70 The King is dead

Obadiah stood with Ahab and Jehoshaphat outside Ramoth in Gilead. “Where are your royal robes, my king?”

Ahab tipped his head toward Jehoshaphat. “The king of Judah deserves the glory for the victory we’re about to share. He’ll wear his royal robes from Jerusalem while I fight in the thick of it in disguise.”

Biah looked down. “Victory?” The word felt like a tired old rag. Mikey’s “He’s not coming back” rang in his head and drowned it out. He steeled himself against turning his back on Ahab.

Ahab stepped up into his battle chariot and raised his broadax. “Stick with me, Biah. The old team. Together again.” He dipped his head at Biah and threw him a broad smile.

The three warriors rode into battle. Jehoshaphat, Ahab, and Obadiah. The Syrian chariot captains closed in on Jehoshaphat’s royal colors. But he gave the battle cry of Judah, “The Lord is the helper of David!” and they drifted away. They stood in their chariots and scanned the battle field.

Biah yelled over to Ahab’s chariot. “See that! They’re looking for you, my king.”

Uhn!” Ahab groaned.

The feathers of an arrow protruded from a crack in the armor over Ahab’s chest.

Biah screamed, “My king!” Where did that arrow come from? Some archer must be sending random shots over the troops.

Wheel around. Take him out. He’s hurt.” Biah shouted at Ahab’s driver while he crouched and peeked over his chariot rail.

Biah’s chariot followed Ahab’s to the side of the battle field. He jumped into the chariot and gasped. Right by the heart. Not good. Not good at all. He propped Ahab up. “There. Now sit here and watch us whip Ben-hadad and his whole army.” He held back his tears and gave his old friend a big smile. “You’ll be fine, my king. Just fine.”

Ahab whispered, “Thanks, old friend. Get us a victory.”

Biah’s smile dropped. He stepped back into his chariot, hefted his broadax, and braced his feet. He dabbed at his eyes and nodded to his driver. “Take me in.”

Throughout the afternoon, Biah found moments to duck out of the battle and race his chariot to Ahab. Biah knelt beside him, too near the blood that pooled in his chariot. “They’re giving us a rough time, my king. But we’re makin’ ‘em hurt.”

Often Ahab’s mouth would twitch or his head would move in a tiny nod.

At sundown Biah shouted, “The king is dead!”

The cry echoed through the troops and chariots. “Home. Every man to his town. Every man to his farm!”

Several of Ahab’s chariot fighters drove up.

Rope.” Biah motioned to Ahab’s corpse. “I need something to tie the king in place.”

Use mine.” A fighter tossed a length of rope into the chariot. “I won’t be needing it just yet.”

Biah grabbed it up. “May the Lord see to it that you don’t need it for many years and battles.” He lashed Ahab’s corpse on the deck of his battle wagon up against the rail. “There. The king won’t roll out when we hit a bump or climb out of the river.”

Biah found Jehu’s chariot and leaned his arms on the rail. “I need you and Bidkar to push ahead of us and prepare the burial. No linens. We’ll lay him out in full battle dress. Bring spices. All the right spices. And make sure the royal tomb is open and clean. And the wives and children. You’ll need to let them know.”

Jehu nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Thanks.” Biah slapped the rail as if to go but paused. “Can you ask around about the artist who carved his father’s ossuary? Ahab should have that same design. I’ll need to talk with the artist tomorrow or the next day.”

We’ll do that, sir.” Jehu nodded at Bidkar. “We will.”

Biah swung up into his chariot and called to Ahab’s driver. “Lead the way.”

Ahab’s driver took the road west from Ramoth, and a column of Ahab’s battle chariots followed. All night, the weary warriors walked their battle chargers through Jabesh, across the Jordan River, into Shiloh and onto the ridge road. Finally they entered the Samaria city gate.

Ahab’s seventy children and their twenty-one mothers engulfed his chariot as it stood on the threshing floor. None wore jewelry or cosmetics or sweet-smelling lotions. Some wept.

Jehu approached Biah’s chariot. “The tomb is clean, sir. Bidkar brought the spices. We did not locate the ossuary artist, but we put the word out. He should show up today.”

Good job, Jehu. We’ll use the great hall in the palace to wash the body.”

Biah, Jehu, and Bidkar walked beside Ahab’s chariot to the main door of the palace. The chariot fighters and their drivers followed. And Ahab’s wives and children surrounded them all like a cloud. The three men untied Ahab from his chariot deck and carried him inside.

Jehu and Bidkar held Ahab’s chest while Biah pulled out the arrow. They poured warm water over his body and dried him with linens. Then they rubbed him with spices and dressed him in his clothes and armor from the battle.

Let’s carry him in my chariot.” Biah pointed to five servants. “Please wash the king’s chariot while we lay him in his tomb.”

Jehu lifted Ahab’s torso, Biah his head, and Bidkar his feet. They laid him on the deck of Biah’s chariot and sat with him as the driver took them across the threshing floor, through the gate, and out to the royal tomb. With Ahab’s charioteers, wives, and children watching, Biah, Jehu, and Bidkar laid Ahab’s body on the shelf beside the ossuary containing the bones of King Omri. Biah laid Ahab’s broadax beside his body on his stiff right hand.

Biah trudged back into the plaza and up to the servants who washed Ahab’s chariot. “Not there, men. The town prostitutes bathe in that pool.”

Sorry, sir. But the chariot’s all clean now.” The servant pointed to the sparkly clean deck of the chariot and the pool of blood on the plaza pavers.

As Biah turned toward his chariot. “Gera’s place. We’ll get some sleep before we head for Jezreel.”

Snarls and growls came from behind him, and Elijah’s soft words to Ahab burned in his ears. “The dogs which licked up Naboth’s blood wait for yours.”

Biah paused. His eyes overflowed, and he shook his head. But he refused to turn and watch. He walked slowly to his chariot and stepped in.1

1Suggestions especially welcome in these last paragraphs. Melodramatic? Too subtle? Too cute?

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