Monday, August 3, 2009

Asael VIII

This is part of my ongoing novel. Think of it as Killer Angels taking place in a musket and magic fantasy world with characters that combine the religious sensibilities of American revivalism with Beowulf-like blood feuds. All this while they engage in Talmudic style dialectics. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition is about to take on a whole new meaning.

Introduction, A Note from the Author, Prologue, I, II, III,IV, V, VI, VII

Serariah and Kochba had gone to the other side of a row of shoulder high bushes that marked the edge of the park when Asael saw his mother striding toward them. Hefzibah Dolstoy was a formidable creature even at less than three and a half amot. Her head and face were veiled in the traditional Khazar manner and a dark blue dress that came to her ankles. The dress outlined her swelling pregnant stomach, which, like the dress and the scarf on her head, miraculously seemed to fail to slow her or soften her movements. Trailing behind her, holding on to her hand and bouncing up to keep up was her four year old daughter Sion. Unlike Asael, this child was the spitting image of its father. “Hi Ima.” Asael dusted himself off and greeted his mother smartly. Hefzibah seemed to ignore him as she passed him by. Asael caught Sion on the bounce. “Hello Asa. Ima is planning is planning on chopping me into little bits.” Asael hugged his sister. "Not again."

"Yup," said Sion. "This time she really means it."

Kochba saw Hefzibah coming from over Serariah’s shoulder; for once he was glad to be nearly half an amah shorter than his friend and could hide in his hulking shadow. “How is it that your wife can be pregnant, be as beautiful as ever and look even more ferocious after more than fourteen years of me knowing her?” Serariah’s gaze darted around. With the methodical purposefulness of man thinking calmly under fire, Serarah grabbed Kochba by the neck and pushed him down behind the bushes below eyelevel.

Kochba let out a soft gurgle under the pressure of Serariah’s laborer's hands. “I have no intention of ever trying to sleep with the thing. Not even if you put a gun to my head. It sounds more reasonable to take my chances with a bullet.”Serariah’s fingers tightened either because of the comments or because his wife had now approached the hedge.

“A good afternoon Shapirta,[1]” Serariah greeted. “I am surprised to see you out and about.” Hefzibah, unable to look over the hedge, starred up at her husband and smiled. It was a romantic smile, the kind that spoke with eyes and teeth more than with lips. “Hasan Kochba you can stop servicing my husband and come out now.”

Serariah let go of Kochba’s throat. Kochba stood up coughing more strenuously than was strictly necessary. “I performed nothing unlawful. If I was of service it was in giving him my death.”

Hefzibah’s gaze continued to ignore Kochba. “And I am sure it was a very noble service indeed. My only regret is that your lips are still moving. Apparently my husband likes your lips more than mine.”

“Serariah is a brave man who insists on braving the jaws of only the most ferocious creatures, my lady.” That comment brought Serariah’s hands back around Kochba’s throat. “I think that is enough out of you for a day.”

Seeing the commotion, Asael joined his mother by the hedge, carrying Sion. “You see Sion; Ima wants to kill the nice Colonel even more than she wants to kill you and even if she did want to kill you she would not chop you up; she would just order Abba to do it.”

“Colonel” Hefzibah gasped. “And I was still waiting for someone to appoint you dog catcher.”

Sion struck a pose with hips and turned her head upward to Asael, scrunching her face in defiance. “Ima wants to chop me up into little pieces even more than she usually does and she now even has Colonel to eat on the side because I am not fat enough.”

Kochba’s face began to change color, which pleased Hefzibah. “You can let him go now.” Serariah retreated his hands into the fold of his jacket. Kochba, now free, slumped against the hedge, breathing in gasps. “That is the last time I try offering you a job.” He then hugged Serariah. “I miss getting strangled by you. Can you walk me back to my room? I would like to get a few miles before nightfall.”

Hefzibah shooed the two children away, leaving the two friends in peace. Walking home, Asael tried to quarry his mother about Colonel Kochba. “You don’t like Abba’s friend do you?”

Hefzibah picked up her pace, a usual sign of her not being pleased. “Colonel Hasan Kochba is a godless kofar with the forked tongue of a serpent.” Asael knew better than to walk this path, but in the few hours since he had met the Colonel he had come to think of him as a friend and this made his mother’s comment a personal matter. “You are just saying that because he is in the military.”

“An evil job will attract evil men like flies around a carcass. Asael, who is it that says things like ‘by the might of my hand?’ What sort of person calls to his horses chariots?”Asael had heard this line of argument before countless times and responded, matching verse with verse. “One who has no God and who worships a graven image, a creation of man.”

“So,” said Hefzibah, “someone who puts his faith in the weapons of man is no different than the idolater who prays to the statue he has created.”

“Silly people bow to statues,” chimed in Sion.

“That is right Sion,” said Hefzibah, clapping her daughter’s hands together. “Is Rachmana in a statue?”

“No Rachmana is there, there and there.” Sion pointed in different directions, very pleased with herself.

“You still have not told me what is particularly wrong with Colonel Kochba. I mean there lots of people in the military.”

“Because,” said Hefzibah breathing in deeply, “there are certain people whose actions go beyond the expected to such an extent that they become particularly noteworthy. Some sins are easily overlooked in a crowd of sinners. It needs just that one person to truly push the boundaries of sin for one to look back and see the sin for what it is.”

“I do not understand where you are going with this.”

“Let me put it too you straight. Hasan Kochba is the sort of godless man, who stands out among other godless men. Most godless people only want an excuse to sin. Kochba, at his very core, does not believe. He and others like him have replaced God with man.”

“But what does this have to do with the military?”

“People like Kochba are attracted to the military because, having turned themselves into gods, they wish to rule over others as gods. Look at other people and there might be some doubt. Rachmana therefore allowed for someone like Kochba to exist so that all can see the truth. He is a liar who will let other men die to serve his ambitions.”

“But Abba likes him.”

Hefzibah stopped walking. She took Sion down from Asael’s arms and grabbed him by the shoulder. If she was going to pick her words carefully on the topic of Kochba she was certainly be careful when it came to her husband. “Asael, one has to want to see in order to be shown. Your father walks in perilous places, but, Rachmana be blessed, has not been harmed. Your father may be a great man, but because his faith is so strong does not see the danger he is in nor can he see the danger to others of weaker faith.”

[1] Beautiful

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