Tzipporah caught him looking at her from the corner of her eye. She turned, smiling warily to try to dispel the awkwardness, but Ocor flushed and turned away just the same. Tzipporah frowned to herself. No matter how hard everyone tried, Ocor refused to fit into their tribe. He worked grudgingly and spent much time looking serious and frowning. Daydreaming, her father called it. Dangerous and stupid was what she called it. His attitude not only kept him from the group, it also caused unnecessary tension.
She shrugged and went back to mending the rip in her blanket. It was really none of her affair, and she knew she would not have worried about him if her father had not been concerned first. Whatever concerned Jethro, no matter how he tried to keep from showing it, was plain to his oldest daughter. What she did not know was that her father's concern was not for the youth's sullen temperament alone.
Some days later, Tzipporah was assigned to tend a flock of sheep with Ocor. She gave her father a wary glance when he told her to join Ocor for the day, but she could not tell if she had been partnered with him at random or on purpose. Mentally brushing away her suspicions, she steeled herself for a long and boring, if not downright unpleasant day. She and Ocor guided the sheep to some nearby grazing, speaking only to the sheep to keep them together.
Tzipporah found herself avoiding doing even so much as looking at Ocor, and she chided herself for her pride. This was not how Jehovah would have her treat a member of her tribe. She used her staff to help her climb up to the top of the rock where Ocor stood surveying the flock. The wary look he gave her nearly undermined her determination to speak to him. She would not be distracted or back down from a mere unwelcome look, especially from one scarcely older than she was. Reaching the top, she gestured slightly towards the flock. "They're restive today."
Ocor gave an affirmative grunt, but did not look her way. She glanced sharply at him, and saw that his hands clenched his staff far more tightly than was needed. He was either very angry or very nervous. Tzipporah could think of no logical reason for him to be either.
Tzipporah turned away from him to scan the horizon. They had taken the flock to a pasture near the border of her father's lands, but raiders did not always recognize such borders. She looked back over the flock and noticed a sheep wandering away from the main flock. Tzipporah sighed. Time to get back to work. She turned to tell Ocor she was going after the stray. Her mind had just enough time to register Ocor's staff coming at her head before the blackness exploded over her vision.
The brilliant sunlight did not help Tzipporah's throbbing head when she regained consciousness. Her body tensed and flexed, relaying to her brain that not only was she thirsty, hot, sweaty, and laying on the hard rock, but she was bound securely. Taut ropes held her ankles, knees, wrists, and even her elbows together. She tilted her head to try to get her bearings. Ocor was a few yards away, bringing back a few strays to the flock. Tzipporah found the sight of what was usually so common as unnatural. Her brain searched for answers, but no solution came to her. She struggled against her ties, but they held fast.
Her movements allowed her to see another part of the horizon, where a vague shape was growing slowly. Someone was headed this way...no..make that a lot of someones. Judging by the dark colors they wore and the horses' hoofbeats that she could hear through the ground, it wasn't anyone from her tribe. "R..raiders." she croaked, the word becoming garbled in her dry mouth. A part of her wondered why she was bothering to warn Ocor. Her fogged mind was functioning on instinct rather than reason, she decided. Tzipporah almost chuckled. Cloudy...clouded thinking from that brilliant sun? Her eyelids slid half-shut, then snapped open. She saw Ocor standing nearby, and anger poured through her veins. Tzipporah was totally alert now, the fog cleared from her mind.
"No, they're not raiders." Ocor's smile was cruel and triumphant. "They're my way out of this barren desert. And yours, too." He squatted on his heels a few feet away, his staff gripped in readiness. Tzipporah frowned. Ocor was being very cautious. That was not going to make escape easy. Ocor misinterpreted her frown as a question. "Oh, yes. For a while I thought about leaving you here, but there's the nasty problem of you father." He spat the last word from his mouth as if it were poison. "Then I thought about killing you, but the gods granted me a better idea."
Tzipporah twisted, trying to find a way out of the ropes, or at least a more comfortable position. "There...there's only one God." she said hoarsely.
Ocor shook his head. "No," he said sharply, "I'm not forced to pretend a belief in your Jehovah any longer." He lifted his face to the sun, a look of fierce ecstasy passing over his countenance. "Ra is over all, the sun who gives us life. He and the other gods and goddesses of this life must be honored."
Tzipporah was horrified and felt a twinge of fear. She quickly pushed it aside and demanded, "How can you speak such blasphemy? Jehovah is the only..." Her words ended in a grunt of pain as Ocor's staff connected with her stomach.
"Never mention that name again." Ocor hissed. "I will not tolerate it."
Tzipporah glared up at him, but held her tongue. Rage seethed inside her. Ocor glanced at the approaching figures, and Tzipporah could see now who they were. It was a caravan of traders, swathed in black robes and comprised of a dozen camels with five or six horses alongside.
Ocor gave a satisfied nod. "Ten sheep will pay for my passage, and the rest I'll sell for coin. You'll be proof of my devotion to Ra."
As the caravan drew near, Ocor made a final round of the flock, making sure none wandered off. Tzipporah used his absence from her side to test the ropes that held her yet again, but it was no use. Ocor, she saw, had gone to hail the caravan leader. Ocor's words nagged at her brain. Proof of his devotion? How could she be a proof of his devotion to Ra? Where were they going? Tzipporah thought quickly, anger at her helplessness fueling her need to understand what was happening. Where could Ocor go to be close to the pagan god Ra? Suddenly, the answer hit Tzipporah with a thud that took her breath away even more surely than Ocor's staff had.
Egypt. He was taking her to the distant land, far out of her father's reach, where Hebrews were slaves. Tzipporah shuddered involuntarily.