William woke with a start, sitting up and grasped the hilt of his sword. He looked around. The others slept, the fire smoldered, and the coals glowed. Things seemed peaceful, so maybe it was only a dream, but he could almost feel the arrows piecing his leather armor.
He curled up in his cloak, to keep the chill in the air out of his bones and tried to find sleep again, but failed. He still felt uneasy, as if they were being watched. He looked up at the stars, feeling small comfort in their cold light. Even the moon was hidden for another day or so.
The commander decided they should camp at the edge of the valley, but it only made William nervous. It felt like they would be ambushed the instant they went a step too far. He was convinced they should walk along the ridge, despite the narrow, rocky path. No one would listen to him, as he only recently joined the King’s army. Even though they were still on the King’s land, the enemy didn’t care for the placement of borders and patrols.
The locals told tales of ghosts who haunted the valley, but he didn’t believe in ghosts. It was said that the kings of old stayed to guard their people. There were many tombs dug into the walls that rose from the valley floor. Some said they wanted their kings to have a valley like the one rumored of in the land of the Great Desert. They had been told that the kings were buried in giant stone tombs that had been built by the chosen people.
William was stuck with a march through the valley, an easy target for archers. He was reminded of the verse he learned as a youth, and whispered, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” * He drew his sword, knelt by the fire, hand on the hilt, head bowed. “Oh, Eternal King, please protect us as we march forward on the order of our earthly king. I pray for protection through the Valley of Kings, but am reminded that it is Your valley. You created it. You will lead us to victory. In the name of Jesus, Your precious Son, Amen.”
He lay down closer to the fire. He still felt as if he were being watched, but now he was sure that the One who watched was the One who protected them. Sleep finally came.
* * *
A hand shook William. “Will, come with me.”
It was still dark, but he recognized the voice of his commander. He followed the shadowed figure to the edge of camp, where another shadowed figure waited. By now, his eyes had adjusted to the lack of light.
The figure before him removed his hood, revealing the face of his king.
“My liege,” William knelt before him.
His commander put his hand on William’s shoulder. “Stand. We have a job for you.”
He looked at his commander. “Sir?”
“We need you to escort the king along the ridge, before it gets light. It will take longer to get across, but it will keep the king safe. At daybreak, we will continue along the valley floor. We’re hoping to not only get the king safely home, but you will be able to warn us of any ambush.” The commander looked around, “We have been counting on them trying to ambush. We let word out that the king was traveling in disguise, in hopes of luring the brigands out in an attempt on his life.
"Sire, I’m humbled to be trusted with this task.”
* * *
The two men were not even halfway across the as the sun came over the opposite ridge. William and the king had both been given a bow and quiver for the trek. He held the bow at the ready, occasionally using it for a walking stick.
As they walked, William noticed movement across the way. “Sire, st…”
Before William could finish his warning, an arrow sang past his ear and a man was struck on the other side, and fell to the valley floor.
The men below found defendable positions, letting arrow lose on the enemy.
He looked at the king, mouth gaping in awe.
The king smiled. “I hunted many a rabbit in my day. A weasel is a much easier target.”
* Psalm 23:4
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