Monday, 7 April 2014

The Temple Plot - Fragment 6

Merytaset, former God's Wife of Amun at Thebes, and the orphaned Princess Isidoria are thrown into slavery in the city once known as Babylon.

We were capsized from one captivity into another. Like someone trapped on a burning barque who can not swim, I contemplated which fate would be worse. As if I, as if we had a choice. Being held and transported this far by Ragnorkah and his men had become something that felt both an oubliette and a sanctuary. Incredible, but behind the broken walls of this city he'd brought us to, the sights were sufficient to condense hopes and fears until all emotion became a silent scream. Enough to bring on madness.

That first day in this city, that first hour, I ran through all the mantras and invocations to the Gods and Goddesses in my head, as if I were rushing through the corridors in the library of Alexandria, reading title after title of the books and manuscripts. Desperately trying to find the words, the right words, frantically trying to prepare myself and the girl for the pain that would follow.

For I knew. I knew when Ragnorkah made us dismount. Knew for certain when he tied the girl's hands together and then to a rope he placed around my waist and then my tied hands to another rope he tied to the saddle of his horse. I knew he meant to parade us through the city. And that that meant we were heading for only one place. His men did not crow. One smiled at me with pity in his eyes. Out of my sight, I heard one chuckle. Likely, the rest were silent because they were so tired. They thought only of rest, food, wine and whatever else would revive them. I wondered when Isidoria and I would eat again. She was behind me, about four feet of rope between us. For the first time in days she was not reachable. I could not hold her in my arms and was terrified that she might fall and be dragged in the dirt and dust as we processed. Just as Ragnorkah remounted I turned my head. Her look of despair cut me deeper than any blade could. Tears ran down her sand blown face. She opened her mouth to speak but emotion stumbled over her words

'Pri..Mam...what..' She choked on her terror.

'Little one, hush,' I spoke calmly, wishing the Goddess to give me strength, 'Remember Osiris loves you, you are his daughter! Aren't you?'

Isidoria nodded with little conviction.

'And so, will you do something for me?' (another cautious nod) 'will you as we walk now, say this to yourself. Osiris watches over me, Osiris loves me, Osiris watches over me, Osiris loves me. Will you do that for me little one, as we walk?' I said all this quickly. I had to hurry. Ragnorkah's men had also got back on their horses and I felt him tap his with his heels. 'Promise me,' I called over my shoulder to the princess, and just heard her weak 'yes, I promise' in reply before I had to concentrate on my own footsteps and make sure I did not fall.


'Room for one more, and for the little one,' said the man behind the long bench. A bench that had been placed on a raised wooden construction. The latter was like a very shallow stage. His ugly face snarled with pleasure at us as he adjusted a dirty tangerine headscarf that refused to stay put in the breeze. Upon the bench, a bird of prey, iridescence trapped in a cage, squawked agreement and clawed at the bars. Room for one more, room for one more. The man laughed. He sat in a pose that betrayed a belief in his own royalty, that he was one born to laud it over his subjects. A terrible inverse for they were a group of frightened women shackled together behind and to the side of the stage, cowering on the ground with little room to stretch or breath.

I felt change come upon us like a sandstorm. Ragnorkah untied the leading rope from my hands, whispering in my ear as he did 'I am sorry adoratrice but this is much better than the original purpose of my commission.' Original purpose? So he had spared our lives then. I looked up at
him. His face was impassive. No sorrow, but no arrogance either. I searched for room in my heart to remember it with pity, with respect. Isis bade that I forgive him. I just nodded.

His transaction with the slave trader was swift. Two lives for a pile of silver coins which he swept from the bench into a leather pouch. Then, he was on his horse and he and his men were gone, melting into the chaos and noise of the city. A strange empty parting that I could not dwell on. Though I could not put them around her, I beckoned Isidoria to my side with my tied hands and then moved her in front of me, throwing my arms over her shoulders in an act of protection. She had done so well not to fall. I raised my chin and beheld our new gaoler. His countenance did not improve on further scrutiny. He scoffed at my futile defiance. Licked his lips in a sickening manner.

The girl began to cry. Silently.

Copyright Gabrielle Goldsmith 2014

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