

     "And what great crime do you accuse Deliah of then?"  Samson spit the words out.

     "She is no longer a woman of virtue.  She was under my protection as the Oracle and a young maiden, but now she is neither.  I cannot tolerate women like her in my house.  Outside the main city is the home for w****s."  Elon's cruel words made my knees weak.  I wanted to be sick.

     I watched as the horrible implication penetrated Samson's mind.  He was a master at killing demons but society baffled him.  "Why do you say such things?"  His growl grew deeper.

     "I was not certain at first, but last night all the warriors saw you enter her dwelling and stay.  I do not deny you her," he kept up his wrinkled hands warding off Samson.  "But I can no longer provide for her as if she was a member of this household."

     "Delilah is still pure of body.  She is still an innocent."  He defended me fiercely, but I doubted any in the room believed him. 

     "If that is the case," Elon stroked his mangled grey beard.  "If you do not wish to have her, as is your due, then I will need to arrange a marriage in order to hold her in good standing.  Jair has been without a wife for some years, he may be inclined to accept her."

     He can not have said Jair!  The man is ancient!  I clenched my hands into fists, hating to think of myself as property to be given away.

     "I will consent to marry her," Gideon announced loudly much to Elon's surprise and my own.  I looked at the warrior and remembered his words from last night.  Elon spoke of his debt to Samson today, but Gideon had said the city was indebted to me.  Perhaps he spoke out thinking about that debt.      

     "Delilah! Is! Mine!"  The volume of Samson's words assaulted the ears.  Even the deaf old men winced in pain.  He was quivering in rage, staring down every man in the room until none looked up higher than the floor.  He reached for Elon with his free hand and hoisted him in the air.  His spindly old legs dangled out from his halug.  "You will arrange the wedding for today.  I will not have anyone, man or woman, cast a disparaging comment about her.  She saved you all."  He dropped Elon like something unclean, and the man fell like a sack on the floor.  Samson hovered over him and glared.  "I think a wedding feast should be expected as well, something grand enough to be a proper thank you to the two people saving you all from being devoured by the darkness."

     Elon looked frail and pale.  His lips moved for a few moments before any words could be heard.  "I will have it all arranged."

     Samson nodded once, glared at the other elders in the room as if daring them to utter a word, and then spoke to me.  "Come, my heart.  Today is your wedding day."





     Again I followed mutely behind Samson as he dragged me from the meeting of elders into the city.  I recognized the path he took, and knew we were headed to the Israelite section.  The people here cheered us as we passed, and many made offerings of loaves of bread and dried figs.  Samson accepted it all with charming thanks and made sure I was also given my share.  We were only a few shops down from Ishbel's when he spoke to me.  "Let us hope she has something special for your wedding clothes.  I imagine that must be important?"  He asked, showing how little he knew of the marriage customs.

     "Samson there is more to worry about than a wedding.  Forget all this foolishness and let’s put our minds to freeing the city from demons."  I was proud how calm my voice was.  I was just bartered over like prized cattle, and not a single man in the council had even the grace to speak to me directly.

     "These men with their small thoughts and cruel hearts are a danger to you.  A simple ceremony will restore you to the good graces of everyone."  Samson smiled at me, pleased.

     "But I do not wish to be any man's wife."  I lifted my chin to show my resolve.

     Samson was amused by this.  "You are as compromising as a rock.  Your wishes do not matter as much as your welfare."

     "So they scorn me.  I am not what they say I am.  I am in no physical danger."  I thought back to the leers and dark glances.  Is it something I could endure?

     "Why are you being so simple minded?"  Samson's voice grew gruff.

     "I am not!" I protested. 

     "Delilah, before this day ends you will be my wife.  It is what is best, and you need to accept it."  He crossed his arms and glowered.     

     "Fine!" I shout.  "You just want this marriage for the sake of me becoming your property instead of Elon's.  I heard you back there shouting to them all I was yours.  Since I have no choice in the matter, I suppose I have to comply, but know that it changes nothing between us."

     Samson loomed over me forcing my head back.  "In that you are correct."  He said too softly.  "We are already so much more than husband and wife, those are just human titles.  You have given your life to me, shared your soul, and made a most sacred vow.  So why shy at the idea of being called my wife?"

     He held me in his thrall.  His words circled in my head.  I had no answer for him.  Wife just sounded different than giving myself as a sacrifice.  It sounded more intimate, more of a physical promise, but I lacked the courage to say it.  Samson took my silence as consent and shepherded me into see the seamstress about wedding clothes.




