Friday, November 28, 2014

Behind my back, you’ve been bold enough to entertain the worst of my enemies

He starts pacing back and forth, from one end of the balcony to the other, as if putting siege to a city. “Ha! You think I don’t hear things, even if I’m not here in person?”
“I have no secrets from you,” I say, brazenly. “Perhaps I should have.”
He seethes at me. “Behind my back, you’ve been bold enough to entertain the worst of my enemies, the one who has the blood of my brother, Asahel, on his hands.”
I move away from the railing, leaving him standing there, alone. “You’ve been in the business of war long enough to know better. One can’t hold a grudge forever.”
“You’re quite wrong about that,” he says, with a note of bitterness. “I can.”
“Then, stop it. Vengeance clutters the mind.”
“Wrong, again. It sharpens it.”
“There are casualties on either side,” I argue, “some of which may be unintended.”
He stammers. “How, how dare you say that to me?”
I cross him on my way back into my office.
“Careful now,” I warn him from in here. “Don’t you raise your voice in my presence.”
Joav plucks nervously at his mustache. Then he follows me, making an effort to lower his voice. “You weren’t there, were you?” he hisses at me. “You didn’t bear witness how ‘unintentionally’ my brother was slain.”
“It was my mistake, sending you on that mission, in the first place,” I must admit. “Had I been there, that silly game you played with the lives of their boys and ours would never have been played. And as for your brother—”
“What about Asahel?” His voice reaches a new high. “Are you accusing me for his death?”
“I’m accusing no one,” I assure him. “Not a thing is to blame but this sorry state of war.”
“I’m not my brother’s keeper!”
“Who says you are?”
“It wasn’t my hand that thrust the butt of a spear straight through his stomach, till it came out through his back, was it? Every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen, where he died. Not one of them moved—except me.”
“A horrific sight it must have been.”
“I can still see him lying there, convulsing in a puddle of blood, mouth open as if to call my name.”

David and his first in command, Joav, in A Peek at Bathsheba

Uniting the tribes of Israel is a delicate mission. To achieve it David negotiates with the military leader of the enemy, but his ruthless first in command, Joav, does everything in his power to oppose him, because he is driven by ambition and by an urge to avenge his the death of his brother, who has been slain on the battlefield.

(The image at the top is a detail from the cover art, based on my watercolor painting. Click the 'Play' button to hear the wonderful narration of the Audio edition by Justin Harmer) 

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