Here’s an excerpt from Slumber for anyone to read, enjoy, cut up as you see fit. 🙂
“Benjamin has come to speak with us about your betrothal,” Father said with a heavy sigh. “I hope you told him, as I did, that there is nothing to be done.” “We did,” Mother said. “But he will hear none of it.” “I told your father that another of Daon’s concubines has died.” “I know. I saw her body.” All three turned to me in surprise. “Why did you say nothing?” Mother asked, taking my hands. “I had no wish to make your cares heavier. It changes nothing.” “It only strengthens my resolve to set you free somehow,” Benjamin said, striking his palm with his fist. “I cannot leave a friend and a daughter of Zion to the mercy of that evil man.” “You’ll get yourself killed thinking like that.” “Nevertheless, I agree with Benjamin,” Father said gruffly, stroking his beard. “Something must be done. I can’t let my daughter go like a lamb to the slaughter. Benjamin says this girl was sacrificed in some arcane dark ritual.” “There is no evidence, but the girl was wounded in a marked way, the exact same way as the last two, or so I am told.” “Is your source reliable?” Mother asked. Benjamin nodded grimly. “And not at all prone to exaggeration.” “This is madness, Father. Tell him not to do it. Benjamin, I have accepted my fate, and if Adonai chooses to rescue me, I trust in him to do it.” “But what if this is Adonai’s rescue?” Benjamin leaned forward and held my shoulders, and his hands were gentle and warm, not at all like the cold grip of Daon’s claws. “Don’t you see, Eliora? He brought me to you at just the right time, so I could save you.” “It’s too late to save me,” I insisted stubbornly. “No. I won’t believe that. I can’t just give up. I love you, Eliora.” I gaped at him in surprise. Mother gasped, and Father nodded in grim confirmation of what he’d already suspected. “I love you,” Benjamin repeated. “And I won’t let Daon take you, not even if it means my life.” “I can’t ask that of you.” My voice caught in my throat. “You don’t have to.” His eyes echoed the covenant in his words. He dropped his hands from my shoulders to pick up one of my hands, and kissed it fervently. “Bless you, boy,” Father said, laying a big hand on Benjamin’s head. “Would that you were my son.” “If Adonai wills, I may be yet.” He looked at me in question, and I blushed. I hadn’t considered the possibility, given the circumstances. I still didn’t think there was a possibility. Did I love Benjamin? I supposed I did. Or certainly could. I loved him as a friend and brother. Enough to wish him far from danger. Enough to be honoured that he would stake his life for mine. Enough to want to prevent him from just such a sacrifice. “If you love me, then wait.” I said at last. “Do not spend your precious life on a futile rescue. Daon is much older than I. It may be that he might die soon and leave me a young widow. Then I will be free to marry whom I choose. Wait until then, Benjamin.” I knew the wild fantasy of my words. I fully expected to be Daon’s victim long before I had the chance to be his widow. But I was not going to let Benjamin know that. “And leave you at the hands of that pagan butcher? Even if he dies within the year, you could still forfeit your life. And what if he lives into old age? What then? No, I could not abandon you to such a fate.” He turned to my father, still holding my hand in both of his. Apparently my part in this conversation was done. “I don’t have a plan yet, but I’m working on one. I won’t ask you to join me–if I were to die she should still have someone to watch over her.” My mother gave an incoherent cry and I began to protest. “No, beloved. My life is mine to spend how I will. And if I choose to spend it on you, then comfort yourself knowing it was gladly given.” He rose from the floor and clasped my father on the shoulder. “I must return. I have much to think about.” He embraced my mother and then turned to me. “Don’t despair, Eliora. Adonai is with us.” I watched him go, bemused. “Hard-headed man,” I muttered. My father laughed. “But he is a good man,” my mother said.