Life under the glare of the Aten of Rei became a golden contrast to the darkness of the ghost that haunted Miri each night. Day by day, the thin connections that tied Miri and Ayamu across the vast reaches of the desert wastes of the Sahara to the Black Land of the Nile slowly dissolved, and the entire Cosmos seemed to revolve around the red soil of their tiny oasis.
With two people instead of one tending the crops and the sheep and goats, the land gave forth more than a double blessing. Ayamu brightened week by week.
"At this rate, our produce will begin to pay my debts to the Imperial courts!" he said aloud, not looking back, as he pulled the plough which Miri guided and pushed from behind.
A darkness passed over her face. Miri knew she could not return to Egypt. Setem's relatives would be sure to push for her head for taking Setem's, and she had no means to pay the blood price. Her anguish must have showed on her face for Ayamu's enthusiasm seemed to suddenly drain from his frame as he glanced back at Miri.
"What's wrong?" he asked with great concern.
Miri said nothing.
"Why are you so sad?" He slipped the ropes from his shoulders and took her in his arms.
Miri looked away.
"Why don't you share in my happiness?" he asked impatiently. "Every time I mention good fortune, you react as though I have uttered a curse!"
Tears welled in Miri's eyes.
"What is the matter with you?" he asked angrily.
"I don't want to go back!" she cried out. "I am happy here! Why would you want to go anywhere else?"
Ayamu was flabbergasted.
"Why?" he asked, "Why?" he waved his arms about him, "Where are our neighbours? Our friends? Are we both to remain in exile, cut off from our people? What kind of an existence is that?"
Miri pulled away from him.
"I have no wish to go back!" she said firmly.
"What is it you are afraid of?" he asked again.
Miri bit her lip.
"I can't tell you!" she said fiercely. She looked deep into his beautiful eyes.
"Please," she asked, "Don't press me on this!"
Ayamu shook his head slowly.
"Let's finish the field," he said grimly.
They returned to their plowing of the field. Ayamu bent himself to his task, pulling strongly with great passion, and Miri struggled to keep the plough straight and aligned with the previously laid furrows. Ayamu's anger drove the plough deeper into the earth, opening a continuous great gash in the dry caked soil.
A sudden clink as the plough hit a stone attracted Miri's attention.
"Wait!" she called out to Ayamu.
He stopped immediately.
"A stone!" she said.
Ayamu sighed and dropped the ropes again.
"Is the plow damaged?"
He strode over to Miri.
"I don't think so."
She bent down to examine it. As she brushed off the dry soil, she caught sight of red terra cotta.
"It's a jar!" she said excitedly and began to scrape away the earth.
Ayamu knelt before her and began scrabbling in the dirt with her.
"Perhaps it's buried treasure!" he gushed excitedly. "Maybe it's gold coins!" he laughed. "We're rich! The gods have taken pity upon us! We shall live like the Pharaoh!"
Their efforts uncovered the top of a large earthenware jar. The plow had shattered the lid, and the seal had cracked and fallen into the loose soil. Miri lifted a piece of wax as Ayamu pulled the broken pieces of the lid from the earth. He reached inside and pulled. The object he grasped crumbled beneath his grip and tiny pieces of blackened papyrus floated down from his opened palm.
"Paper!" he said in disgust, and reached down to pull out more.
"Wait!" snapped Miri, grasping his wrist, and he looked up at her in surprise.
"Wait!" she said softly as their eyes met. "Perhaps the words on the paper are of value! Dig the jar out and we will empty it carefully! If the paper was valuable enough for the owners to bury it, perhaps it can be traded to a collector."
"Who would want old documents?" asked Ayamu, "What good would be the books of someone long dead?"
"Perhaps there is more besides," said Miri, "And the paper could point us to more jars."
"Buried treasure!" said Ayamu, his eyes gleaming.
He had missed the point entirely. Miri just wished to preserve the papyri. The value of the written word was something Ayamu could not understand, for he was as far from being a scholar as the plants that sprang from the soil he ploughed.
Nonetheless, he dug around the jar carefully, demurring to Miri's command. They dug a hole several cubits across and two deep, but no other jars were to be found. Ayamu was terribly disappointed, and wanted to pull the papyri from the jar they had uncovered in hopes that gold coins were hidden in the bottom.
Miri managed to keep his eagerness for emptying the jar under control, and after ceding possession of the jar to him so he could carry it to the house, had to stop him from shaking the jar in hopes of hearing the metallic clink of coins against the clay pot.
After secreting the jar in the tent that served as a porch for the reed house, they returned to ploughing the field and sowing their barley, and after a light supper, the two of them settled beside the small writing desk, and placed the jar upon it. Within the wide mouth of the terra cotta jar, several rolls were visible. Miri pulled gently at one as Ayamu hovered over her, itching to reach in and help her. The first scroll she grasped crumbled under her touch.
Ayamu tried to pull another piece away, but Miri slapped his fingers away.
She spied the wooden handles of a scroll and decided to pull at those. The scroll resisted her pull, and she pulled harder. All of a sudden it let go of its prison and slid partway out. Long strips of dried parchment peeled away from the scroll and Miri cursed under her breath. She looked at Ayamu and he shrugged.
Taking a deep breath Miri pulled again and the entire scroll came loose from the jar. A rain of parchment flakes settled on the surface of the desk. Carefully, Miri laid the scroll on the desk.
A cloth ribbon bound the two rolls of the scroll together. Miri pulled at it, and the ribbon fell apart. Miri waited for a moment to strengthen her control over her hands, then unrolled the scroll. The parchment crackled a little and pieces fell away, but the main of the sheet remained intact as she unrolled it.
