The full book Ephron Son of Zohar is available free as ebook on all online retailers but here is Chapter One to whet your appetite.
Breakfast at Hattus
“Wake up, Ephron. There won’t be anything left if you don’t hurry.” A female voice penetrated Ephron’s groggy consciousness as he rolled over.
“We didn’t get anything hunting yesterday,” said Ephron. “I’d rather sleep than eat yesterday’s stew. Nothing but vegetables.” He didn’t move until … “Ow! What was that for?”
This time he opened his eyes and looked through the darkness. One of his sisters had just poked him. He wasn’t sure which in the dim light and sleep-fog. “Hey, that’s my spear.”
“It’s not the pointy end. And I made you some bread. Well, not just for you. But anyway, there’s bread.” She came up to his bunk. “A dragon came by this morning. It was only a little one, so you better hurry or there won’t be anything left.”
Ephron sat up like he was stabbed and jumped out of the sturdy leather hammock which served as his bed. “Okay, but first I need to change.”
“Into what? Poof. My brother is going to be a dragon.”
His brother Akiia’s bed below him was already locked into the wall. The room was made entirely of large, smooth stones; walls, floor, and ceiling. Large timber beams ran from the inner to the outer wall at four-cubit intervals to support the ceiling. The individual stones fit without a trace of the cracks between them in the near-darkness. The long hall for the unmarried men had a dozen and a half wall notches for hammocks in the stone, all on the same wall. Hooks filled the other walls, hung with an orderly array of personal belongings, tools, weapons, changes of entirely leather clothes, shoes, garments, and various items whose purposes were difficult to determine. The many skins, mostly deer, antelope, and gazelle, insulated the floor and walls as throw rugs and wall hangings. They were the only signs of creature comforts.
“I will be so glad when you get married,” said Ephron.
“You’ll just have to wait. I’m not even twenty. And maybe we’ll still live in this very room.”
“Sisters!” Ephron pushed her through the massive doorway and closed the well-finished wood door on her. The door was made with thick-sawn cedar and fit perfectly into the smooth stone frame. The heavy door closed with a whisper of a click as he slid a bolt into the jamb to hold the door closed. The bolt had handles on both sides. This permitted the bolt to slide open from either inside or outside the room. He finished changing just as the door opened again.
“You want this?”
Ephron turned around as his spear whacked him broadside in the chest. He grabbed it with one hand and swung it into place back on its wall hooks.
“You always let Tawananna play with your weapons?”
“Taku?” asked the still-groggy Ephron.
“Come on, brother. There’s dragon in the pot. It was a little one and it’s not going far. If you want any, you’d better hurry.”
As Ephron finished tightening his sandals, the door flew the rest of the way open, bouncing back from the leather doorstops on the wall. Two small children with lanyards draped around their necks, from which hung bowls and spoons, ran into the room.
“Daddy, can we have some more dragon?”
Ephron grabbed the solid and ornately-carved boards of his bed frame. With his left hand he lifted and folded it into a matching notch in the wall while his right hand secured it into place. The tongue and grove of the boards visible on the bottom of the bed frame displayed solid workmanship.
Taku scooped up both children, one in each arm. “Mesha, Sephar, you know the rules. No seconds until everyone gets firsts.”
“Hurry up, uncle Ephron,” begged Mesha, the older of the two.
Ephron grabbed the leather lanyard next to his bed and his bronze bowl, cup, and wooden spoon came along. Unlike the ornate bowls and cups of his nephews, Ephron’s utensils were plain and smooth. As soon as he looped the plain lanyard over his head, Mesha and Sephar jumped down from their father’s arms. Each child grabbed an arm and pulled Ephron through the door. The wooden spoon clapped with a loud echo against the bronze bowl and drinking cup.
The bright sun blinded Ephron as he walked through the doorway. He could sense rather than see dozens of eyes on him as he walked across the grass commons to the tiled courtyard where a large, half-filled bronze pot bubbled. The smells of animals more than two bowshots away from the living quarters were more than overwhelmed by the smell of baked bread, wood smoke and meat stew. The autumn sun had just begun to peek over the top of the outer stone wall.
“How’s the night watchman?”
“Mom.” Ephron hugged and kissed her on the top of her uncovered black hair, which still had only a few strands of gray.
“Hold out your bowl,” said his mother. “Then everyone else can get seconds.”
Ephron took the leather lanyard off of his neck, detached the spoon and cup and held out his bowl as his sister filled it. Mesha and Sephar each handed him a large round loaf of bread with the top ripped off.
“We have already made a thank offering to Adonai,” said Zohar, his father, as dozens of family members lined up for more food.
