The leaves of the date palm shade me, and I brood.
"You're the one who said it had to be a woman," she said, and she would have been shouting but she'd always had more discretion than I, and the tents were close together.
"Not you," I said. "And not this way."
She stamped her foot, and the copper anklets clanked harshly against each other. "It's not your call. I'm not one of your soldiers."
I laughed, and the hoarse sound burned my throat. "Whose call is it, then? Hever's?"
She slapped me, and I let her. The burning mark of her palm, the snap of my head jarring backwards on my neck, these grounded me. "That was uncalled for," she hissed. "And beneath you, besides." I looked at the goatskin walls of my tent, dim in the torchlight that always kept me from darkness. I looked at my hands twisting in my robe. I looked at my sword, the copper sickle curve flickering red like blood. I looked at anything, anything at all.
A rustle, and she knelt before me. "Deborah."
My fingers were chapped, sword callouses overlaying the older ones from weaving.
"Deborah, look at me." Her hand gripped my chin, and I had too much pride to struggle. I met her eyes, innocent like those of the ibex whose name she bore. Her face glowed dearer than victory, sweeter than honey, purer than YKVK, and for once I wished for darkness so I didn't have to see it.
"He'll kill you," I said.
"You lead an army every day." Her lips were like cinnamon, dark and fragrant.
"This isn't your battle."
Her mouth was soft on my temple now, and I was relieved. She'd leaned in too far for me too see; she no longer smote me with her beauty. "Your battle is my battle, my heart." The myrhh scent of her breath brushed warm against me. "What he would do to you, he would do to me."
I clenched my fists in my robe. Sisera may have raved, frothing at the mouth in vile detail about what he'd like to do to the Israelite cunt bitch who stood in his way, but it meant nothing. He'd never reach me without conquering all the armies of YKVK. Yael, on the other hand... I was not stupid. If Yael was going to kill Sisera, there was only one was to do it.
His threats against me were just words, but his hands on her breasts would be real, coarse and bloodstained on her perfect cedar-brown skin.
Her words broke me from my hateful imaginings. "Sweet one, don't do this." I looked up at her, and what had I been thinking, avoiding this sight? It was worth every dagger-blow to the heart to see her pomegranate lips. I was a bottomless ewer and her face was water in the desert, filling me but never slaking my thirst. Would she look the same, tomorrow? Would he bruise the fine column of her neck? Would his carrion scent overcome the apples and wine of her skin?
"Yaeli," I said, and unclenched my tight fingers, reached up, brushed against her mouth.
"I'm here now," she said.
Tomorrow, I knew, I would urge Barak and ten thousand of my brethren down into the valley to kill and to die. Tomorrow, my beloved would follow the demands of my God -- not hers -- and murder a king.
"Yes," I said, and pulled her down into a kiss.
I raise my voice in song.
Blessed above women shall be Yael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.
Blessed be she above all women in the tent.