     It was hard not to think how unimportant all this was.  Our lives were being torn apart by evil and the people of the city worried more about propriety.  I knew that my living arrangements with Samson would raise concerns, but I would certainly have altered them if it was in my power.  Plunging a spear through the body of those demons had felt real.  Repeating my marriage vows to Samson felt like a twisted dream.  I was the Oracle.  I was to have escaped this fate of marrying against my will.  I watched our wrists being bound with silk cord and heard the words that sealed my fate, but did not feel present. 

     Samson was his ever loud and boastful self.  He sparkled with joy and laughed loudly.  The crowds adored him.  I was dull as Elon happily relinquished his obligations to me over to Samson.  I was quiet when the ceremony was completed and Samson, in his jubilance, picked me up and swung me around.  I was withdrawn as the congratulations poured in, and strangers touched me with pleased smiles, when just this morning they avoided looking at me.

     Elon created a feast that I had not imagined possible given the state of things.  There were great loaves of bread dripping with melted cheese, crushed olives served with roasted barley, cured fish, lentil soup, vegetable porridge, dates stuffed with sweetened goat's cheese, and large platter of honeyed fruit cakes.  There was even meat served, a rare delight for many of the guests.  My stomach protested vehemently when I saw it was goat after having watched the poor things be slaughtered by demons last night.

     "Are you not hungry, wife?"  I disliked the way he emphasized that word.  He smiled warmly at me with mischief dancing in his blue eyes.  I pointedly chose to ignore him as I had been doing all day.  I figured if I did not allow him to bait me, he would quickly lose interest and move on to enjoying the feast.  There was too much of the hunter in Samson though.  He was doing everything in his powers to draw a startled or angry response from my lips.  The man does not know when to stop!      

     Long rows of low tables had been laid out under the stars with mats for sitting on.  It was a warm spring night and Samson's latest victory over the demons gave the people courage to be out in the dark.  It was also crowded and offered little privacy.  I was spectacle enough for these people as the bride, without providing them a show if I started yelling.  As people ate and drank, I fantasized about a demon appearing in our midst and putting an end to this torturous event.

     "Some wine for the happy couple?"  Gideon approached us with cups and a jug of red.  I looked at him sadly, not able to smile.  The warrior gave me a sympathetic glance as Samson accepted a glass.  A thought occurred to me.

     "Can I?" I asked thinking of the requirements.  I do not make a move to take the cup from Gideon's hand.

     "Please do!"  Samson grinned crookedly and teased me.  "You are clearly the most miserable person here, perhaps it will help.  Down it quickly." 

     "Do I not still need to abstain from all intoxicating liquors?"  I probed.

     Samson understood my question now.  "You needed to be thus to open the way for me.  I am here now."  His eyes grew heated as his gazed rested over me.  "There is nothing you need to abstain from now."

     That look did strange things to me.  I flushed hot and my breath caught, feeling a curious stirring of desire.  I went cold and my stomach clenched, wondering if Samson planned this to be a real wedding night.  I started to shake and bolted up, knocking Gideon slightly over and causing him to pour wine over Samson. 

     Gideon paled as he looked at the empty cup in his hand.  I froze, fearing Samson, who already seemed to dislike the warrior, would grow angry.  The crowd hushed waiting to see where the diversion would lead.  Samson looked only at me.  He shook his head and chuckled while brushing the wine from his garments.  "I did suggest you down it quickly my sweet, but that was not what I had in mind."          

     The people joined in the laughter, and Gideon smiled, relieved there was no insult given.  I found myself, yet again, the subject of the snickering.  "I need a private moment," I said, implying my leaving was an urging of my bladder and not a wild desire to run screaming.  I hoped Samson would not think to follow me.   




      I was not sure where my feet were taking me, I just wanted to be alone.  I had lived a life of mostly solitude as I studied to be the Oracle.  Others may have found the existence lonely, but I had reveled in it.  Few women would ever understand what it was like to be in charge of the course of their day.  I never longed for a gaggle of women to gossip or bicker with.  My days were spent in the pursuits of my choosing.  Losing all my freedom and not having a single moment to myself since Samson first arrived was more than just difficult.  It was suffocating.  I needed to get away from him and all those people simply so I could breathe again.

