Historical Fiction Writers

Chena’s Story Chpt. 3

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  • #115404
    Gracie
    @kimlikesart

      @eitan @beth20

       

      a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up

      III

      Eight years later…

      Caesar Augustas declared a census that stated everyone had to return to the land of their ancestors to be counted with 12 Roman months to do so. Bethlehem was never particularly bustling with people traveling for the census. But in early spring, directly after the festival of Passover, Bethlehem was packed. (Double than usual as people decided to hit two birds with one stone.)

      “I can’t believe I almost didn’t buy this place because of all your bellyaching about having to clean such a large courtyard!” Joab bellowed to Rachel, as he always did when money seemed to flow in. “Now I am very pleased.”

      Rachel turned about, rolling her eyes as she went back inside to the safety of her home.

      Joab’s courtyard was filling with people and animals alike quicker than ever in the past! This meant a lot more work for Chena, Rachel, and another servant they’d hired named Itta. Itta was only eight, but she worked fast. She had beautiful long dark locks, with big black eyes, her skin was a light olive, and she could cook, clean, and sew decently. She busied herself with putting fresh straw out in the court, cooking, and annoying Ruben and Chena mostly. (Chena had never been so glad she didn’t have a little sister.)

      Ruben would also pester Chena about Itta. He would pick at whatever Chena said in complaint of Itta, saying that’s exactly what Chena had used to do to him. But the young man and woman’s bond was tight; in a type of friendship that not even death could break down.

      “Where’s Ruben?” Chena asked, as she flipped a glob of dough over, pushing her hands into the squishy food. She hadn’t seen Ruben for hours, which was unusual. (The young man had a habit of sneaking up to swipe food every so often.)

      “I think he is out with Joab.” Rachel chuckled while shoving hard into her own dough. (A few guests had paid extra to be provided food.)

      Itta rushed into the room, her hair all a wreck, and dress stained, “One of the guys threw his wash at me again!” Itta’s voice was low, and disgusted.

      Chena put her sweet smelling mixture onto a stone pan, and laid it on the red coals. “Have you seen Ruben out there Itta?” He might be speaking with some of the men

      Itta shook her head, dark ringlets curling over her face. Then she smiled, the upper lip puckering up in a teasing sort of way as Chena turned around. “But I do know where he is Chena.”

      The older girl turned to grab a spoon for the soup boiling in a cauldron above a second fire. The young woman felt apprehension growing in her stomach as Itta held her hands behind her back and swayed back and forth.

      Acting as if she was waiting to unveil a joke? Chena fell for the bait, “Where?” Oh, this means trouble… She stared hard at Itta’s big, conniving eyes.

      Rachel tittered a little, and shook her head. But Rachel couldn’t tease.

      Chena’s chest tightened, Ruben and her relationship had been changing for about a year now. But not even that was what was making Chena’s heart race.

      Ruben had been openly speaking against the Romans. A few months before he’d almost died because of it. All in the name of Hashem, those the Romans had murdered, and the children that were yet to be born, oh, and Hashem.

      The young man often quoted from Exodus repeating the words of Moses, to a growing crowd of onlookers, “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the L-rd, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the L-rd, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. The L-rd is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation: He is my G-d, and I will prepare Him an habitation; my father’s G-d, and I will exalt Him. The L-rd is a man of war: the L-rd is His name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his host has He cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.

      Your right hand, O L-rd, is become glorious in power: Your right hand, O L-rd, has dashed in pieces the enemy. And in the greatness of Your excellency You have overthrown them that rose up against You: You sent forth Your wrath, which consumed them as stubble. And with the blast of Your nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.

      The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.

      You did blow with Your wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Who is like unto You, O L-rd, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? You stretch out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them. You in Your mercy have led forth the people which You have redeemed: You have guided them in Your strength unto Your holy habitation.

      The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of Your arm they shall be as still as a stone; till Your people pass over, O L-rd, till the people pass over, which You have purchased. You shall bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, in the place, O L-rd, which You have made for You to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O L-rd, which Your hands have established. The L-rd shall reign for ever and ever.

      For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the    L-rd brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing you to the  L-rd, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.”

      Ruben paused to let the holy scriptures sink into the crowd. Then right when recognition began to light he dived into frigid waters, “The Roman’s are as the Egyptians and their chariots O Israel. Their emperor Augustas is as the Pharaoh of old time! G-d shall save us as He did then, the Holy One of Israel will throw the Roman’s and their armies into the mist of the sea, and we will look on in victory as their accursed corpses wash onto the shore. They will sink as lead. Our wives shall celebrate and sing without fear. The women shall raise their children without the terror of Roman swine coming and destroying their lives! Enslaving their husbands, pressing their sons, and molesting their daughters…!”

