Banished (Forbidden)(2)

By: Kimberley Griffiths Little

“I don’t have anything!” I said, spitting at his face. He slapped me, and my head slammed the ground. My eyes swam with tears. I could only insult him so far. For all I knew, Horeb was already here in the Mari hills, only a shout away.

My camel was on the far side of the boulders, looking skittish and uneasy. Her fur glowed white under the pink light of dawn.

Gad’s grin cracked his face, showing stained brown teeth. He snatched up my cloak next, still sitting on top of me, and greedily searched the folds and inner pockets.

Of course, I was bluffing. The last nugget of frankincense, the one I’d saved for medicinal purposes or an emergency, was tied to my chest, but so small it wouldn’t buy much.

With Gad’s attention on my cloak, I slid my hand down to retrieve the dagger strapped under my skirt. My fist curled gratefully around the hilt.

The morning sun hit the horizon, and a blazing dawn streaked the sky.

“Nothing!” Gad muttered. After checking the rope around my tied legs, he jumped up to tear apart the campsite.

While he searched my rations pack, I began to quietly saw at the rope around my ankles. I spoke out loud to hide my task. “See? I have no frankincense. You’ve climbed into the hills for nothing.”

Ignoring me, Gad grabbed the halter of my camel and swung her head around. She bellowed and stomped her feet. Then he proceeded to hunt through her blanket and decorative tassels, even peering into her ears and mouth.

“Leave her alone!” I shouted.

“Damn!” he yelled when Shay bit him on the shoulder. Without hesitation he hit her head with his fist. Fury boiled in the pit of my belly at his treatment of my well-bred camel, but I tried to focus on freeing myself.

Just as the rope began to fall into pieces, Gad raced toward me with a roar. Before I could crawl away, he threw me flat on my back again, the dagger falling to the ground.

His touch made me sick. Instinctively, I shoved my knee into his soft belly, but he had more leverage and began to rip at the folds of my dress, breathing heavily. “The frankincense is strapped to you!”

“No!” I screamed, flailing my arms and legs, trying to maneuver my dagger to stop him. There was no other way out of this.

Suddenly, Gad stopped and swung his head around. “What’s that noise?”

Low, hideous growls came from the cliffs above.

My camel screamed in fright, galloping across the campsite to the head of the desert trail.

A striped gray hyena slinked along the cliff above us. Saliva dripped from its teeth. The animal’s ribs showed; it was obviously starving and sick. The coarse fur on the back of its neck rose in attack mode, teeth grinning as it howled at us.

Fear soaked my body in rivulets of sweat. “I think he just found his dinner.”

Gad fumbled for his sword. Before I could take another breath, he slashed at my dress and spotted the frankincense bound to my chest. “You sly girl.” He grinned with pleasure just as the hyena launched itself from the edge of the cliff.

My breath came in terrified spurts. “No, no!” I moaned. “Get off me! The hyena’s going to attack us both!”

But Gad was determined to steal the only thing of value I had left—and steal my virtue with it. Panting, he ripped at the cloth binding the frankincense to my chest, his face lighting up with greed and lust. Before I could form a coherent thought I gripped my dagger and thrust it straight into his soft stomach.

The sensation was sickening. Bright red blood dribbled down his cream-colored shirt into the waistband of his trousers, the hilt of the knife still tight in my fist.

My chest convulsed in horror at what I’d just done. “I—I never—”

Gad stared at me, terror in the whites of his eyes. He tried to speak, but only a trickle of red slipped through his lips.

Scrambling backward on my hands in the dirt, I screamed, “Shay, come!” My camel’s ears pricked up, however she hesitated at the sight of the hyena slinking along the earth in stalk mode. But a moment later, she came hurtling toward me. Sweat trickled into my eyes as I swept up my blanket and satchel. I lurched to my feet, and then clawed my way up onto Shay’s back, wrapping the halter around my wrist to keep from falling back down in the process.

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