Chapter 13: An Old Woman's Offering
Even without cattle, Eli and Sarai were making the most of what they had. They didn’t give up believing they could finally live out their dreams for a happy life.
Eli was tending to his sheep, as he always had, when he noticed someone standing at the far end of his land facing towards him. At first, he thought little of it, but the person never moved, only stood and stared. So he made his way over to see who it was.
The closer he got, he could tell it was an old woman; though, the woman’s face was partially concealed.
“Can I help you?” he shouted as he closed the distance.
She said not a word. She waited. After he arrived he asked again,
“Can I help you? Are you looking for someone?”
“Yes, looking, yes,” she said strangely and with an odd voice, “Who, indeed, you in fact…yes, you.”
“Do I know you? My name is…”
“Eli, yes, but you know me not. Not yet.”
“And how, may I ask, do you know me?”
“I sensed a desire in you. It was small and quick, but enough to get my attention, enough.”
“You wish to be rid of your current unpleasantries, rid them all. Have comfort. Raise a family with more on your plates, more mouths to feed.”
“It wouldn’t be difficult to assume this, my home and possession aren’t much to look at, but I’m sorry, you are mistaken. I am content with what I have and dare not change it. I wouldn’t want to risk happiness for my family.”
“Be that as it may, I trust my senses, I trust. There is something more you seek, perhaps not at this moment, not this, but you will come back around to it.”
Eli was losing his patience with her.
“Although, you are simply near my land, know you are not welcome on it. I must be going.”
“Before you go,” she said, stopping him from turning around, “here is what I am offering.”
She extended her hand out towards him revealing a fig in her palm.
“What is this?” he asked.
“Take this, you must both eat from it, both of you, and you will have life to the full, have your fill.”
“That is nonsense!”
Eli turned once more and looked towards his home. He could see there was some commotion. Fear struck him immediately and he started to run. The closer he got, the more it was clear what was happening.
There was a struggle. He screamed out. There was nothing he could do, but scream out. He saw his in-laws struck down as they battled two men, one holding Sarai. He could hear her screaming, screaming out for him.
Before his arrival, they threw her on one of the horses. He recognized the men. They were soldiers in the king’s army, the same ones from before. Having already taken his cattle, they had come back for Sarai.
He was too late. They were gone. The horror unfolded before him and he could do nothing about it.
He noticed his father in-law struggling, dying before him. In his last breaths, he spoke to Eli.
“They said…she belongs to the king now. Don’t…don’t let her go. Whatever you do…don’t let her go.”
His father in-law died there in his arms. He did not have any horses, but he knew the longer he did nothing the more danger Sarai faced.
“Yes, my senses are right, my senses,” the old woman spoke as she was now, suddenly, standing behind Eli.
He was too preoccupied in thought to give a response to the old woman.
“If it is a horse you seek,” she began, “a fast horse, I have plenty.”
“Yes! Please!” she now had Eli’s attention, “I beg you. Lend me a horse so I may rescue my wife.”
“The horse will be here shortly, on my call, here. But first, your desire is great. So much pain before…this life, yours, hers. And now? Yes, now it is still. Perhaps there is more for you, more? I have helped many, such as you.”
“Thank you for your kindness. For now, I simply require a horse.”
“Yes, require, yet, you still desire more. Perhaps you save your wife from the soldiers or the king, but it will not end there, will not. There will be more, more struggle and pain.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“What is it you seek? I will give you all I have for your horse.”
“Boy, have you not heard me? There is more which I can offer, more than a horse. I offer your desire. To live a life of wealth and no worries, or a life of struggle?”
“That is impossible. Please, I just need your horse.”
Through his desperation, Eli considered briefly killing the old woman if just to take her horse, should it arrive.
“Yes, such desire,” she started, now with excitement in her voice, “but you cannot kill me not by your hands, cannot.”
The old woman then gave a shrieking laugh. The sky had quickly grown overcast. It drew black. The old woman rose in the air, carried by some invisible force. Eli fell to his knees trembling.
“What are you?” he asked.
“What matters is what I can do for you, matters. You may have doubted before, but now you have seen my power.”
“Yes, I see.”
“Without my help you can make it to the castle in three days time, exhausted, little fight left. You may be too late, too weak. However, if you want to save her, your wife, tonight, it is a heavy price. Much to consider.”
“Whatever it takes! With all my heart, if you can provide what you say, I will give you whatever you ask.”
The old woman smiled and enjoyed her moment.
“Take this,” she said, handing him a fig, “both of you must share a bite, share. It will make you strong for your journey, protect you. You will surely not die. It will be your food for your travel, no hunger. And you must have her take a bite, she must. All the land will be yours, all. You must take it, you will be King and your name alone will rule, you.”
Eli didn’t hesitate any longer. He took a bite and he immediately felt rejuvenated, refreshed. The horse had finally arrived and he mounted it, riding off as fast as the horse was capable, ready to give his life to save the woman he loved.