Rev. Baden Stanley

Rev. Baden Stanley

Each week we hope to post a blog on a Monday or Tuesday. These blogs will hopefully stimulate thought, discussion and even debate around key topic that are affecting our society at this time of great change and challenge.

A Man Called Noah, Chapter 16: Sticks and Stones

In the village by the Oasis a new chief had been chosen. It was Bennai’s uncle, and he shared the vicious and vindictive character of her grandfather. The village had been in uproar after the death of the chief, the only thing that stopped the people from storming Noah’s camp was fear. Everyone had witnessed the extraordinary events at the sacrificial firepit and still trembled at the supernatural power of Naamah’s God. They trembled even more at the superstition surrounding the curse of Cain. The new chief listened, sympathised but did nothing. He believed the simplest and safest approach was to ignore Noah and his folly. However the Tallermen of the village had long memories and a strange devotion to exacting revenge. While Bennai and her family had Tallermen blood in their veins, they were not considered to be of the elite. Indeed, her grandfather had been more of a puppet-chief who always checked with the pure-blood Tallermen before taking any form of action. It was they who advised the new chief to send spies to the outskirts of Noah’s camp to report back on developments. They had also warned the chief in no uncertain terms that the ‘ARK’ must never be completed.

As the weeks and months went by, the spies reported back everything that was happening further up the valley. They noted the death and loss of the wizened old man that Noah and his family seemed to revere. While this bit of information gave the new chief some perverse satisfaction, he dismissed it as irrelevant to his plans. So much so that he never thought to ask his spies where the old fool was buried. Indeed he became obsessed with the machinery that Shem had devised to help build the ARK. He knew that the thick dark trees would not easily burn, nor be destroyed. He had some fleeting respect for Noah’s tenacity as he himself knew how tough and unwielding the dark wood of the forest was. His people called it ‘gofer’; it was such a hard compacted wood that he understood why each tree had taken so long for Noah to cut it down. He wondered if his sworn enemy realised the significance of the gofer tree to his people. Unlike other wood, the gofer tree with its enormous trunks that grew straight up to the sky was unique. Because of the soil in which this forest grew, the wood was multicoloured, almost like the arching bow of light that filled the sky after heavy rains. Streaks of red, yellow and even purple wove their way from the deep roots all the way up through the thick trunk to the large heavy leaves many cubits above. The Tallermen revered this tree, but had done nothing when Noah had first begun to fell the forest. Now the new chief heard from his spies that most of the forest was gone, save for a long avenue of remaining gofer trees to which Noah was now attaching the fallen trunks. The chief knew that he would have to act soon or else lose his position, and his head. He prepared a small team of soldiers, men he could rely on, and ordered them to go by night and set fire to the carts and, if possible the fallen trees. Surely with all the dried out ruins of the forest the fire would take and hopefully even consume Noah and his family. The chief gave no thought to his niece Bennai, she had literally made her bed elsewhere, and for that she would die.

The team of 24 soldiers made their way slowly and silently up through the valley. They had chosen a moonless night to cover their approach, their night vision sufficient for them to make their way to the edge of the fallen forest. As they got closer, strange sounds erupted from Noah’s campsite. Their chief had warned them that a growing number of wild animals were in the area, and the soldiers paused nervously. Sensing that the sounds were the usual nighttime noises and not warning calls, they made their way to a high point, just beyond the campsite, with a view (in the daytime) of the valley below and the forest beside. What the chief’s spies had failed to report was that this was the very spot where Noah would stand and pray each morning. It was also the burial place of old Methuselah. And most disastrously for the soldiers, it was the nighttime resting place of some of the fiercest animals that had come to join Noah. What the soldiers had supposed to be fallen tree trunks, were actually slumbering beasts, hunters who knew the wisdom of staying still while danger approached, but also knew instinctively when to kill and devour.

Noah and his family rushed out from their tents after the first plaintiff cries of the wolves erupted into the night air. By the time they had gathered their iron spikes, the dark night was filled with terror-filled screams. Ham ran to the dying fire and lit a number of torches but quickly wished he hadn’t, as the fiery flames revealed a scene of utter carnage and destruction. The lions, tigers and wolves made short work of the attackers, Noah and his family watching on in grim horror. Bennai weeping with her sisters and mother, as she recognised the cries of some of her own kinsmen. No-one slept anymore that night, an awful pall hung over the campsite as the rejuvenated fire cast shadows across to where the wild animals slept once more, their hunger sated. As the predawn light grew Noah and his sons went to investigate the kill site. All that was left to witness to the night’s carnage was a darkened area of soil above where Methuselah rested below. The congealed blood of the soldiers stained that spot for many days after.

Meanwhile, down at the village by the Oasis, the Tallermen exacted a terrible revenge on the new chief. His battered and broken body was thrown on a pile of the very stones that had crushed him, wooden sticks were added and a new sacrificial fire was set.

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