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The Nomad (Part 1)
Chapter 1. The trader
“Only a couple more days master” the scribe said as he looked up from the papyrus he’d been writing on, “then we can make our way home” he was keen to get there.
“It’s been a long trip Jared” the Master replied with a sigh. “Three moons, feels like thirty!” he slowly gazed around the ship. The last of the ore was being unloaded by the ten slaves from the port, ten trips each from the quayside, five ingots per trip, a total of five hundred ingots, ‘and our cargo will bring a good price from the smiths in this part of the world. “The sooner we’re on our way the better I’ll feel”
Their ‘cargo’ was copper five hundred ingots, from the mines in far away Egyptian territory, twenty bushels of dates from Palmyra and fifty casks of wine from Canaan. The ingots alone were enough to make the trip profitable, the dates and wine were extra, like icing on a cake.
Each ingot was enough copper to make two swords, or a plough or five knives. A small fortune to any blacksmith and with five hundred of them it was more than most men would see in their whole life. The third of three trips Abram and his men had made since the last winter. And with the new technology that the blacksmiths of this part of the world had developed they could make stronger and more durable metals than ever before.
He always hoped that the metal would be used for good, for the plough, but the realist said it would mostly go for swords, others had found out about the technology and they wanted it, but not for good, they wanted it for conquest. With swords that could shatter your opponents weapons with one blow they could conquer the world, they knew it and some were determined to do it.
“I know what you mean master” Jared replied, he was technically a slave, but no one in the house of Terah was ever treated or regarded themselves as such, they were always given the rights of servants of the house, and even listened to when they had an idea’ “Though we’ll have to be careful with all silver and gold we’ll be carrying”
“I know what you mean Jared” the master turned to head into the small cabin on the ship, “that’s why Father keeps most of his in livestock; you’re less of a target then!”
The ‘ship’ was more like a raft, with a wooden floor. Reeds laid over wooden planks lashed to logs and inflated animal skins lashed together with twine. Sixty cubits long by ten cubits wide with sides five cubits high Abram often joked that it looked like the Ark of the ancient tales must of looked like.
“Why do you think we use the design” the skipper had replied, “If it was good enough for the prophets of old, then it’s good enough for me and my crew” You couldn’t really argue with that logic and it was sturdy, the bitumen coating gave strength to flimsy reeds, the reeds gave flexibility and the wooden ribbed frame gave strength.
They were used to transport the bigger items down the river to the main markets. The ‘skipper’ in charge was employed by Terah and at journey’s end would dismantle the raft, selling the wood for a good price, but the skins he’d take back upriver by donkey and build another one ready for the next cargo that his master would send his way, they would all travel back upriver together, Abram would see to the animals that they needed for the trip as well as their next ‘cargo’
That ‘cargo’ was cloth and spices. The finest silks from the lands of the east, as well as exotic spices from the lands of the Kush to the southeast.
Abram was Terah’s eldest son, and had been in charge of the trading for a few seasons. This year the trading had been good. At first they’d simply traded livestock for the caravan routes to the markets in the west, but when Abram took over he’d seen an opportunity to trade in something of real value, copper.
Copper was one of the things they’d been carrying for the last few trips, ore from beyond the desert to the furnaces in and around the Akkadian cities, where the fuel is plentiful, but that was about to change. The new metal that was made mixing copper and tin was much harder, the problem was finding a reliable source that provided good quantities of the tin. Now he had one!
Far to the south, near the land of the Egyptians large quantities had been discovered and there was talk that in a land far away across the sea, almost at the edge of the world vast quantities had been found, it was all on how you got it to market, and Terah’s family were good at that.
The ‘cabin’ was little more than four upright poles with small beams lashed into place reeds woven into place as a barrier against the sun. Large enough for two men to sleep it was the captain’s quarters, but as the son of the owner Abram had the privilege of rank.
Lined by cushions, there was a rug covering the floor, he remembered the haggling that the captain had done on the dockside a few trips ago, convinced that he was getting one of the finest rugs from Persia he took it home to his wife after the trip only to find out on the next trip it had been made in the local bazaar and had probably never seen Persia! ‘Never trust a swamp rat’ had been his watchword since.
Abram could still hear the noises from the loading outside the cabin, Jared knew that he would be half listening to what’s going on, traders never fully switched off from their surroundings, even when asleep. But that wasn’t the plan this time.
He lowered himself down to the bowl of water that had been provided, taking his outer cloak off, he rolled up the sleeves of the linen shirt he was wearing and plunged both hands in, going up as far as the wrists he lifted the handfuls of water out and splashed his face with it, the water cooled him almost instantly. He was doing a ritual wash, but for Abram it was more than that, it was a declaration that he wanted to approach as one cleaned.
