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
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.
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.
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....
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.
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.
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.
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
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