      (It goes without being said that the Roman’s didn’t like that sort of talk, and were determined to stop it.)

      Ruben’s leg had been broken from the horrible beating a soldier had given the zealot in result of his speech. The soldier hadn’t stopped beating Ruben until he was long unconscious, and appeared dead. Whilst Ruben recovered Joab had warned his confined son to stop his ravings. But Ruben always refused to listen to reason, begging his father to not out-right forbid him. (For the Mosaic Law stated to honor your parents, then you would have a ‘long life on the earth’. He could not blatantly disobey his father.)

      It had taken the young man three months to heal enough to where he could walk. That was another four months ago, but Ruben still limped in the left leg. That hurt limb caused him almost constant pain and clumsiness. It hadn’t healed near properly.

      In Bethlehem all agreed that the Roman occupation was a hindrance. But too few Jews went around speaking against them with a lifted head, and an intense, truthful tongue. Ruben told the people that Messiah would soon come and get rid of the Roman swine. Add to that that the Messiah would set up a new kingdom?… Talk like that did get people killed.

      Ruben would yet still defend his actions; by saying he didn’t like the thought of so many people not believing Jehovah would protect them and himself.  He believed it more than ever after the Romans didn’t kill him the last time.

      “They are all silent as sheep before a slaughter! They do not care they are in wolves’ mouths, they do not realize that they are not living life to the fullest at all. They have been in bondage so long that they have forgotten how it feels to run without a tether.” Ruben often spoke such to anyone who’d listen to him.

      At this time though, he was safe. Or, at least the family thought he was.

      Itta was still toying with Chena about the afore mentioned man’s whereabouts:

      “Where is he Itta?” The older girl’s teeth ground.

      Rachel after hearing the hubbub go on for ten minutes intervened, eyes swooping like a hawks on her young servant. “Itta tell us where Ruben is.” Rachel spoke as if she was tired of the constant babbling, not as if she was worried for her son. Then again, Itta could have just been teasing Chena again.

      “Yes mam.” Itta lowered her head, but still let a sly smile pass to Chena for a second.

      Chena’s fists clenched, Why didn’t Joab just give her back to master Abner?  “Ow!” Chena, who had been kneeling, fell back onto her bum. Her hand had touched the rim of a cooking pot.

      Itta snickered then she turned back to Rachel. “He’s outside. I think he went down the street. Though he didn’t say so, no doubt he’s teaching,”

      “What?” Chena hissed, while still cradling her burnt hand against her heart. Rachel stumbled to her feet and rushed from the room to find Joab, hands still covered with dough.

      I’m going to kill that little… Chena’s eyes turned to loathing, her feet touching the ground like a lion about to pounce on its prey. Itta swallowed hard as she saw Chena looking for the spanking stick.

      Joab ran into the room his face red with rage. Puffing with anger, he grabbed his cloak. “I’ve warned him many times to hold his tongue. Now I hope I get there in time. The Romans may have,” Joab yelled louder as he hurried out the back door, but not to where Chena could hear.

      Rachel’s face was strained, and she paced a second before turning on Itta. Shaking her finger at the child her words cut like swords. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner girl?” Rachel clicked her tongue, dark brown eyes snapping to the wall were the rod leaned as well.

      “I’m sorry mistress Joab.”

      “Why?” The mother’s nose flared, and her shoulders almost trembled in fury.

      “Because he made me swear not to tell.” Itta’s voice’s pitch rose as she (hopefully) realized her mistake, her short legs took a step back.

      A tense time later Joab returned,… without Ruben.

      “Where is he?” Chena asked first as the three females ran to meet Rachel’s husband.

      “I’ve been praying,” Rachel added, tears in the mother’s eyes.

      “Thank G-d I got there in time. He’s in the stable licking his wounded pride.” Joab snickered as Rachel helped him remove his cloak. The woman then handed the cloth on to Chena.

      Joab looked to their ward, “I’d stay away from him for awhile Chena, he’s slightly upset.”

      Chena’s shoulders slouched, “Slightly?” and she passed the cloak on to Itta. The child looked annoyed, but didn’t make a fuss.

      Chena, Joab, and Rachel could imagine Ruben right now, almost throwing the hay at their animals.

      Joab sighed, than wobbled away, starting to mingle with the guests. He cackled at a joke one older man said, acting as if his only child had not just almost skirted death… again.

      Chena huffed, and she walked back to the bowl of soup she was hesitant to keep. She stopped a few seconds now and then, thinking. What would stop Ruben from going right back out there while no one was watching him? She decided to wait for the bread to rise; then she would go out and talk to Ruben.

