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Historical Fiction Friendship Adventure

This story contains sensitive content

Content warning: Mentions of death


โ€œOh, that someone would give me a drink from the cistern that is by the gate of Bethlehem!โ€


Shammahโ€™s eyes darted up at the words. David was looking disconsolately at the contents of his water jug. The ruddy-haired young man had spoken before about how good the water from the cistern at the gate of his hometown tasted.ย 


He went back to eating his meal, but an idea had been planted in Shammahโ€™s mind. By the time he got up, a plan had sprouted like a bean blossom. He kept an eye on where two particular men headed after the meal.ย 


โ€œIshbaal!โ€ย 


The man turned back to see who had called to him.โ€Shammah?โ€


โ€œWe need to get Eleazar. Thereโ€™s something I need the two of you for.โ€


โ€œNeed us?โ€ Knowing sparked in Ishbaalโ€™s eyes. โ€œBoth of us particularly?โ€ย 


โ€œYes,โ€ Shammah said, keeping his expression solemn.ย 


Ishbaal hurried after the last member of the trio. โ€œEleazar!โ€


Not long after, the three set out from the cave of Adullam with shields hanging on their backs and weapons in hand. Eleazar and Shammah carried naked swords, while Ishbaal carried a spear. In his other hand, Ishbaal held a water jug.ย 


The sound of the encampment died away as the trio headed west. Despite their reputations as individuals and as a group, they probably wouldnโ€™t be missed until it was too late to stop them.ย 


With his spear, Ishbaal had slain many of his peopleโ€™s enemies, the Philistines, single-handedly in one battle. Everyone else had fled, but he did not, and when the rest had returned for him, there were three hundred bodies to be stripped.ย 


Eleazar had also been abandoned during a fierce fight. He had kept on fighting his enemies for so long that when there were finally no more to kill, his hand was cramped around his sword hilt. A fellow warrior had to pry his fingers free.ย 


Shammah had done his great deed in a field of lentils in Lehi. Philistines put the rest of the army to flight, but he went only as far as the lentil field before he stopped and held his ground. Shin-deep in the green stalks that were quickly trampled down, he fought off his enemies until there were no more to defend himself from.ย 


The Three, they were called. They had fought as part of the army of King Saul, first king of Israel, beside his great warrior David son of Jesse of Bethlehem who, though only a youth, had slain the giant Philistine Goliath of Gath. King Saul had promised freedom from taxes and marriage to his daughter for any man who could kill the Philistine in the single combat offered by the giant. Only David had dared to try, and he had knocked Goliath cold with a single stone from his sling. Then he had run right up to the monster and used Goliathโ€™s own enormous sword to cut off the enemyโ€™s head.ย 


David afterwards killed two hundred Philistine men on his own and brought backโ€ฆa very particular proof of their deaths as the bride price for Michal, King Saulโ€™s second daughter. The price King Saul named was one hundred. Among the men of the army, it was thought that David had been very shrewd in adding an extra hundred to the kingโ€™s number, seeing as the king had already reneged on his promise of his oldest daughter Merabโ€™s hand by giving her to another man. King Saul couldnโ€™t possibly refuse Davidโ€™s right to Michal once heโ€™d gone above and beyond in that way!ย 


Saul did give Michal to David, but soon had another bone to pick with his greatest warrior: he accused his champion of treachery against the royal house.ย 


David escaped out a window and fled to the priests at Nob. Though suspicious, at David's tale of Saul sending him on an urgent mission of utmost importance, the priest Abiatharย gave David the sword of Goliath, which had been kept in Nob as a trophy. He also gave David the Holy Bread, reserved only for priests, once David had reassured him that he had not been with women or been in contact with any unclean thing.


After that, David fled from Saul's wrath, and now he had come to the cave of Adullam, where every day more men were joining his cause. His own brothers and their sons, his nephews, were among them. David's family had spread through the camp the fact that before David slew Goliath, Samuelโ€”the best-known prophet in Israel, and the one who had anointed King Saul and then declared that God had taken the kingship away from himโ€”had anointed David as the next King of Israel. All were waiting for David to make war against the ruler turned tyrant.


Some of the four hundred men who had joined David had grievances against the current king, but others were just angry, worthless rabble looking for trouble. David welcomed any man who came to him, so long as they obeyed whatever rules he set out for them.


The Three left Saul's army after news spread about how Michal had told Saul's personal guards that David was sick, and Saul had responded by ordering that David be brought to him on his sickbed so he could kill him immediately. The story unfortunately had the opposite of the effect Saul wanted on the troops: The Three joined David. It seemed that only Saul truly believed that David would betray him. Even the king's son, Prince Jonathan, was sure David would never raise his hand against his father, even if it meant gaining the kingdom.


Yet David continued to fight the enemies of the entire country, taking his army to battle against the Philistine raiders.


The Three set their course for Bethlehem, where a clan of Philistines were encamped, raiding the harvest fields of the House of Bread. It was an insult to David, the champion against the Philistines, but there were not yet enough men in his private army to drive them away. Interestingly, King Saul had not sent what was left of the royal army to defend his disgraced son-in-law's home.


It was evening by the time The Three covered the thirteen miles to Bethlehem. They waited for darker night to fall and watch fires to be lit before they put their plan into action.


Ishbaal, Eleazar, and Shammah stole through the camp until they reached the cistern. Ishbaal quietly, carefully lowered the cistern's bucket to the water below. Hand over hand, he pulled it up again as Eleazar and Shammah stood behind him with their swords raised. Slowly, Ishbaal poured the water into the drinking jug he'd brought. The noise seemed tremendous, louder than he thought it was possible for pouring water to sound!


Ishbaal finally hefted the jug and turned around, still gripping his spear with his toher hand.


"Do not drop it," Shammah whispered. They picked their way back through the camp of sleeping enemies who would kill them if they woke. Safe on the other side, they turned East, and set out for Adullam to finish their twenty-six mile round trip.


"God forbid that I should do such a thing! Could I drink the blood of these men who risked their lives? For at the risk of their lives they brought it." David was clutching the drinking jug full of the water he had wanted, looking ill. "I pour this out as a sacrifice to the Lord," he finally said, and did so.

June 01, 2024 03:48

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3 comments

Dhwani Jain
16:53 Jun 05, 2024

Hey! How are you? It's been a long time since I was here. I have written a new story (after about 1.5 years). It is really short, not really for the contest, but it is something. Do you mind checking it out?

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07:53 Jun 03, 2024

I think there's a lot of things to be learned from the old stories. Humans really haven't changed at all. I'm wondering if a few "telling" sentences could be added at the start and a few other places to say explicitly what's going on and the emotions the characters are feeling.

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