September 05, 2005

Chapter 19

Dawn was breaking, and the Army of God was stirring. On the monitor, Jacob watched the men gathering in the tent while a messenger ran down the hill to the wagons below. A few flakes of snow were falling again, swirling in the early morning breezes.

Miriam knocked on the door and entered.

"Anything exciting?" she asked.

"Mostly peaceful," said Jacob. "A messenger just went down from the top to the wagons, but that's all so far. Otherwise, just the same camp fire and sentry."

"Are you going to be able to go out as an observer after spending all night watching here?"

"I figure I'll be up all night tonight anyway, if the city's ready, or tomorrow night probably. So as long as I sleep today, it's probably better."

Miriam shook her head. "You can head off to sleep if you want now. Just let me get some juice and toast from the cafeteria. Want any?"

Jacob nodded.


Matthew woke up in the chair again. Gregory's visions were insane but infectious. Matthew couldn't decide if he'd been right or wrong not to tell Gregory when John came back into the city during the last raid. He'd been convinced it was right at the time, but now he wondered. Of course, if John hadn't been around, the farmers would still be outside the walls and probably slaughtered, so John had definitely redeemed himself.

But maybe - Matthew was definitely going to have to keep an eye on himself, as Gregory had warned.


Miriam came back with food and drink, and sat down with Jacob.

"Anything new?"

"It's still awfully quiet. Wait - there goes the messenger back up the hill."

The raiders' camp was stirring, its ten occupants moving toward the central tent carrying bags while two of them carried a box into the tent.

"Something's up. Miriam, could you get the elders?"

She'd already left the room, on her way. The elders filed in a few minutes later, some still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes.

"What's going on, Jacob?" asked Leah.

"All of the men in the top camp went into the central tent. They were carrying a lot of stuff."

A few minutes later, the tent flap opened and a procession stepped out. Leading the procession was a man carrying a horn, in robes with a golden square hanging on his chest. The next six men also carried horns and were similarly dressed in robes, with colorful layers and a blue sash holding the outfit together. Behind them another two men dressed normally, carrying a large wooden box, largely covered with furs, followed by one man in the raiders' usual clothing, brandishing a gun.

"Jericho," said several people at once.

Leah stood up, saying "Call the guard. Let him know the city faces an enemy who thinks God is on their side."


Andrew and Helena had seen the same strange scene, and Andrew made certain Helena knew how important the farmers thought the situation was before she called on Matthew.

She found Matthew alone in the hallway on his way to the council meeting, pulling him aside before anyone else had realized he was there.

"We have something very strange," she began.

"Strange with us, or with the raiders, or with the farmers?"

"The raiders mostly, and I hope it stays that way, but the farmers are very concerned." She explained the situation briefly.

"Utter nonsense. All right, go up and ask the farmers why the raiders are acting so strange, and what we need to do about it. Preferably nothing."


Helena stepped out of the hospital elevator, nearly crashing into Abner. "This way," he said, escorting her to the conference room.

"We're glad you're here," began Judith. "The raiders mean to use God to tear the city walls down."

"The raiders are doing what?"

"We know why they had that ceremony yesterday. They needed to purify someone so that they would be able to carry the ark around the city."

"Carry what? An ark? Why?"

Daniel stood up and opened his Bible. "This might help," he said, cleared his throat, and began reading.

"Joshua, six-three. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him."

"Compass the city? What does that -"

"It means they plan to walk around the city with this ark of theirs, probably today."

"But they can't - they'd just get electrocuted. The forest's right up against the wall in places too."

"Maybe," started Miriam. Everyone's eyes turned to her.

"Well, it'll take seven days for them to complete the cycle. The city's planning to go out tonight or tomorrow night. Maybe they should let the raiders go around the city today."

Jacob was looking at her very strangely. "Why?" he asked.

"So that they'll be overconfident. If they think their plan is working, and they're following their Bible closely, they'll probably let down their guard."

"I'll ask," said Helena with a grim look on her face.


Catherine scowled as Helena explained Miriam's plan. The raiders would expect their project to take seven days, so there might be an advantage to letting them start it. The defenses were hard to destroy anyway, and many of them were concealed in the walls, so even letting them walk around the wall wouldn't provide them with much information.

"This is some kind of trick," said Catherine. "The farmers want the defenses down, when the defenses help us defend against them. And how do we even know the 'Army of God' isn't a group of their friends?"

"This is all stranger than I imagined possible," said Matthew. "I know it isn't comfortable to take the farmers' word for it, but I have two reasons why we should." He looked at Catherine.

"First, I checked on that quote the farmers gave about the sacrifice. It checks out perfectly with the Bible in Gregory's study. I'll check this one too, but suspect the farmers can read."

"You've read the Bible?" asked Catherine, her face glowing red. "Don't you know -"

"Yes, yes, I know Catherine. It's forbidden. Except, according to Gregory's notes, to the leader. And I think even Gregory would have opened it to check a quote."

Catherine folded her arms across her chest and sat back.

"Second, I found a notice from [name] that they had exiled the Army of God, and that it might be coming our direction."

Catherine was on her feet. "But Gregory never said anything - "

"Sit down, Catherine," said Matthew. "Sit down." She sat.

"I have the message in my chambers, and I'm perfectly happy to share this with you, even though Gregory apparently didn't see fit to share it with me, whose department had responsibility for these issues, or with any of you."

Matthew turned to Helena. "Which farmer came up with this?"

"Miriam did."

"Tell Miriam she had a good idea, and we'll turn off the outer defenses immediately unless they try to come over the wall. When you get back, check in on the targetshooting training and see if we can get them out tonight. I don't feel like waiting seven days to test the Army of God's latest theory."

Posted by simon at September 5, 2005 10:07 PM
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