Life, love and conflict in the hill country around 1200BC
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Richard Abbott

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Extracts from “The Man in the Cistern”

The Mitsriy were withdrawing from their outpost up at Ramoth Hurriy. Damariel the seer had first caught rumour of the move nearly a year ago, but had waited to see if there was real substance in it before taking the news seriously. These days, there were always stories of this place or that being abandoned, and so many of them were either scare-mongering or wishful thinking, depending on who was talking.

Now, for sure there would be little impact on Kephrath and her three sister communities, the four towns Damariel cared for. Ramoth Hurriy was south of Shalem, up on the heights overlooking the southern edge of that town, and Damariel was not sure he had ever met anyone who lived there. So far as he knew, there was only a shrine to the goddess Hathor served by a few Mitsriy priestesses overseeing a training centre for Kinahny girls who had been given over by their families to her service, a small garrison of bowmen, and a straggle of traders adhering to the slight wealth as best they could. At a guess, only the Mitsriy would actually return home, and the temple novices and acolytes, as well as the traders and their families, would be left to reintegrate as best they could into Shalem itself, or maybe down into the lowlands.

* * * * * *

“They are more of a threat to themselves just now. But two things might happen. One is that men might join, and stay, who have some weapons and some real aggression. Then they might start to intrude on surrounding towns including this Kephrath. Or, and maybe more likely, they could bring a plague of sickness into the area. These are not men who know how to live outside, not for the most part. A few have been slaves, but most of them are workers who have always been told what to do. They are used to living in houses. The main thing that protects Kephrath is that they do not know how to act in concert as a group. They are just like a rough heap of gravel. But perhaps someone could turn them into a rock and start to pound others around them.”

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