Jaela sang softly to herself as she stepped outside of her tent into the cool air. It was twilight and as the sun went down the revellers threw more wood upon the feast fires. The village of tents was still an unusual site for Jaela who had grown up in the city of Salem. She was a Kenite living with a clan of Jabalites and on days such as this she longed for the festivals of her youth. The ways of her adopted clan would always be slightly strange to her, but truth be told none of that mattered to her now. Her beloved had returned to the highlands and was on his way to her. Not long, not long now till they would be together again.
The firstlings had already been killed and stripped of their wool. As soon as the full moon rose they would be placed on the cooking fires and then eaten throughout the night. All of the meat had to be eaten before Father Sin set again in the morning. Jaela crossed her little fingers to remind herself that the Jabalites called the shining moon Abram rather than Sin, but she knew it was the same God who they all gave thanks to.
Wine was being poured and songs were being sung. It would soon be time for Jaela to play her part. She had been practising her steps all winter and was confident that she would honour the Gods properly. It was a shame that her beloved would not be here for the Festival. Would it be better to perform the dance with him watching? It might make her more nervous…but then it would surely please him to see how she had adapted to life here amongst his clan. As he had adapted to life in her clan.
Jaela kept the memories of how she came to be here hidden most of the time. It was another life in Salem, a happy one to be sure. When her family had been murdered by the vile Jabin, her life had been shattered and she had wished to be dead. It was only a young Jabalite warrior who managed to save her, by keeping her from Jabin’s men and by giving her reason to live again. Their love had grown out of tragedy, but it was a strong and pure love nonetheless.
He had brought her to his people, the wandering shepherds of the highlands. She was well respected here and allowed to make the mistakes of a child as she learned the ways of the nomads. And just as she became a Jabalite, her beloved had joined with the other exiled Kenites from Salem. There he gained the Kenite Tattoo – a warning to all that his new kinsmen would visit sevenfold revenge upon any who harmed him. Truly now they were both of two clans, of two tribes, but of one heart and spirit.
The music changed and Jaela knew her time had come. She quickly ran to the centre of the encampment and joined her new sisters, cousins and aunts as the dance started. Jaela abandoned herself to the moment as she had been taught to do. She thought of the deeds of the Trickster God Yacob, of his masks and his cunning. She lept in the air, one leg limp, and then her hands waved as she dragged her leg around the circle of women. The men of the village watched and cheered as the women limped around the circle their bodies swaying when they stopped walking. As the music reached a crescendo the men ran towards the women and the trick of the God was revealed. The woman ran away, no longer limping as they tried to outrun the men that chased them. Laughter was heard from all around as brothers caught sisters and husbands caught wives.
Jaela ran like the wind and twice she felt a hand catch at her clothes. She laughed as she outpaced the men who chased her, all her thoughts focused on running, the pounding of her feet, the breeze on her face. Suddenly an arm grasped her about her waist and she was tumbling, pulling the man along with her as she fell and rolled along the ground. Her capturer wrestled with her and she giggled as she tried to get away. Then in the moonlight she saw his face, saw the mark of Cain on his cheek. Her beloved was here.
“Elhanan!” she cried and buried herself in his embrace.
“Jaela, Jaela, I have missed you so much.” They lay then in silence for some time, their bodies squeezed together, until eventually Elhanan stood and offered his hand to Jaela.
“Come Jaela, I have something to show you.” She walked behind him back to the camp where she could see the arrival of her Kenite kinsmen, other refugees from Salem who lived as Apiru now. They were invited to the feast and the Kenite’s hunger was quickly dealt with as the village and the visitors passed around the lamb meat, without the fat that had been burned in offering to Sin. Elhanan brought Jaela to a group of tired looking donkeys and pulled back a blanket. In the moonlight the metal shone.
“Silver Jaela, purest silver. My mission to Byblos was a complete success. An evil man no longer walks the earth and the great King Suhis paid us well to make it so. He will be a great ally Jaela, and he has more work for us. It wont be long now before we have enough money and men to retake Salem. Then, as a warrior of Cain I will take vengeance on those who killed your family. As Yahweh lives I swear it will be so, and we will be so happy living in the city again.”
Jaela smiled, but hid her feelings. She did want to return to Salem, and she did want justice. But more than that, she was happy whenever Elhanan was with her. The hatred for those far off cowards who had killed her family was always there, but no longer did it burn within her. Now she was alive when Elhanan was here, and counted the days when he was away. She knew he lived the life of an Apiru for her, but it was a dangerous life. And it would become more dangerous still when Elhanan’s plans to retake Salem became reality. What use would it be to regain her city and lose her love.
“I love you.” she whispered.
“And I love you. You are my Asherah. All I do, I do for you.”
She looked deep into his eyes. It would do no good to ask him to stop. He was a Kenite now and his vow would not allow him to return to life as a shepherd. So be it, he would leave her again and again, and one day he may not come back.
All that mattered then, was now. She kissed him and wished that it could last forever.