17. Forgettable Ye

They had called him many things. The men of his tribe called him chieftain, the women called him lord. They called him the Lion of Monoah, Those he had conquered called him The Son of the Sun, and knew better than to look upon him, for he would tear out their eyes, and leave them as slaves even unto their own people.

He was tall, and he was strong, and his parents, in their bonds, had told of the prophecy that had brought with him. They spoke of an angel of the lord who had burned their sacrifices and told them that they would carry a piece of the sun in their blood. They spoke of these things, from within a chamber of wooden bars, their son having claimed the land around them. The Judge of Israel, the mighty conqueror, the vanquisher of the Philistines. And the Amalekites. And the Hitties, and the Jebusites, and the Jezereelites, and the Danites, and the Korhemmites, and every other tribe large enough to have a name.

He roamed the land as a man of a gang, heading up an army that seemed to be as much about watching him in his terrifying displays as they were about helping him fight. More often than anything, they formed a ring around others, to keep them from fleeing, and waited until their prince and monster killed everyone who dared come close. You fought your way out of their circle, or you fought the beast, and died.

This was the creature into whose life Delilah married.

Being the second wife of a general and a monster was a dangerous proposition, even moreso when he seemed to have no idea of what a wife was actually for. Of course, he had been told many things, euphemistically, but she knew ignorance when it walked into her tent. Their wedding night had been quiet and tense, with her sleeping on the ground underneath his shadow, while he, exhausted with his revels and steeped deep in Caananite wine, fell face-first into the pillows and simply snored. Bare skin but for that glorious mane of hair, twined about with yellow strands of hair taken from the body of a lion, he slumbered, with no interest in the pleasures of a woman.

When she had been given by her parents to the Lion of Monoah, it had been at the behest of a mother terrified of her own life and a father certain that he could barter to his advantage. A wise move – while his territory was expanding, his patience was not, and he had killed many of their neighbours that owned land. Giving Delilah to him had been a wisdom and a curse in the one gesture.

Make no mistake, she was given. Even in the nights in the tents, while the Sun And Shield strode the battlefields, sending his men home and charging through ranks of foes to beat them with bones, she railed against that gift. Stone knives in the servants’ areas were hers as well, even if she wasn’t allowed to touch them. She was not to talk to her husband except when he was at rest, and she was not to leave the areas marked by her tents. In essence, Delilah had stopped being owned by her father, and moved on to being owned by a madman.

Strange to her that a man so primal had so little interest in her body, as she had originally feared. But as the weeks of the marriage wended on, and her nights grew longer, she began to feel safe, and comfortable in her silent place on the floor. It was a hard life, but every night she saw him fall face-down on the cushions with the heat of the desert on him and the blood of others on his hands, and smile as she realised that an ugly duty she had always feared would not fall upon her.

In this safety, Delilah grew bold.

The question that started it all had been innocuous-sounding, but it had been structured with so much care that it was wielded with more grace than if she had taken up one of the knives.

“Tell me,” she asked, leaning forwards and rubbing her hands across the musculature of his shoulder, huge swells of meat that brought to her mind the flanks of cows, “my husband. From whence does your strength come?”

He laughed into the pillow at that. Nobody asked that question of him; he was a man ten hands tall and six wife at the shoulder. He could lift a cart over his head and he could run through the desert for a day without water. He was more than everything any other man had ever been, or at least, any man he had heard of in the valley – why would he ever care to hear at all about the question of why?

“Perhaps,” he said, shifting underneath Delilah, raising himself up to allow her another portion of his frame to oil, “It is my piety. I am, after all, a Nazirite.”

She had seen him reach into the faces of his slaves and tear their eyes out. She had seen him burn temples, and ravage rivers. She had seen him standing in burning fields, walking through the flames, without fear or shame, and yet he thought of himself as pious.

Delilah was a woman given to observing rather than acting, a woman of poor education but a nimble mind. Not once had she ever suspected her husband of being wise – but it was not until this moment that she realised she dealt with a child. An enormous, violent, unnaturally strong child.

Why did not matter anymore. What mattered was what he believed.

And that was it. That was all it took. An admission, an insight. That night, as he steeped himself once more in his horns of wine, she slid to the servant’s quarters, and pressed a servant into a silent promise.

History would remember the servant’s actions less than Delilah’s; many would claim it was Delilah who had cut his hair. Delilah could not wield the blade – she had the will, but not the opportunity. She could not bring the blade to the bedroom, for she had to be in place on the ground, asleep, before her husband fell into his dreams.

The servant took the knife, raised the blade, and cut his locks, one after another. Smooth golden lion’s mane fell down out of his face and onto the bed, each braided strip tumbling down onto his face and leaving barely a whisper of a reaction across his scarred and scraped features.

The servant took his hair; but it was Delilah’s voice, spoken softly into the soil, deep and sonorous, into the ear of the sleeping giant, that told him what it meant. She spoke to him, month after month, shaping his dreams with her words, words repeated while he woke, in innocent ways, and shaped the pathways in the mountainous man’s mind.

The Son of the Sun woke up, bald, and weak. Three philistine men were there, holding his hair. What happened after that, Delilah did not know, but she was sure that it was a simple story with a bloody, unhappy end. Her husband had been an idiot, but she had not – and so, with his strength gone, and his enemies coming, she fled the camp – leaving behind servants with lies and myths about silver shekels.

Let them think her a whore for a monster who had felled a great being by circumventing the rules of god. Let them think her something far less than she was – a woman who had convinced a sleeping giant that she was god.

Closing her hands, as she walked out into the desert, she reflected down on the soft-woven golden hair that lay in her own braids, a crown around her head. Maybe history would remember her, but she doubted it. Stories were about men and their lives, their failings and their losses. Perhaps…

… Perhaps, if she wanted to make a story about herself, she should see about convincing the world that she was a man. Perhaps a new name that spoke of golden hands and having taken Israel’s judge from them.

Hm.

Bendan.

That would do, for now. And she threw her head back in the desert, and roared at the sun – which trembled at the strength that she had found within her. A strength that had found its first knot in a long, storied pattern.

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