      When she finished, Chena made a beeline to the stable. She maneuvered her feet, doing a short dance a guest had taught her a few seasons back. She froze outside the cave, taking a deep breath before entering the realm of a storm she knew would come. After wandering in she looked both ways.

      ‘House of Sorrow’, their cow, mood at the sight of her mistress. Chena looked to where the goats were eating from a small pile of fresh hay. Then in the back there was Ruben, lying in a pile of Bethany’s future hay. The cow didn’t seem to mind as she kept about her business on the other side of the stable.

      “Hello,” Chena licked her lips as her feet took a few steps closer, squeezing her apron till her knuckles were white.

      “Hi,” Ruben didn’t look at her, just continued to stare up at the stony ceiling, and chomp on a single stick of straw.

      “Are you going to be alright?” she asked, forsaking her apron to wrap her arms about her small frame. She wasn’t cold by no means, but nervous.

      “I’ll never trust an eight-year-old kid again…” The corners of Ruben’s mouth twitched, and his nose flared. Then he let his steady brown eyes meet Chena’s. “Yes,.. I’m fine.”

      Chena moved yet a little closer, than after checking the ground for manure she sat beside him. A goat felt intimidated, and tried to shove Chena away.

      Ruben chuckled. The laughter seemed to surprise him, “Leave it to the goat,”

      Chena smiled back and blushed. Then the goat shoved again, and she fell into Ruben. He didn’t seem to mind, and the goat looked satisfied. Then he bucked again, and Ruben shooed him away.

      There was a moment of silence before Ruben spoke, “I started telling the people about the Messiah Chena. And how when He arrives we’ll be able to stand up to the Romans, but not only that, we will win.” He took a deep breath, and looked around.

      Chena’s eyes which had been staring down into her lap, went up to meet his. He often told her of his escapades and she was always content to listen to his strong and beautiful voice. Almost like the low strings on a lyre.

      “It was fine for quite a time. Then a soldier walked up, you know how they do,” Ruben then with a grin jumped to his feet, and jumping his brows began to play. He put his large, callused hands on his hips, and swayed back and forth, a pathetic looking face plastered on his head.

      “What rank was he?” Chena rolled onto her side, and looked up into Ruben’s eyes as he shrugged.

      “I don’t know.” The young man’s brows crinkled, “I suppose I could go back and ask him? If you don’t oppose too loudly?” Ruben turned to leave, and Chena scrambled to her feet, grabbing the pack of his tunic.

      “Hey!” Ruben acted offended, Chena smiled at him, brows quirking.

      She almost fluttered her lashes, then said, “Carry on your story,… sir.”

      “There’s not much more to tell. The guy came up, cursed me, and Jehovah. He said for me to go home, and feed my children. Then he insulted me, making a joke of how I probably didn’t have children; let alone a wife yet. ‘For I was just a boy,’ Well, so was David (not that I’m a boy) … Let’s just say I talked back.”

      “Ruben?” Chena bit her lip, then ran a hand over his firm shoulder before drawing back. She averted her gaze, insides trembling with fear, before she sank back into the hay. “What if? What if you get killed?”

      The young man knelt to where his face could look into his betrothed’s. He moved up a hand to shift a strand of curly, hickory colored hair from her face.  “Would you have had me say nothing Chena? Say nothing when he had just blasphemed the L-rd Jehovah? Hashem?” The corners of Ruben’s eyes were wrinkled.

      Chena still wouldn’t look at him. Chena did agree on several points of Ruben’s teaching, but not if it would cost him his precious life.

       

      Ruben sighed, “I didn’t get more than a few words out when father came up. Then he shamed both Jehovah, and myself. Taking away what little honor I had left. I would rather have been beaten than hear those words that Roman spewed to G-d.” Ruben looked down then, the corners of his lips twitching once more. As if the thought of the Roman’s curses was enough to raise so much indignation he could kill someone.

      “The people began mocking me Chena. For the defence of Jehovah’s holy name? Are they so far gone?” He shook his head, jaw setting, as his nose crinkled. “I fear that Jehovah may be done with Israel. That without a true, righteous prophet, He may turn His back on us for good.”

      “It will come out right,” Chena looked up into his worried face, trying to smile at him.

      “No Chena, it won’t!” The girl almost jumped to the ceiling as he snapped, “You witness falsely!” He looked away, breath coming out at odd intervals, “It will never be alright until the people are willing to rise up against the Romans. And we cannot do so without the Messiah. Only when He comes will we unite together behind Him against rome.”