Picking up the linen cloth that was beside the bowl, he dried the hands and face; as soon as he was ready a servant appeared and whisked the bowl away.
Moving from the kneeling position to sitting cross legged he placed an upturned hand on each knee and began to pray.
Prayer is one of those things that has baffled people down through the ages, how do you do it? Can you do it right? How to approach the inapproachable and divine? But for Abram it was as simple as talking. He knew to stay respectful, you always do that when you’re talking to superiors, and this was the ultimate superior. But other than that he was talking with one he regarded as a friend.
What he really wanted to talk about was what God had told him on this trip.
God speaks in mysterious ways
Damascus, that ancient city founded by the descendents of Shem. In the days after the flood the children of the three brothers had begun to spread out through all the Earth. At first it had been pretty easy to trade between them as the all spoke the same language, but not too long after man had gotten too ‘big for his boots’ and God had done something about it.
Legend said that it had started in Babylon when pilgrims came to the new tower built to honor men and their achievements. The Legend said that God was jealous and afraid that man would seek to set himself up as a ‘god’ so he’d split the language into first dialects and then made it so that they couldn’t understand each other at all creating separate languages.
Damascus was one of the few places where many languages could be found and it had grown into a commercial centre for the area, traders from all over the world came there, gold from Ophir in Arabia, finest cotton from Egypt and even fine silks from as far away as the great lands to the Far East made it.
Abram had brought silver and rugs from Babylon and Susa, trading them for copper and a new metal he was taking them back for the smiths of Mesopotamia.
The trip had gone well, but it was a slow one, he’d made use of carts to get the goods up from Damascus to Arman near the Euphrates, with the plan to sail them the rest of the way to Ur.
The evening they loaded the goods onto the boats Abram had left the servants to do the work and gone to a walk, something was bothering him and he really didn’t want the servants finding out about it.
Actually, a lot was bothering him, but they all stemmed from the one issue. Shock at the way men behaved around him especially that they seemed to invent ‘gods’ for whatever they wanted and worshipped them!
He’d been a believer in the one God all his life, he shouldn’t really be shocked at the way men acted and it didn’t used to bother him, but over the last few months something had changed, and it made him really uncomfortable with what he saw.
He retreated out, away from the docks, the city was about half a day’s walk from the river, but he turned and headed upriver rather than towards the city.
Finding a grove by an inlet he took out the pouch he was carrying, inside the pouch was a couple of small loaves and a piece of goat cheese. He’d have something to eat first and then would pray.
“Abram” a voice said. He looked up and began looking around, he could see a good hundred paces in every direction, but no one was there, so he went back to the food. “Abram” the voice came back.
He carried a long dagger that could be used as a short sword, it made a slight hissing sound as it came out of its leather sheath. “Identify yourself” he sounded more confident than he felt, hearing a potential enemy call your name, clearly with the advantage would shake the best fighters and he was a merchant, not a soldier.
“Have no fear Abram” the voice said. “I mean you no harm, I am all around you, and I hold you in the palm of my hand!”
That didn’t help in the slightest, here was a potential enemy, or until he showed himself he was a threat, Abram had no idea which way the threat would come from. “Prove it’ he challenged mustering the most threatening tone he could. ‘Show yourself”
“I’m all around you” the voice came back.
He spun around, the blade flashing in the afternoon sun, a bright copper flash. The voice continued, “To your ancestors I was known as Elohim, but in time you’ll know me by another name”
Abram dropped the knife s if he’d been burned by molten metal, he fell face down as if dead, and that was what he feared would happen next, he’d challenged the ever living God to a fight! “Forgive me Lord” he screamed terrified that he might have offended God. “Forgive me.”
“Abram” the voice spoke again; it was a soft voice, yet full of authority. “I’ve told you not to fear” it continued, “I am here to promise you something. I will be with you always, even when you journey far from your home and family” the last part was almost a whisper as the voice seemed to fade, almost as if the person was walking away.
He stayed face down long after the voice had stopped, too afraid to move, in case God changed his mind. Slowly as the sun began to set, his stomach like a stone and terrified Abram began to move, gathering his thoughts and belongings he headed back, but the event was burned into his mind as if with a branding iron.
He was still contemplating the meaning when the ship set sail, in a few days they would reach their destination, after that they would head back north and home.
A test case
As I said at the beginning. This one is very much a test case. The research I've done myself and I'm trying to portray as much of what I think Abram was like as I can (personally I do think he was a trader) but it's a work of fiction so f free to disagree with me.
I'd love to get feedback on what you liked and didn't like etc. What needs work on and what flows in the story. As I said I want a complete novel at the end but that might take a while.
Please leave some feedback