Monday, 5 August 2013

The Temple Plot: Fragment Two

'What colour was the horse?'

'What...WHAT, why are you asking that?' My patience had snapped. I made to get up, I was done with listening to this official lecture and interrogate me. One of Pharaoh's city guard, high ranking from the look of him, he was unfazed by my actions. He nodded to the burly subordinate that barred the door behind me. I felt his bulk move towards me and raised my hands in defeat. I flopped back in my chair. The room was cold and my bones ached for sleep. I had been offered water when they had hauled me in here but that was, must have been hours ago. Nothing since, my throat ached.

I had fled to the guard's compound when the crowd at the market place turned into a mob. Coming back from the cemetery, lost in thought of childhood times, I was startled from my contemplation by the sight of a mass of angry people who were lighting torches in the twilight, who were coalescing bent on. Bent on what? Reaching the market I moved to stand in the path of the main group. 'Friends, what is happening here,' I spoke up, letting my cloak fall open so they could see I was a priestess. 'Do not trouble yourself adoratrice,' replied one near the front, anger in his voice and eyes. He spat the last word out with venom and pushed past me, knocking me to the ground. I had to scramble and roll out of the crowd following behind, lest I be trampled. Those demented apes were bent on destruction. When I reached the compound, the guards were already roused but, instead of being thanked I was arrested.

The official was still going on about the damned horse.

'What colour was it?'
'Why is that relevant?' I retorted, pulling the sodden and dirty remains of the white gown closer.
'It may have been a military horse, the trouble it caused getting loose may have ignited the mob's ire.'

Oh sweet Isis, I whispered remembering. Remembered looking over my shoulder before I passed into the guards' compound. The mob were kindling fires in the library. They wanted to burn everything with their half truths and blunt endings. I felt no pity for them. Whatever their reasons. I knew this was wrong. I knew the Gods would punish them and me.

I had come here for safety, for hope but these questions made me feel like I was a perpetrator. Is this a punishment Lord Amun? This official was calm, given the mayhem unfolding outside, smug and imposing. Perhaps his men had the situation under control. Perhaps, but he was still talking about the horse!

Which market stall had it crashed into? What was the horse called? I wrinkled my brow. Did he actually say that or was I becoming delirious with the cold, with thirst and hunger. My damp clothes did not help. It had been as if the fires had burned the rain. The sudden shower had done nothing to slow the devastation. I pictured the library, flames beginning to take hold, a curiously cold magenta. What a fabulous finale to their rampage I thought bitterly. Why burn knowledge? But, maybe, may be his men had got there in time, stopped the mob before it was too late.

'The library?' I croaked.
'Is safe adoratrice,' he nodded.

'Praise Ra,' I blurted out in relief.

'Though it took the great majority of my men to disperse the mob and extinguish the fires. There is some minor damage to the outer courtyard but....'
He went on but I was not listening. Another thought had darkened my brief happiness. Another thought as clear and as deadly as Ramses the great's spear.
'Where are your men now Sir?'
He stopped, looked at me reprovingly, 'I'll ask the questions here. Now, what we need to know, first, is who ordered this, who guided the horse, who created this riot for I don't believe for one moment that it was an accident.' His voice was dark, accusing but I held his gaze defiantly.
'Where are your men?' I beseeched, for I knew. Of a sudden it was obvious what was going to happen, was likely happening right now.

The officer sighed. His expression one of anger, I thought he might lean over and slap me. Instead he raised his eyebrows quizzically at the man at the door.
'They are mostly still outside the compound Sir,' he replied, ' making sure that the city stays calm.'
I closed my eyes. Began a silent chant. Merciful Goddess let her be safe, merciful Goddess let her be safe, merciful...
'I need...we need to get a message to our Queen,' I almost shouted, 'the riot, the attempt to burn the library, it is a diversion, to keep you and your men busy whilst...' I struggled to finish, my emotions overspilling, 'the Queen, she is in danger.'
'Nonsense priestess, our Queen has the palace guard to protect her. I know your position is exalted,' he said with sarcasm, 'but I also know how you acquired it.'

Words I'd overheard back in Thebes, just before her visit, floated through my head. The key is to convince those close. That's all I had heard from behind a pillar in the darkened courtyard. I did not see who spoke them or to whom they spoke. But they now made
perfect sense.

'You don't understand, we must...'
'Stop this,' he barked banging his fist on the table,' I do not have to do your bidding.'

I seethed with frustration, felt tears in my eyes. Isis, please do not let her die.

'Now, are you going to co-operate? I have all night to wait for you to do so,'he said ominously.

Copyright Gabrielle Goldsmith 2013

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