     The tingling pin pricks of pain started in my hands and arms.  I had not been this far from him yet, and was not surprised to feel the now familiar sensation.  I ignored it though, when I looked around and saw I was standing at the steps of the ruined temple.  My thoughts flew to the well.  I wondered if another voice would speak to me from it's depths and provide me with counsel.  Surely Samson could not be the only one of his kind?  I was strongly compelled to find the answer, or perhaps even a way to change my fate.

     It took me precious time to procure a torch to light my way in the dark tunnel.  The pain was growing and I knew Samson would be expecting me to return.  He most certainly would not be pleased to show such weakness to the people of the valley.  It had only been a matter of days when I last walked down this path into the room below, but it felt like so much longer.  Walking became difficult once the pin pricks moved to my back and traveled down my legs.  I was proud that I managed to keep moving forward.  My resolution growing with the confidence that I would find the answers I was seeking, if I could just be strong and push through the pain.  My steps faltered close to the doorway, and it forced me to steady my shaking body against the wall before I could lumber forward.  There has to be a way out of this.

     I sighed happily as I crossed the threshold, pleased that I had not failed to make it here.  I raised the torch waiting for my eyes to adjust to the bigger space but the darkness held tight.  I took small steps forward not wanting to trip and fall at the well's golden edge, but I made it to the other side of the chamber and found nothing.  I cast the torch low thinking I must have walked right by it, but all I saw was packed dirt.  There was no well.  The smell of the room was different too.  It was just as musty as the tunnel.  There was no smell of fresh air or scent of spring.  The room was completely empty. 

     I sank down to the ground.  The torch rolled from my cramped fingers and sputtered in the dirt until the flame extinguished.  When I was engulfed in complete darkness, the agony in my limbs, that I had ignored, tormented me until I convulsed.  I pulled my knees to my chest and curled in.  The room was empty save for my pain.

     I sensed Samson approaching before I ever saw the light.  I should have gone to him and put an end to the spasms, but I lacked the will.  Nothing could motivate me to care.  The room was empty of all my hopes.

     The torch light made my eyes water and I could hear Samson's distressed breathing as he called my name.  I did not answer.  I knew he would find me.  Talking would be too great an effort.  His warm fingers circled my wrist and the pain washed out of me.  It left me weak.  Samson was on his knees as he dragged me into his arms.  I moved like a limp doll, boneless and without a trace of emotion.

     He forced me to look at him, taking my chin in his hand.  His eyes were tearing and a brief flicker of curiosity made me wonder if it was from pain or feeling.  "What did you expect to find here?"  His voice was colder then I had ever heard it before.

     "A well," I chortled.

     He compressed his lips.  "It closed behind me.  I told you there was no way for me to go back.  Did you forget I left behind everything to come here, to you."

     "Why?"  I puzzled.

     "I want to ask you that same question.  Why Delilah?  Why do you pull away from me?  Why do you seek a way out of the vow you have made?"  His words were angry, but his eyes showed hurt.

     I wanted to deny it, but there were no lies between us.  "It is just so much."

     "And you are determined to hate me, when you have never tried to accept me."  He accused.

     "I . . ."  I stumbled over what to say.  He was right.  I had been fighting him since the first moment I heard what this sacrifice meant.  "I do not hate you."  I was astonished to realize that was the truth.  I did not fully trust him, and he did test my nerves, but I did not hate him.

     "That is a relief to hear."  The coldness left his voice.  He placed both his hands on either side of my face and drew me in closer.  His lips parted slightly as he leaned in to kiss me.  This time I did not fight him or move to flee.  I understood that a part of me even wanted this. 

     His kiss was soft and tender.  His warm breath smelled sweet and his lips felt wonderful pressed against mine.  There was a tug of familiarity, like enjoying your favorite fruit or coming back to your room after being away.  I kissed him back enjoying the comforting sensation.  In response, Samson deepened the kiss, his tongue taking possession of my mouth.  I wanted this too.  I wanted him closer.  I felt raw and empty and his nearness chased that away.  He whispered my name into my mouth and his right hand moved from my cheek to tangle in the hair at the nape of my neck.  I relaxed into him, further encouraging him to continue to kiss me.  His scent reminded me of rich soil and sunshine.  His smooth skin was like a soothing balm to my cold flesh.  His voice was lulling and alluring all at once.  We were so close I could see only him.  The room was filled with Samson.      

© 2013 Maria Mercurio

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Added on May 9, 2013
Last Updated on May 9, 2013
Tags: young adult, paranormal, angel, demon