64 Ben Hadad escapes

Before a hint of light touched the morning sky, Obadiah marched with Ahab out the gate of Samaria City and turned toward Fort Jezreel. The guards-turned-commandos and the troops from the plaza tramped behind them.

Biah stiffled a wa-hoo. He was on his way to Didi and the kids, but would Ben-hadad close the trap before they escaped? They marched past the twisted olive trees that marked the road to Gera’s house. They passed a few newer houses and then entered the ridge road winding among hills draped in dark green olive groves.

The little army trudged through a village and out the other side. A small group in dark red uniforms appeared on the ridge road curve around the next hill.

Biah shaded his eyes with his hand and studied them. Not enough men or arms for any kind of attack. Scouts. They must have thought they had the ridge road to themselves. The scouts faded into the bushes.

A little before noon, Biah and his friends came to the plain of Dothan. On the far side of the plain, backed up against the hill of Dothan, thousands and thousands of red tents covered the ground, exposed and naked in the sunshine. In the midst of the tents, a dark red flag hung limp in the heat, but with no troops.

Horses on picket lines nibbled grass. But where were the dreaded thousands of red chariots with their yellow-winged torches? Wild animals should be poking around this deserted settlement, but only a few heads covered in red kaffiyehs popped up.

Biah stood with feet planted wide, fists on hips, and elbows wide. “Your target, my king.”

Ahab faced the tents with his chosen twelve at his sides.

A pace behind the king, Biah swung his arm up. “Wedge!” Two hundred thirty-two commandos extended the wings at each side of Ahab. Biah swung his arm again. “Mop-up!” One hundred forty platoons of seven thousand foot soldiers marched into place behind the wings.

Curses erupted from the tents. Men in red tunics with kaffiyehs on their heads spilled out and stumbled screaming across the plain.

Biah’s mouth fell open. Only three or four hundred Syrians? Where was the Ben-hadad horde? Why did these stumble?

Ahab raised his spear. “Charge!” He and his commandos stormed across the plain with Biah and the mop-up crew on their heels.

The first Syrian to arrive took Ahab’s spear through his throat. While Ahab stepped on the man’s head and yanked his spear out, guards at his flanks gutted Syrians of their own. As Ahab swooped aside to spear another, Biah jumped into the gap.

A man yelled, “Die, Hebrew dog!” and rammed his spear at Biah’s head.

Biah rolled and slipped his spear point between the Syrian’s ribs. Oh, that felt good. He sucked in the smell of new-spilled blood, grasped his spear in both hands, and yanked it out before his attacker hit the ground.

The shrieks and insults of the Syrians drowned the rustle of the wind in the grass and the song of the lark. But Ahab’s commandos dodged and thrust in grim silence.

Biah hurdled a groaning body and braced to stop more Syrians. But he blinked and shook his head to clear his vision.

Syrian faces had disappeared. Syrians ran toward their tents, the yellow-winged torches on their backs on full display. Others lay face down on the plain. Some moaned or moved, but most baked quietly in the noonday sun while clouds of vultures circled lower.

Biah sucked in the close, still air. The stench of excrement from newly opened intestines settled in the heat. Several commandos gagged. Some wept.

With the back of his hand, he tried to wipe sweat from his eyes. The intense heat sapped his strength, but he had no time to pause or to wonder why the Syrians remained in their tents. Biah howled at his mop-up captains. “To the camp! Kill them in their tents!”

Ahab and his commandos chased the Syrians toward the camp with Biah and the mop-up platoons in tight formation close behind. Biah leaped a discarded shield. Dozens of oval shields littered the plain with their yellow-winged torches on dark red leather. As he neared the tents, spears replaced the shields.

The hundreds of horses picketed beside the encampment raised their heads from the grass as the Syrians dashed among them. Biah paused at the herd, and his years as King Omri’s chief of staff spoke in his head. Preserve these battle horses. He waited for each platoon captain. “Don’t spook the horses.” Then he waved the captain into the camp. When the last platoon came through, Biah dashed with them into the shouts and groans.

He slashed the ropes of a tent and watched it sag. Foul vulgarities came from shuddering humps. Biah strode onto the tent skins and used both hands to plant his spear point in the closest hummock. With a gasp and a groan, the Syrian collapsed. As Biah planted his spear in more wiggling lumps, mop-up crews slashed more tent ropes and speared dozens of shifting, moaning bulges.

A mound crawled to the door of a flattened tent and into Biah’s path as a mop-up trooper chasing Syrians nudged Biah aside. The crawling Syrian glanced up as the trooper dashed past and jammed his spear neatly between the man’s ribs.

Bleary-eyed Syrians wearing linen tunics and red turbans stumbled out of a large tent in front of Biah. Officers. They weaved along the narrow alley between tents, but the captain of a mop-up crew strode up behind the slowest and stabbed him in the lung. He toppled the Syrian into the grass and stepped aside for his crew to pick off the more speedy officers.

Biah pulled the tent door open. A full size wineskin stood on a low serving tray, and wine cups littered the floor. He chuckled. So that’s why only a few hundred troops came out to meet them and why they fought so poorly.

Biah and a platoon burst through to the far side of the camp. Chariots. Thousands of battle wagons parked in neat rows waited for the horses who grazed at their tethers on the other side of the camp.

The platoon captain turned to Biah. “Shall we take them to back to Samaria?”

First we chase down every Syrian. When we have them all safely dead, we go to Fort Jezreel and get troops to take charge of these chariots and their horses.” Biah eyed the fleet of chariots. “Many, many troops.”

Here you are, Biah!” Ahab jogged up. “Where’s Ben-hadad?” He wiped his spear on the grass. “This fight isn’t over until we have their king.”

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