Posted: Jul 12, 2018, 10:55pm
David walked through the tents carrying his burden. The sky overhead was black and bruised with the coming of a storm. He listened to the cries of pain as the camp surgeons did their best to save life and limb and he tried to avoid the eyes of the soldiers who were for the most part gathered in sullen silence outside of their tents. The soft rumble of thunder rolled overhead and he quickened his pace, eager to complete his chore before the rain began to fall.
The army were encamped on the hill to the west of the valley of Elah while the enemy camp was visible to the east. For three days now they had entered the valley and engaged in bloody slaughter and for three days there had been no clear victory. Just blood and death in endless supply. David saw on the faces of the soldiers the haunted memories of what they had seen. The scars of what they had done. Down below in the valley, the carrion birds bore testament to their deeds and in the morning they would return to the field of battle to begin the slaughter anew.
At last David approached the command tents and he paused as he heard raised voices within. He lowered his sack to the ground as he edged closer to listen and as he did he recognised the voice of Eliab his eldest brother.
“My lord this cannot be done.”
“What do you mean can not? None can stand against the holy army. We are ever victorious.” The deep voice that gave answer could only be the king and David suddenly hesitated, should he be caught listening in this way he could be accused of spying, no matter that he was the younger brother of one of the armies great captains. Glancing around he saw that he was not observed and relaxed somewhat as he listened to the mumbled agreements of the kings followers. At last his brother spoke again and he sounded angry.
“What use is victory if most of the army must die to achieve it, we cannot be reckless with the soldiers lives, there are other battles that must be fought.”
“And we will find new men to fight them,” replied the king, “Stronger of faith and arm than this rabble. We should have crushed them by now.”
There came a commotion from the other side of the tent and David heard the sound of movement within as the occupants stood.
“What is the meaning of this?” the king roared.
“My king, the enemy is on the move.” Came a new voice. “They form their battle lines within the valley and have sent out a herald to give word to your majesty.”
“And what word is this?” the king asked.
“The man would not say, he awaits at the foot of the slope.”
“He would have me come to him, what insolence is this?”
“Just so my king.”
“Should I go meet this fellow.” Eliab offered and the king snorted.
“What and have the enemy think me a coward, I think not. Lead on.”
David started as he heard the men start to empty out of the tent and remembering his errand he ran around to the entrance and caught the eye of his brother who was just following the king outside. Eliab gave him a worried frown and moved to speak with him.
“What are you doing here?” He hissed. David offered the sack he had been carrying and when his brother did not take it he lowered it to the ground with a shrug.
“Father sent me. With food.” He explained lamely and Eliab forced a smile,
“Give father my thanks and go home, this is no place for a child.”
“I am not a...” David began but his brother cut him off.
“Not again brother, you will obey. This war is not for you.” And with that Eliab turned and followed the king. David watched them go and once he was sure that his brother was not looking back he followed. The army were now forming their own lines in response to the enemy and David found it easy to tag along with the movement of the soldiers as he tried to get within earshot of the king and his brother.
He found a place behind an overturned wagon but a stone’s throw from the front line and there he sat listening to what might transpire.
“What words do you have for me?” He heard the king call out and the army grew silent even as they still moved into position.
“We tire of this needless slaughter.” The herald called out from atop his horse. David watched the man dressed in fine robes and a crimson coat as he smiled down at the king and his retinue.
“Then leave this place and return to your lands in peace.” The king replied.
“It is known that these are our lands, stolen from our fathers of old by your own.”
“An old dispute.” The King replied.
“Yes and one that must be settled, but not in this manner perhaps.”
“And what manner would you suggest?” the king scoffed, “There will be no surrender today.”
“Nor would we expect it, but come let us set out champions to battle. Our strongest against your own, the winner speaks for all.”
A murmur broke out amongst the nearby soldiers. Could there really be such a simple end to the fighting. Dare they take the risk? The king and his advisers were in heated discussion and David watched as the herald smiled down at them, he did not trust the man. At last the king appeared to reach a decision and he called up to the herald.
“So be it, we swear by the god we serve that we will abide by this agreement.” lighting flashed in the distance and thunder rumbled through the heavens above as if in acknowledgement of the kings oath.
The next half hour passed in a flurry of activity as the greatest warriors within the army were ushered forward to be selected for this battle. The king stood before a long line of hardened killers and considered them with a careful eye. At last he had reduced the choice to three and David had to admit that each of them looked to be capable and fierce. Not men he would wish to face on the field of battle. Before the final selection could be made a great horn sounded from the enemy camp and all eyes were drawn to the signs of movement from a large black tent at the crest of the distant hill.
David looked on as the canvas of that tent parted and a creature of legend stepped out into the dim light of the late afternoon. The rumbling of thunder overhead was fierce now and made more ominous with the hulking beast that now approached.
“Giant.” Hissed one soldier, and “Nephilim.” Gasped another. David gawped at the man like creature, its huge frame covered in black plate mail strode through the enemy ranks carrying a wide bladed sword of the same metal. It glared at the army with eyes as dark as coal and marching ahead of his own lines he came to a stop and called out,
“Who will face me.” He beat on his chest and roared at the onlookers like a wild beast.
The three volunteers who had been moments before ready to bring victory home through single combat were now edging away. The king raged and cursed them and called for others to come forward, for someone to face this giant of a man. Nobody came. Something shifted within David at that moment, a strange certainty that gripped his soul. While the king was raging and the army captains were trying to persuade their men to consider this fight, David stood and stepped through the crowd.
Ahead he could see the giant, at least twice as tall as a normal man he was still beating his fist upon his chest, spitting curses at the army before him.
“I will crush you all.” He roared. “I will slay your children and burn your homes.”
David walked as if in a dream. Nobody reached to stop him as he stepped through the front line and clear of the army. He was several steps ahead of the ranks before he heard his brothers voice from the kings men,
“David what are you doing, come back here.” He glanced back to see Eliab restrained by the other captains as he tried to reach him. David turned away and continued to walk on. He reached into the folds of his cloak and drew out a sling, his eyes fixed on the raging giant.
“Who will face me, who will...” the great creature stopped and looked down at the tiny form of David as he stood sling in hand. He was silent for a moment and then he released a booming laugh that filled the entire valley. A cold wind began to rise and the clouds above began to boil, ready for a downpour.
“A boy? You send a boy to face me? What is this?”
David breathed deeply as he stooped to pick up a stone. He felt the weight of it in his hand before dropping it into the sling.
“Go home to your mother boy.” The giant leered down and David began to move the sling round and round at an increasing speed. The first drops of rain began to fall, fat and wet upon the ground.
“So be it boy.” Roared the giant, “You die now!”
David released the stone.