      They were both silent a while, then Chena spoke, leaning into Ruben’s stiff side. “There once was a man named Abraham. He had a nephew named Lot who lived in the city of Sodom, near Gomorrah. The two cities were very wicked. They left the manner which was set forth for the man and woman. Preferring their own ways above G-d’s. They were very inhospitable people. Finally the L-rd had enough, and came to visit Abraham, telling the chosen one of His plans for the accursed cities. The great patriarch begged Jehovah to spare the city, and the merciful L-rd relented. Allowing that if forty righteous were found in the city, it would be saved. The L-rd who is loving and abounding in mercy allowed the number to go down to ten souls at the prophet’s request. Abraham did not push farther and thanked the L-rd for His mercy.” Chena sighed, and stared into Ruben’s lowered face.

      She continued, “Ten righteous people Ruben? The L-rd shall not destroy Israel completely; there will always be a remnant. As Lot and his two daughters escaped. All of Israel may have failed G-d Ruben, the righteous shall even fail at some point, but you have not. You are one righteous man left. I will pray for more to come.”

      Ruben put an arm over his betrothed’s shoulders, pulling her against him for comfort, and strength. Then he murmured, “You do know what became of those two daughters, and their whoring husband?”

      Chena huffed, and pulled away blushing. “You miss my point…”

      Ruben chuckled again, shaking his head. Then he smiled into Chena’s face. His eyes looked eager, for something other than the coming kingdom.

      The fire in Ruben’s dark eyes caused Chena to look away from his face. But those deep flames kept eating into her soul. When was he to start the marriage process? But to change the subject before it came up,  “I support your cause Ruben. And I do believe what you believe; but, you could get yourself killed?” She shook her head as salt filled her eyes, “I don’t want that. I’m not strong enough for that.”

      Chena’s chin lowered further.

      Ruben nodded his head, then after another bit of silence he took the piece of hay from his mouth and threw it down, “I do not want you to worry Chena. In Daniel; Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azariah were spared when they stood for G-d. But do you remember their words? I told you just last week after my trip to the synagogue.”

      Chena smiled, than shook her head. Ruben lifted his brows, then spoke, “‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our G-d whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.’” Ruben took a deep breath into his lungs as if the words were life itself unto him. Then his eyes sparkled as he looked back at Chena, continuing: “‘But if not, be it known unto you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.”

      “But must you put yourself into that kind of situation purposefully Ruben?”

      Ruben’s brows closed, “I am only doing as He commands me Chena. Do you not understand?”

      Chena took a deep breath then looked back to the straw, after a bit of thought she gave a lying assent.

      Jominkreesa

      Passion means to be willing to suffer.

      #115888
      Eitan
      @eitan

        @kimlikesart

        Good job! You excellently ”prepare a way” for the surprising arrival of the actual Messiah 🙂

         

        You portray characters very well.

        Hmm… A 16 years old boy teaching the crowds? It’s way more likely that the teacher will be an older, charismatic man, who enraptures young, hot blooded people like Ruben.

         

        Don’t use brackets in a story…

         

        Orthodox Jews call God ”ha-Shem” because they don’t want to say YHWH. It’s kinda pointless to use them both…

         

        You don’t need to quote the whole Exodus 15. The readers are familiar with the text (and if not, they can look at their Bibles 😉 ). Maybe quote a few phrases, and use descriptions. Something like…

        ”The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name!”, he shouted, eyes glittering as he quotes the holy scripture. ”Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea!”.

        (My literary English… *sigh* 😉 )

         

        Again, I think you shouldn’t include the first two chapters, and somehow include Chena’s backstory in the main plot. It will also require to fix this chapter, so it can serve as a first chapter.

         

        You decided to stick with an omniscient POV?

         

        Sorry if I was too harsh at some points. Your writing in general is very good! 🙂

        You don't need to see the wind itself in order to hear the rustling leaves.

        #115945
        Gracie
        @kimlikesart

          @eitan

          Good job! You excellently ”prepare a way” for the surprising arrival of the actual Messiah

          You portray characters very well.

          Thanks!

          It’s way more likely that the teacher will be an older, charismatic man, who enraptures young, hot blooded people like Ruben.

          I have an idea of how I can fix that. Thanks! (:

          Don’t use brackets in a story…

          Will fix.

          It’s kinda pointless to use them both…

          Ooops. Sorry. Will fix. (:

          You don’t need to quote the whole Exodus 15.

          Thank you. That will definitely be a better thing than what I was doing.

          Again, I think you shouldn’t include the first two chapters, and somehow include Chena’s backstory in the main plot. It will also require to fix this chapter, so it can serve as a first chapter.

          Hmm. I will think on it. Mayhap when I read through it again I’ll be able to find a place for showing thoughs two chapters.

          You decided to stick with an omniscient POV?

          Oops. Actually I got rid of a lot of other people’s thoughts that were there… I will try to comb through even more.

          Thank you for doing this!

          • This reply was modified 2 days, 5 hours ago by Gracie.

          Jominkreesa

          Passion means to be willing to suffer.

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