The men fell all over themselves to help her, then, praising her for her bravery in traveling all alone at night (I contained my snort of derision), for her wisdom in coming to Holofernes. One took her arms reverently to assist her steps and the other, looking annoyed, took the lamp from me. The two of them led us straight to the camp, then through tidy rows of small tents towards one nearly as large as our house. It was certainly large enough to house the Command Center of such an army. Heads popped out of those orderly rows to watch us pass, and soon we were leading a procession of men. I could hear them whispering about her beauty, her grace, her mystery.
Our escort announced us to the guards outside the large tent, and I heard someone in the crowd joke that if all Judaean women looked like my Slayer, her people would be impossible to hate. Another responded that if all Judaean women looked like her, the army would be better off killing every last one of them, before they could ensnare the troops. After that I heard a blow, and scuffling, but then I was being searched roughly by the guards for weapons. My Slayer was handled with much more deference- but then, she was wearing thin silks and no pack.
At last we were led into the tent, which had an entryway, and still more guards. And then Holofernes walked in, and I had a better idea of what we were dealing with.
If he was an ordinary mortal- which I doubted- he surely had giant blood in him, for he stood over seven feet tall, with none of the strange proportions you see in full-blooded humans who get to that size. He was broad as an ox, and his eyes shifted strangely in color, appearing one moment to be green-brown, the next blue-gray, reminding me of nothing so much as the waves of a lake washing up on a rocky shore. He turned those strange eyes on my Slayer, and his full lips parted in faint surprise. He was handsome, as far as those things go, but something about him raised the hair on my neck, and I took an involuntary step backwards, out of the flickering lamplight.
My Slayer, on the other hand, threw herself prostrate before him.
“Great Holofernes,” she cried, and I wondered how she managed to enunciate so clearly with her face pressed into the thick carpets. “Please take pity on this most unworthy woman, and grant me the chance to prove my usefulness to you and your King!”
The servants looked horrified at this display, and even Holofernes blinked. He signaled with his hands and the servants rushed to help my trembling Slayer back to her feet. I concentrated on remaining unseen, trying to discern what Holofernes really was.
“Don’t be afraid, little one,” Holofernes said gently, and as he spoke I heard water rushing powerfully across the land, destroying everything in its path. My stomach dropped, for at last I knew how he had stopped Bethulia’s water supply, how he had flooded all of Babylon.
Holofernes was a water demon.