Ephron sat on one of the many backless wood benches, folded his hands and, looking up, offered his own prayer. The stone roof made this a large porch with a stone floor, which contrasted with the grass and dirt of most of the courtyard. As he began to eat, his parents sat down across from him. Tawananna, the sister who had so rudely awakened him, filled his cup with water and sat next him. Taku sat next to their parents and several other brothers stood around.
“Gazelle are coming,” said Zohar. “Thousands, probable even tens of thousands.”
Ephron looked each of his brothers in the eye. “That is good, but that is not why you are standing here. May I guess that Gilgamesh’s men follow the gazelle?”
“I told you Ephron would know what to do,” said Taku.
“Knowing what is going to happen is easy,” said Ephron. “Knowing what to do about it, now that is another matter.”
“They are lazy,” said Zohar.
“They let you notice a few of their men, probably only three or four, no more than a half dozen,” said Ephron. “They want us to think there are not enough men to be concerned with. What they want is for someone else to do the hard work of slaughtering the animals, tanning the hides, and preparing the meat for winter. Then they will come with thousands of men and take the meat we have prepared for our families for the winter.”
“But there are more of them this year,” said their mother Nebajoth.
“More gazelle or more of Gilgamesh’s men?” asked Ephron?
“Both,” said Taku. “We met one of Uncle Anah’s hunting parties yesterday. The leader told me that Gilgamesh’s men are fighting each other.”
“That certainly does not surprise me,” said Tawananna. “Greed always works that way.”
“They also told me that they could not talk to Gilgamesh’s men,” said Taku.
“Taku! Don’t sit on the table!” Turning to Ephron, their mother, Nabajoth, continued. “I have always been afraid it would come to this. Were any of our relatives hurt? Did the strangers attack?”
Taku shook his head. “That is not what they meant, mother. They meant that they could not talk to them.”
“You mean,” asked Zohar, “that they would not get close enough to speak?”
“No father,” said Dumu. “We were with Taku. The men from Anah said that when the men of Gilgamesh spoke, the sounds coming out of their throats were not words. They all had the same kind of sounds coming out of their throats, but they could not understand the men of Anah. But the men of Gilgamesh could understand each other.”
“What did the men of Gilgamesh do?” asked Ephron.
“The sons of Anah were all on horseback, with shields, swords, and spears. Some even had bows, and there were nearly a hundred of them,” said Taku. “There were only about a half-dozen men of Gilgamesh. The sons of Anah said that Gilgamesh’s men got angry and began screaming, but still no one could understand them. After listening to the screaming for a few minutes, the sons of Anah began laughing at them and men of Gilgamesh left.”
“Father,” asked Ephron, “do you mind if I go to the sons of Anah myself?”
“Did the sons of Anah tell you about the gazelle?” asked Tawananna.
“No,” said Dumu. “We learned about the gazelle from a caravan going down to Yadiya.”
“We will miss your skills in hunting today,” said Zohar to Ephron.
“Can I come with you?” Tawananna asked Ephron. She wrapped her arms around her brother and batted her eyes.
“Please,” said Adah, wife of Taku. “Give us a day of peace. Besides, you might find a nice warrior husband for her.”
Ephron looked at Taku and shook his head no. “They are also sons of Heth,” said Nabajoth. “Adah might have a good idea. Tawananna is quite good with a horse.”
“And a bow,” said Tawananna.
“I see that we are outnumbered,” said Zohar. “You do know that your mother actually runs this family?”
“And it seems as if Tawananna rules over her mother,” said Taku.
Ephron swallowed the last of his bread, drank the last of his water, stood up, and pulled his sister up beside him. He wiped his bowl, spoon, and cup clean, and put them on a hook next to his bunk.
The rest of the family watched as they readied their horses. They put large pieces of soft goatskin on the horse’s backs first. Their simple leather saddles only had smooth seats and two straps to bind the seats to the horses. They led the horses over to a set of steps so they could mount the animal more easily. They each strapped an awkward but portable step behind their saddles in case the need arose to mount the horse somewhere without a mounting step. The small saddlebags had only water and very few provisions, since they planned to return before sunset. Their uncle could provide them with an afternoon meal.
“Father,” said Taku. “Ephron is doing your job. You should be talking to the sons of Anan, not Ephron.”
Zohar looked at Taku without speaking. Realizing their father was not going to answer, Dumu put his hand on his brother’s shoulder.
“That was a very small dragon,” said Dumu. “Let’s go. There’s nothing for dinner tonight.”
The men motioned to their brothers. Everyone rose to get their hunting spears, shields, knives, bows and straps.
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Michael J. Findley