Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: A MIGHTY FORTRESS (don't write about the song) (04/23/15)
TITLE: The Citadel
By Graham Keet
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Inside the fortress Eleazar ben Ya’ir, the Zealots’ leader, summoned his thousand odd men and women before him. “Our soldiers on the wall towers estimate that we have another twelve hours before the wall is breached. Our choices are as follows; we can stand and fight, but with only about fifty armed soldiers, we won’t stand a chance. Alternatively, we could surrender, but we know that means a life of slavery and torture; and we have resolved never again to be slaves to anyone but our God. Or …” and here Ben Ya’ir paused and looked slowly around the group, “or we could take our own lives and avoid the humiliation of Roman slavery. Think about it, and we’ll meet in an hour’s time and prepare one way or another.”
Young Reuven, a powerfully built twenty-year-old military captain from the tribe of Gad, held Atara, his betrothed, closely and kissed her on the forehead. “There’s no other way, my beloved. We discussed this at length with Ben Ya’ir and the other leaders. I am prepared to fight to the death with my platoon, but once we’re overcome by sheer force of numbers, our fate would be worse than death, especially for you womenfolk. Everyone will be given a choice, but believe me, there is really only one option.”
An hour later the people gathered together again, and Eleazar explained the way forward. “Anyone who wants to take their chances with the Romans is welcome to do so, but I strongly advise against this. For the rest, we have chosen ten soldiers, all battle trained veterans, who will do the necessary as efficiently as possible. That having been done, Captain Reuven ben Joseph has been chosen by lot to attend to the other nine soldiers. Captain Reuven will then deliver himself into the hands of Yahweh.”
The banging against the wall had started again, and Atara shuddered as she drew close to Reuven. “I wish we were birds that could simply fly off the side of this mountain and disappear into the clouds; it’s not fair that we can’t be together forever.”
Reuven held both her hands and whispered softly. “We’ve had more time together than if we had stayed in Jerusalem; and who knows, perhaps we will fly off together after all.”
Atara lifted her face and Reuven could see the tears flowing down her cheeks. “Can you … is it possible that we die together? Can you do that?”
“If that’s what you want, once I have done my duty with the others, we will fly away together.” He kissed her gently on the lips. “But now the time has come; the people are ready. Wait here for me; ignore what’s going on around you, and instead look out over the Dead Sea and imagine the two of us flying away together, for soon we will be together forever.”
When Reuven returned Atara could see that he too had tears in his eyes. “Some of the fathers chose to attend to their own families; I assisted them – but it was tough. Are you ready?”
“Yes, I am at peace.”
Reuven wedged the handle of his sword firmly in the cleft of a large rock, then lifting Atara onto a stone table above the sword, he stood behind her and held her firmly. Suddenly a victorious cry arose from the Romans as the last part of the wall succumbed to the battering ram. “It’s time to go,” he whispered, pushing her forward in front of him.
For Claudius Acillus, the Centurion in charge of the final assault, it was a hollow victory. Walking to the Western edge of this ‘citadel of death’, he looked out to the West. A sudden wind came up, causing reddish brown dust to rise from the sand and dance over the Dead Sea. In the dim rays of the setting sun he saw two large birds circling, then flying away together: at least they looked to him like birds.
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