Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Temple Plot

The Temple Plot - fragments (was known as Under a Theban Sky)


The story of...

Merytaset aka Usrera Ankhesenamun

(Beloved of Isis) aka (Powerful of Ra, whose life is in Amun)

Background of the piece

Merytaset was born on the edge of the Nile in reign of Ptolemy VIII (circa 140 BCE) as her Mother tended fields alone, the cord was around her neck and she was saved by a mysterious beautiful lady who appeared 'out of nowhere' to help. Merytaset's Mother always maintained her saviour was the Lady Isis herself. Hence M's childhood name.

Her Father, who by the time M is 5 has risen to being a diplomat for Pharaoh, 'dies' when he sent on a mission to Assyria and does not return. They are not destitute as they have their section of land to farm, and her Mother is by this time a dressmaker of repute that has caught the eye of Pharaoh's daughters. Over the next two years, M gets to know at a distance the female royal circle.

Life is considerably more tough though,and when her Mother Is given the great honour of her child being apprenticed at the age of 7 at the great temple at Thebes, she accepts.

The story begins 12 years later with M becoming the Great wife of Amun, the chief priestess of the temple on the morning of a visit of the Queen, Cleopatra III, who has identified herself with Isis. In the course of the visit, M hears some disturbing news about a plot to overthrow the Queen. A plot originating from inside the temple. She confides her information to the old high priest. But can she trust him. An attempt is made on the Queen's life but fails when M prevents her food from being poisoned. But. Unbeknown to her she was meant by the conspirators to do that as a bluff designed to give the Queen false security. The plot is much larger and involves temples throughout the land. The Queen leaves for Alexandria, waving away M's protests about her safety.

Weeks later, M makes her yearly pilgrimage to the tomb of her Mother in Alexandria. Whilst there, a seemingly innocent event at the market, a horse getting loose, is the catalyst for the plot to occur....


The horse, unbidden and riderless, came galloping through the market place, causing a ripple and then a rupture in the sea of people. They scattered to avoid its hooves. Like silk ripping I thought, stepping out of the animal's path and remembering. Remembering Boyalais holding the shimmering cloth tight, as Mother with deftness would tear it in two. Long ago. Bo..Ya...Lais. I rolled the syllables around my tongue as the horse wrecked havoc amongst the ordered stalls. Nubian for pretty young girl, Mother had given the maid this name for the girl would not or could not tell her what she was called.

I closed my eyes. The furore, the madness of the market dropped away. Mother, dressmaker to Pharaoh's daughters, working into the night in front of the hearth. The walls
of heat fading, flame turning blue, turning her head to a noise from the archway that led to the sleeping rooms. The noise me, dangerously curious, head peeping round the corner. 'Go to bed Merytaset' she would chide. But gently. Always gently.

Long after Ra began his night's journey, my Mother would work, set the candle aflame and work. Long after the Goddess Nuit began her watch over our blessed land, nothing would deter her. Especially if a Pharonic commission was due. Perched close to the dying embers, her hands moved at speed, 'these dresses are our fruit little one,' she would smile. I would think of Father's maxim when faced with a task for little reward. 'It's a long walk.' So it was, for although the Royal family were inevitably pleased with her work, she received scant profit.

I opened my eyes. A rather harassed looking man, flushed of face and beating away protests from the market sellers was trying to retrieve what I presumed was his horse.
The animal had scattered a table full of melon and crashed into a stall offering wine. It now appeared to be trying to eat the stock of a baker, much to his chagrin.

I had known for years that my current exalted position, though it ignited ignorance, was in all fact owing to my Mother's toil. This was one of many reasons why I made the pilgrimage from Thebes. I tried to travel unrecognised but I could not bring myself not to wear the robe of a priestess.

The horseman had recovered his charge and was now placating the stall holders. The fact he had opened his purse helped. I pulled my cloak closer and continued walking through the market. The cemetery was nearby. I carried the offering in my pocket to place at my Mother's tomb.

Copyright 2013 Gabrielle Goldsmith

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