Obadiah angled away from Jeph and reached for the knots bunching into pain in his neck. Attack with a few bodyguards from the boonies? Without chariots? The Lord had to understand battle tactics better than that. Maybe Jeph only thought he heard from the Lord.
Biah had hoped the Lord told Jeph how to get out of Ben-hadad’s trap. He seemed like such a good boy, sent from Didi and Gera, two excellent judges of character. And from the moment he bounced in, Biah liked him, trusted him.
Biah covered his face with his hands. His gut reaction to people had never failed him. But Jeph was a nice boy who bubbled his own dreams. “Thank you, Jeph. We’ll… um… the king will need to—”
“Never forget it.” Biah joined him at the corner.
Ahab turned to him, ramrod straight, with a gleam in his eye.
Biah stiffened and stepped back. What had happened to the Ahab who closed his eyes and held his head in his hands? Had Biah missed key words in Jeph’s message? He cocked his head at Ahab and pinched his eyebrows together. “What are you thinking?
Ahab leaned his shoulder into Biah. “Remember how my dad formed the attack?”
“Ahab, those were your father’s elite troops, trained and—”
“No time, Biah. We go with what we’ve got.” He glanced at Jeph. “Stay by my side, young man.”
Chin up, Ahab sniffed the breeze and flared his nostrils like a battle horse. “Old Samson didn’t die pushing a mill stone, and I don’t intend to die hiding in a corner.”
Biah forgot to breath. For one brief moment, the barrel chest of Lavan rippled beneath him and Shochar thundered at their side.
Horse and rider faded as Ahab took the stairs two at a time, knees pumping, Jeph at his side.
Biah sucked in a lungful of air and followed with Gera. They stood at the top of the stairs while Ahab led Jeph into the center of the seventy elders.
Rooftop conversation ceased as eyes turned to Ahab and then to Jeph rocking on his toes.
Ahab paused a pace in front of Jamin of Shechem. “Honorable Jamin. Esteemed elders. This young man”—he propelled Jeph forward by the elbow—“says the Lord told him the bodyguards of the elders would defeat the Syrians.”
A buzz set up, and heads turned toward Jeph and Ahab. Then eyebrows raised toward Jamin.
Biah leaned forward.
Jamin used his stout cane to pull himself to his feet. “My king. Many young men would like us to believe they read the Lord’s mind, don’t you know?” He rotated and peered over his hands on the top of the cane. “Why should we listen to this particular youngster?”
Biah suppressed a groan. Jeph bounced too high for old Jamin’s approval.
Jeph let his heels settle.
The elder wore a dark grey beard and a light grey tunic. Wrinkles spread from the corners of his eyes like sun rays shooting over the mountains of Gilead. He spread his legs and let his arms dangle at his sides as he looked into the eyes of several fellow elders. “All of us in Geba have known this young man since he was a pup. He works early and late tending his family’s fruit trees. His words are true to the teachings of Moses.” He turned and faced Ahab. “But they offend the prophets of Asherah, so he had to go into hiding.”
Biah sucked in a quick breath. What would they think of offending and hiding? Elders scratched their beards and grunted, their eyes focused on the speaker.
The elder in the black turban met the eyes of several elders and then of Jamin. “In Geba we listen to him.” He sat down.
Jeph stood tall, but with his heels stuck to the rooftop.
Elders murmured. Some raised their eyebrows or pursed their lips.
“What do you guards have to say?” Jamin scanned the edge of the roof where young men sat next to the parapet. Their simple tunics and kaffiyehs still bore the color of the sheep which donated the wool. They wore black or brown beards. Each man had a sword, a shield, and a spear.
Three guards sat next to a circle of polished chestnuts and flipped nuts into the circle. Two knelt with their elbows planted on the parapet and their hands locked in arm wrestling. One did push-ups. Most guards watched the discussion, their attention fixed on Jamin.
When Jamin asked his question, many guards glanced at each other and pushed away from the parapet.
Biah stroked his chin. Maybe old Jamin knew what he was doing.
One guard fixed a solemn stare on Jeph and took a stride forward.
Jeph’s shoulders straightened.
The guard turned his gaze to Jamin. “Jeph’s family lives next to mine in Geba. I’ll fight.” He held his spear straight up with the butt propped on the rooftop by his feet. He narrowed his eyes and gave a sharp dip of the head toward Jeph.
The elders raised their eyebrows and craned their necks around at the other guards.
Two stepped up next to Jeph’s neighbor. Then three more. A moment later, every bodyguard took two strides forward, planted his spear by his foot, and lifted his chin toward Ahab.
Jeph’s head shot back.
Elders widened their eyes and opened their mouths in silence.
“And no time to teach them your style of ‘thrust and parry.’”
“But enough time to select the best.” Ahab spread his feet and raised his chin and his voice toward the guards. “I need twelve fighters with me to drive a wedge into the Syrians. Show me who you are with one stride forward.”
Thirty-seven guards stepped out from the group.
Jeph allowed his heels one quick bounce.
Ahab scowled and thrust his head forward. “Every one of us has to kill our man or we leave a hole for the Syrians. I want only the best.”
Three guards—and then nine more—took another stride forward.
Ahab curled his arm in the air. “You twelve. Come with me to the terrace.” Ahab held Biah’s wrist in the air. “Biah will show you others your formations.” He turned to Biah. “Ten men to each wing, remember?”
Biah grinned. “Like Dibon. Got it.”
“And, Biah, as soon as you have your wings ready, get with the officers on the plaza. They lead the mop-up.”
“Same as Dibon.”
Ahab and Biah bumped elbows.