Having failed to bring the Ark to Jerusalem I decide to wait before giving it another try. Meanwhile I cannot focus my thoughts. They stray from one thing to another. I look for something, anything to occupy them.
I find it quite by accident.
One night, unable to fall asleep, I sneak out of the palace without telling the guards. I take a long walk downhill, and find myself at the mouth of a cave, just above the Kidron valley. By the damp touch I remember passing here before, on my way to the water shaft, as I climbed up to storm the city—but at that time I was focused on the upcoming battle, and took little notice of the beauty, the eerie beauty of this place.
Once my eyes get used to the darkness I start sloshing around, barefoot. Reminded of my days as a fugitive I am drawn inside, hoping to feel ensconced in a sense of safety.
It is here that I discover a hidden marvel.
Fed by underground water that accumulate in an even deeper cave, somewhere below the surface, a spring gushes out. Splash, squirt, stop, it spurts water every so often. I know its Hebrew name, the Gihon Spring, which captures its rash, intermittent nature.
First I make a note to myself to talk to my engineers, so they may redirect the flow into the valley, to water the terraced plots on the slope, which I plan to name The King's Garden. Then I forget all about it, because I find myself utterly absorbed in music, in the resonance of sounds around me.
I watch the cracks in the rock, and listen how water gurgles underneath them, how it comes, siphoned out with a big, sudden splatter, only to be swallowed back once again.
Such is the ebb and flow of life.
Climbing up I imagined the view I would have up there, at the top of the world. Having achieved victory I am beginning to come down now, seeking reflection.
From outside the cave comes the hoot of an owl. Outlined against a dreamy moonlight, it strikes its upright stance, and turns its large, broad head to face me. Its gaze meets mine. At the moment I feel a strange affinity to this bird of prey. Like me, it must cherish its solitude.
And as it spreads its feathers I think I see out there, behind the flutter, a curvaceous outline of a nude. As if coming alive out of some Babylonian plaque, there she stands, surrounded by more owls. Her flesh glowing with warm, reddish hues of terra-cotta, there is a vision of my Queen of the Night.
“Bathsheba,” I whisper, but my voice gets lost in the vacuous space.
A moment later, the owl takes off. It rises away in its silent flight, and the illusive light of the moon starts dimming out.
★ Love historical fiction? Treat yourself to a gift ★
Historical Fiction with a Modern Twist...
The complete series: