The sun disappeared from the sky hours before she made her move. Waiting until her mother and
father were asleep and the village had fallen silent, she crept out into the night.
It was now or never.
Her uncovered, reddish brown hair swayed against her back in loose braid. Where a year or two
previous, her night dress fit her full frame, one that prepared multiple times for a child that never came,
now it hung looser than ever. Once there had been curves, full thighs and hips but a war had thinned
When she was just outside the village heading south she passed through rows of newly sprouted wheat,
further into the night until it was there in front of her. He’d built a small fire as she’d hoped he would.
Arya had found the soldier wandering outside the fields in early evening. Alone, his clothing was shabby
and hung from his body like the others before. He wore no armor or helmet and had no horse. He was
just another soldier who had somehow escaped the vast grasp of the Roman armies, wandering the
country side. Perhaps he was trying to find his way home or perhaps there was nothing left to return to,
his village burned like so many others.
He looked desperate and lost as he cautiously approached her, but this place would not be his home.
When he was close enough for her to make out the features of his face, he dropped his weapon to his
side, tucking it away. By the way his feet drug across the ground, she knew he had traveled as far as he
could for that day. He would be looking for shelter, food, a horse to steal or at the very least a field to
sleep in where he’d go unnoticed or bothered.
There had been a few before him that had come, taking what they could before they moved on. In some
villages, the people were sympathetic and would shelter the men coming back from war, those that had
fought against the empire for freedom, for Hashem. They were fools however, and paid dearly for their
kindness. Anyone aiding Jewish soldiers, if reported or discovered by the Romans would be punished
and those that weren’t rewarded for their humanity by the Romans paid their price just the same. Their
sheep slaughtered or stolen, their horses taken or houses raided. It mattered no longer whether it was
women, children and the old that they were fighting or the Romans. The men would take what they
wanted and feel no remorse for their survival. They were no better than the emperor’s army.
It had been months since they had seen a Roman soldier. They would not return perhaps again until
after harvest. The man, Eyal, he called himself, attempted to appear nonthreatening but Arya knew
better, the war had left nothing but rage, the bitter and hungry- people desperate and tired. He’d be the
lamb now when it would suit his purpose but the wolf would not be far behind.
Arya had brought him wine, what little they had left and bread. His gratitude was enough to make her
possibly reconsider what she was about to do.
She hovered on the outskirts of the light, waiting for him to take notice of her presence. The cautious
man that she had met earlier would no longer be quite as gracious. Looking up from the jug, his head
wobbled back and forth, squinting at her figure through the light.
“Why do you come?” He called out, a smile spreading across his lips while he clawed at the ground,
pushing himself to standing. If Arya had made assumptions too quickly before of this man’s character,
he would have his chance to prove her wrong now, but from the way his eyes lingered on her breasts,
slithering down her body, not even bothering with her face, she knew she had been right all along.
The cold steel of the blade that she kept cradled, threaded through her braid, made hairs on the back of
her neck stand on end. When she did not answer, he stumbled closer, discarding his wine, as a hand
reached out to touch what wasn’t his to covet.
“You come to see me, do you?” he slurred and stumbled, “I knew you would….”
The soldier was much younger than the husband that she was given at two and ten and when he first
approached her, much more soft. She rarely thought of it anymore, the way Afra would touch her in the
and how it would make her skin crawl. At first it was from fear and later it would be hate. She was
bought by a man that was as old as, Yishai, her father, for a mohar of a horse and ten sheep. Yishai
wanted land but a man that wished to increase his land could not plow his fields with just one horse.
Years later the horse that Afra gave would be the one that sustained their crops when the other fell
dead in the fields that were once her father’s but now were hers. The mattan she was given was a silver
bracelet, that was much too large for her small wrists. She’d remember long afterwards how he slipped
the metal onto her hand and how she stared at it through watery eyes as their marriage was
Hands slipped over her breasts and hips and groped at her greedily through the thin linen. This was what
she remembered of men, harsh and eager. His breath reeked of the wine he’d consumed and as his
tongue slid over her neck and she closed her eyes, Arya couldn’t help but picture Afra’s face as he lay on
the ground, hand at his throat, gasping for air, eyes wide staring at her in knowing.
For her father’s greed and her mother’s silence, Arya had been given a man that had lost two wives
previous. One to childbearing and the other to unknown causes, ones that Arya later decided likely had
more to do with his hands than God’s will. They lived on the outskirts of the village, far enough from
others that people wouldn’t hear her cry at night. Those first three years were the worst. The longer she
went without a child, the more inpatient Afra became. He would hit her hard enough in anger that at
times she’d wake in the morning, naked on the dirt floor of their hut, not know how she had gotten
there or how much time she had lost.
In the beginning she used to wish for a child. She prayed as the other women would in the village that
she would be blessed and perhaps then it would stop. Soon however, she learned that it wasn’t a child
Afra truly wanted, only her misery. He lived for it, like a man dying of thirst, reveling in her fear as if it
were drops of cold water, after days in the sun. As soon as Arya realized this, she stopped praying for a
child and started dreaming of all the ways she could escape and so she would when she was two and
Arya would never give life but from the last child that she would carry of Afra’s she’d be given life- hers
once more. Traveling into the village that day on foot, she would seek out the midwife.
A witch, Afra called the woman that aided the women in the village. He refused to let her go, hovering
inside the hut all day to watch her, until he could no longer. The fields needed tending and he would
have to go. Heavy again with child, he refused to let Arya from house, convinced that it was everything
outside of those thatched walls that caused her to lose each child before. He threatened her as he
always did before leaving, promising her a beating she would not forget if she were gone when he
returned. It was then that she knew she had to make her move. When she was sure that he was far
enough into the fields that he could no longer see her go, she made her way towards the village and
When Arya first asked Ofira for the plant the woman calmly inquired for what purpose she intended to
use the flower.
To protect the child, she answered calmly, telling the midwife that she’d had a dream that if she crushed
the Broom flower’s petals and drank them in a tea that she would carry this child to term. This of course
as only a half truth, Arya indeed had dreamed of the plant but it was not her that she saw consuming
the leafs, it was her husband. If the midwife knew better than to give her the dried petals she did not
Had Arya ever believed in Hashem’s existence, it was day she crushed the Broom flower’s petals into a
fine dust, dissolving them into the wine her husband drank with his evening meal and watched as he
slowly suffocated minutes after consuming the amber liquid. As he lay on group, his throat closing, eyes
watery red, gasping for his last breaths of air, clutching at Arya and knowing that it had been her that
had finally brought him to an end, she felt it then. It was the calming feeling of relief that washed over
her accompanied quickly afterwards with a rush of power. His lips were turning blue as she knelt by his
side. Afra’s fingernails digging into the skin of her arms, desperately trying to snatch back the control
she’d taken from him so quietly. Placing her hand on his face, as he writhed in agony, wordless curses
spewing nonsensically from his lips, she could see it then- how it all come full circle. Power, as easily as it
had been used against her, it, could be taken.
Quiet, little one, she had whispered against his face in victory as he had to her so many times before
when she lay there bloody and beaten. She learned something that day. It wasn’t the dream that had
given her freedom. It wasn’t the God that gave Arya another stillborn child, weeks later, which released
her from misery in which she was living. It was her. She had given herself something that no one else
care to or ever would.
If a person was to have something, they should not ask, they should take and not be ashamed for their
desire. Only the foolish followed. Only the weak consented and only the dead trusted.
When the soldier’s hand slid under the hem of the linen, hands feeling up her bare legs not bothering to
notice that she stood unresponsive, unwilling and unwanting, she felt absolved of any lingering, foolish
belief she may have once had in submission.
The soldier, busy fondling her breasts, feeling his way and preparing himself to take her then, never
noticed Arya’s hands reaching behind her back, pulling the small concealed blade from where it rested
holstered in her braid. One of his hands fumbling between her thighs and the other freed himself from
his own garments. His face was buried between her breasts when the tip of the knife cut through linen
of his dress, then tissue, nicking bone in its descent.
The grunt and shock of his discomfort was muffled against her skin, the fingers of her free hand laced
through his hair, pressing his face closer against her sternum. Nails scrapped against Arya’s thighs,
drawing blood as he and grabbed at any bare skin in defense when the blade plunged through his flesh
once more. Aiming low this time the metal cut through soft flesh, blood pouring from the wound before
she had even fully removed the blade.
The drunken soldier sagged against Arya, knees hitting the ground as he struggled gasping for air with
each stab she landed against his back until finally his hands had lost their grip on her skin. Leaning back,
no longer using her as support, he wobbled, trying balance himself, his breaths shallow and short. Not
wasting any time, Arya knelt by his side the tip of her knife pressing gently against his throat as she
leaned in, “I’ve come to see death,” she answered him finally, the edge of the metal cutting through the
soft flesh, moving between the skeletal bones until they severed the his air way completely. Blood
gushed forth from the wound, the soldier’s eyes rolling upwards as she released his head, allowing him
“Into dust”, she said out loud as the only remembrance he’d be given. A life for a life, he would die and
she would live. It was Afra or her, another soldier she had killed a month previous or her and now this
man. It was once the land of milk and honey but now the soil ran red with blood and God seemed to
care none whether the sacrifice was Roman or Jewish, male or female, just as long as the thirst was fed.
It was take or be taken, kill or be killed. The youth of the land had been massacred leaving only the weak
and old to inherit.
Arya would be weak never again and she would take what was hers, what she had earned and kill any
that denied her that right. He was just another soldier, one of the many. Born into this world by a
woman and taken from it by one as well.
“Erya” she said his name, once again, letting it roll of her tongue, his blood dribbling down her arms. The
strong would defeat the weak, the wise the stupid and righteous would be left with nothing.
Bending by his side, she turned his head as she wiped her bloodied limbs on him. Searching his pockets
she took from him a half dozen silver coins and a knife. The metal was sharp enough to cut a blade of
grass, the handle made of a dark polished wood. Examing her spoils, she brought the knife closer to the
fire, finding engraved into the handle not words, initials or even a symbol but instead a two sets of
numbers separated at more than two fingers lengths: 40 and 22.
Arya stared at the markings for minutes, trying to decipher their meaning before wiping it on the linen
she wore and securing it between the folds of her braid as she had her own knife earlier. The blade was
likely stolen or perhaps taken in war, somewhere on the battle field but now it would belong to her.
Looking over her shoulder, Arya stared back at the body, then out in to the fields. She could burn or bury
him. Burning would be quick but the body had better use.
With nothing more than a blade she had brought, Arya drug the body over a thousand feet to the fields.
Heads of wheat had already sprouted in their rows, growing as high as her mid calf. Dropping the body
less than an arm’s length away, disturbing a small portion of the crop, she broke ground with her knife.
Recently plowed and seeded, the top soil was soft and easily displaced but the further she dug into the
ground the dirt turned from malleable to rigid. Stabbing at the ground, the earth broke apart in thick,
hand sized pieces that she tossed to the side as she worked. Head and shoulders deep in the hole, with
her nails caked with dirt and sweet pouring from her forehead Arya dug through night into the early
hours of morning. Her arms were sore and her body coated in a thick layer of dirt and mud that covered
the blood that had stained her clothing. Before the sun peaked over the horizon Arya drug the soldier
into the waist high hole which was half the size of her arm’s span. Folding the man onto himself in his
shallow grave, she climbed out, moving the displaced soil with her hands and feet back into the hole,
covering her deeds. When it was the done the spot where the soldier would lie for the next century
looked like nothing more than a disrupted row of harvested crops, perhaps a place where an animal had
buried something or the crop had been crushed carelessly.
Hair clung to Arya’s face and neck, mounted by sweat and toil. Her nails were so black that it looked as
though her fingers were rotting from her hands. The linen of her night dress once creamy wheat was
now as dark as the earth. Looking up to the sky of fading stars, Arya knew morning would be upon her in
only a few short hours. Glancing at the disturbed piece of land once last time before she would head
back to the village, she whispered, “To the dirt we return,” wiping her blade on hers skirt as she
Tired, Arya was much more careful of each step she made on her journey back to the village than she
was in her journey into the night. Without a soul in sight, she could have made it back to her home that
she shared with her mother and father with not a person in their small tattered village taking notice of
her ragged appearance had she not heard a voice call out softly to her as she passed through rows of
“Arya….” it beckoned.
Turning, she found her shepherd, a girl only four and ten looking back at her. The only daughter of the
midwife, the child was thin and boney for a young girl of her age. Wisps of black hair peaked out from
under her head covering, making her pale skin look even whiter than usual. Hours and days she would
be in the sun, watching Arya’s father’s flock and never would her skin be colored when the girl returned.
With wide set eyes and a square face she looked neither male or female-beautiful or ugly. She was
simply plain and easily forgotten.
“Where do you come from so early?” the girl asked, her eyes scanning Arya’s blacked hands and feet,
dirty outer clothes and uncovered hair.
“I heard a wolf in the night howling. I worried for the flock,” she answered showing her knife as if in
In a village without men that was short on boys, the midwife’s daughter would take the sheep from
pasture during the day and walk with them as far as the eye could see to graze. There were many times
when the brave girl would stay with the flock in the fields at nights and only a certain occasion when she
would not. Before the Sabbath, Iitya would lead the herd back to the village leaving them in familiar
pasture. On the Sabbath she would rest and give thanks with her mother before returning to the flock
the next day.
They had lost more than hand full of sheep to wolves in the previous months but the child refused to
tend to the sheep and guide the herd on the day rest and Arya had no other choice but to accept. She
could not plow and tend to the fields, both her husband’s which she had inherited and her father’s,
while also watching her father’s flock.
“A wolf did you find?” Iitya questioned, still staring at Arya’s knife.
“Yes, a wolf amongst sleeping sheep,” she calmly replied.
Looking her now in the eye, the girl asked, “Were they hurt?”
“A wolf can only mean harm, child.”
The girl shifted back and forth, from one foot to the other as if from guilt that she had not been there to
protect the sheep that she had looked after for so long.
“Did you kill it?” Iitya finally responded.
Stepping forward, her hand reached out, concerned with the scratches and thinly disguised blood that
caked Arya’s arms. “Are you hurt?” Iitya questioned.
Arya smiled, it was small and subtle but a smirk just the same, “I am not a lamb.”
“Nor or are you a lion,” the girl blurted, retracting her hand, looking up at Arya with such concern that
always seemed to burden Iitya. Had there not been a war, the men gone and only the sickly and children
left, the girl would be married and likely have much more serious things to fill her thoughts- worries of a
husband and his needs and desires, Arya often thought. At Iitya’s age, Arya had already been married for
quite some time, taken her fair share of beatings, while also losing her first child.
Coyly, Arya stepped closer to the young girl that looked back at her with such innocence and naivety,
“How can you be sure?” she challenged.
The girl glanced again at the blade that was pressed against Arya’s hip, her knuckles turning white with
their tight grip against the handle. If Iitya had something else to say she knew to keep it to herself.
“Go to sheep and see after the flock,” Arya finally bid, drawing the girl’s attention back to her eyes.
Motioning towards the fields, she smiled at young woman, finishing, “Good day to you, Iitya.”
As obedient as the girl had always been, never questioning Arya’s directive, she answered, “Yes,”
nodding in return before pressing forward, moving away from the village to find the herd.
“Iitya!” Arya called out to her as the girl neared the edge of the fields.
Stopping, she turned her head slowly in acknowledgement, waiting for further instructions.
Giving her a last piece of advice, Arya yelled out into the morning air, “Be cautious of wolves, child. They
feed on fear.”