Chapter 57: The Stones Cry Out
Alexandra turned to Egan and Balaam as they topped the third terrace. The ruins of market kiosks and wagons lay around them. “They’ll bring more troops, I have no doubt of that. We can slow their progress with this debris, perhaps long enough to bottleneck them before they reach the square above, long enough for Avery to do what he needs to do. Help me block up the stairs from here, as fast as you can.”
The three quickly moved to push the rubble and wreckage into a huge pile that blocked a large portion of the stairs leading downward. She looked at Balaam, as the donkey struggled to push a cart into place with his head. “Your hooves are spry but pushing wreckage is not your forte. I’ll need the horn now.”
The donkey moved closer to her and Alexandra opened his side satchel. Next to the scroll was the green conch shell horn. She grabbed it.
“Take the scroll upwards, if any of them live to see the day . . . if the boy lives, give it to him. Samuel would’ve wanted that.”
The donkey gazed at her for a moment and then quietly moved up the stairwell. Egan cleared his throat. “On any other day I would’ve said that was an odd send-off.”
“On any other day we wouldn’t be here,” Alexandra said, smiled, and turned to the makeshift barricade at the stairs’ edge. Three wooden carts were overloaded with hay, barrels, and timber. They swayed precariously at the lip of the stairs. “Will they burn?”
Egan studied the carts for a moment. “They might, enough to scatter anyone who gets in their way, or yours.” Egan walked to a lone torch, fixed to the far wall of the terrace. He pulled it from its sconce, then peered over the outer edge to the harbor far below. Troops were already making their way up the steps.
“They’ll be here soon. You’ll want to sound your horn. We can make a go of it until Avery brings it all down on us.”
Alexandra shook her head. “He’ll bring it down on me, Egan. My father still needs help up there and Balaam is no fighter.” She took the torch from Egan’s hands.
“Alex, I can’t let you do this alone,” Egan shook his head. “I need you. I mean . . .” Egan stammered. “The kingdom . . . needs you, we all do.”
“Egan – “Alexandra smiled as she realized she’d made the decision without panic, without even a thought. Success or failure no longer mattered. The mask of strength that she cowered behind had become part of her spine, holding her up to face the darkness. “If my life buys Gilead a moment longer or saves even one soul, it will be worth the price,”
“I wish we’d had more time, truly, my liege.” Egan saluted her.
They held each other’s gaze.
The echo of the Amorites’ feet drawing closer broke the moment.
“As do I,” she replied and turned to face her fate.
* * * * * * * *
Egan crept into the cobblestone plaza, blade drawn. His mouth dropped. The majestic square he had tried to save only a day before, now was in ruins. Fire burned across the archway leading to the market street, the homes that once lined the square were shattered and strewn like the bones of some great animal. Black smoke hung low in the sky. Pillaging and fighting had transformed the once elegant square into a burning pit. Far to one side, he spied Balaam, cowering among the wreckage of the burned shops and broken fountain, and there in the center of it all, stood Molek, dangling the king’s lifeless body over his cheering comrades.
The hairs on Egan’s neck stood on end.
“Molek!” he cried.
The giant paused and turned. A wicked smile spread across his lips. He tossed the king’s body aside as he strode forward. The Amorites around him watched on, eager to witness another death.
“My trophy has arrived,” Molek growled, clenching his fist around his club.
Egan ran forward, his sword aimed at Molek’s legs. The giant easily moved and kicked him to the side. Egan crumpled to the ground and turned to see Molek’s face over him, laughing. Egan stood again and swung his weapon at the monster. Molek again dodged the attack and laughed. Egan knew the abomination was toying with him. He swung his sword a third time and Molek caught the blade in his hand. The sword cut deep into the giant’s palm, drenching it with his blood. He took the hit without a cry, wrapped his huge fingers around the blade, and wrenched it from Egan’s hands, squeezing it until it cracked and shattered. He shook the pieces of it from his bleeding hand as though it were a splinter, then raised his club up above Egan’s head.
In an instant, the ground shook and Molek staggered to the side. A rocky spire erupted from the cobblestone, directly below the giant’s feet, and threw him back. His eyes widened as the granite spire opened and a boy walked out from its recesses.
Colin looked around at the devastation and the encircling enemies. He turned to Egan, who was struggling to stand.
“You? How, where did you . . .?” Egan started.
“I’m here to help,” Colin said simply as he offered his hand to the chief.
“Get out man! Can’t you see we’ve lost? I can’t protect you!” Egan cried as he saw Molek move behind the boy. Colin glanced back at the giant for a second before turning again to Egan. “Egan, if a boulder marks a man’s path, he only needs to ask for stronger hands to move it.”
Molek howled and raced towards the pair. The ground rumbled again and a second huge stone spire erupted from the earth. The granite reformed into a hand and grabbed hold of Molek, tossing the giant into a burning archway.
Bloodied and battered, Molek steadied himself as he looked up at the great stone form looming over him, and for the first time, Egan saw fear in the abomination’s eyes.