"This is written in Rei-en-Kaam!" she said excitedly as she recognized the hieroglyphic script running across the upper part of the page. "Though it is very old!" She ran her finger over the text written in parallel below it.
"And here is the translation below written in an ancient Canaanite script! Here listen:
'This is the true testament of the Habiru Messiah Rei-Moses, son of Avram the Elder and Yochabed of the tribe of Levi written in the reign of Rammoses the Great by the hand of Devorah of the city of Koptos.
In the first year after the ascension of the third Amenhotep, Rei appeared to a Habiru slave woman Yochabed in the guise of the Phoenician god El.
'Fear not,' he called to her, 'for I bring you glad tidings of Great Joy. For borne unto you shall be a Messiah, a great prophet who shall have no equal, and you shall name him Moses, for he shall be beloved of his people, and deliver them from this land, as Ba'al El has delivered him to you. But at his birth, you must dedicate him to El, and set him adrift upon the River Nile, so that his freedom will be passed to your people through Him."
And so it came to pass the child Rei-Moses was born to the Habiru slave woman called Yochabed. And against every instinct and fibre of her being, she followed the directions of her god, and set the child adrift on the River Nile in a covered papyrus boat. His ka, his Soul, guided by magic amulets of Hathor- whom the Habiru call Astarte- and the Habiru god, El- who is called rei by the Egyptians. The crocodilians that lurk within the waters cannot abide the papyrus and honoured the blessing of El and Astarte, and they did not eat the child. Yet, even after releasing the child to be exposed, the mother had a change of heart and decided the gods could use a little help, and so, commanded her daughter to follow the ark down the river and see that the child came to no harm.
The girl did as she was told and soon the small boat came into a small bay where some women of the Pharaoh's court were bathing. One of the women saw the raft and swam out to retrieve it.
This woman, a daughter of the Pharaoh, opened the cover on the ark, and a dove fluttered out from beneath it. Aghast, she found the child within and hurriedly brought it back to shore. The babe wept and the princess had compassion for him and said, 'This child shall be raised as my own, and I shall call him Rei-Moses, for he is a gift from the gods.'
At that moment she spied the babe's sister hiding amongst the reeds, and in an off-hand manner, dismissed the others and remained alone by the Nile with the beautiful boy child. She called out to the girl in the rushes, 'Who are you, child? Is this your son?'
The girl stepped out from hiding. 'He is my brother. My mother has set him adrift on the back of Hapi so that he may receive the blessing of our god, and grow to be a free man.'
The princess smiled at the girl. 'He has eyes as beautiful as your own. I have just wrapped a child of my own in a burial shroud ere he could be wrapped in swaddling! Now the gods have sent me one as beautiful as I have ever seen! What is your name?'
'My name is Miriam, daughter of Avram and Yochabed.'"
Miri stopped as her eyes rested upon her own name upon the paper. Several lines were blotted out by water damage, and she ran her hand to the Canaanite script, but that portion was also missing, for the bottom half of the papyrus had crumbled. After tracing forward, she continued reading aloud.
"Her husband also consented to adopt the child as his own son. So it came to pass Moses was called Rei-Moses. He was thus circumcised in the tradition of both Egypt and the Habiru to be raised as a son of the Pharaoh, a stranger within an alien land, unaware of his true lineage.
Yet, the princess did not abandon the real mother of Moses altogether, for she hired Yochabed as her nursemaid. It was in this way that the princess brought the family of Rei-Moses into the court, for she insisted Yochabed bring her own children as a companions for her son. Soon after, the princess gave birth to a healthy son of her own, and she and her husband honoured Rei-Moses for bringing the blessings of the gods into their household.
And so it came to pass that Moses grew versed in the culture of the Two Lands as well as the culture of Canaan, and was thus of both lands and neither. He was not fully trusted by Habiru or Egyptian, but was better received than an Egyptian by Habiru and Habiru by Egyptian than was the custom of his day. He was therefore appointed by the Pharaoh Amenhotep the Third to oversee the Habiru work gangs.
He went out unto his brethren, the Habiru, and looked upon their burden and their hardship and his heart was moved. He saw their burden was heavy and he lessened it. He saw they were hungry and he fed them. He saw they were oppressed and he gave them time away from work so they could keep the Sabbath holy.
He won the hearts of the Habiru, and they praised Moses and held him in adoration. Because they were happier, his work gangs poured their hearts into their work and Moses was soon was appointed as Vizier at the court of Amenhotep the Third. In this time he became friends with the son of the Pharaoh, the Fourth Amenhotep who listened to the tales of one god avidly. This new prince came to believe that one god instead of many was good, for the power of the priests of the temple of Amon was great and threatened the power of the throne of the Two Lands. He came to believe in the One and Only God. Amenhotep the Fourth adopted Moses as his brother, and Miriam as sister.
And so it came to pass that Moses was learned in all the wisdom and mysteries of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds. In the custom of the Egyptians, Moses, as a member, adopted, of the Royal family was called to perform rites to ensure the health of the Two Lands. As these duties were to be performed by priests of the lands, he was initiated into the mysteries of the national religion, and he was an ardent and indefatigable student.
He reasoned with the priests and rabbis, protesting the folly of veneration of idols of stone, wood or plaster. He was tolerated by the hierarchy because of his position, and soon their arguments that the cult statues were to focus the mind on the adoration of the god, that all gods were but emanations of a single creative god, he was seduced by their logic, and he chose to serve Aten-Rei, a god to whom the god of the Habiru most closely resembled, and turned his back upon the One True God.
And it also came to pass that Miriam was learned in all the wisdom and mysteries of the Egyptians, and was as mighty in words and deeds. In the custom of the Egyptians, Miriam, as a member, adopted, of the Royal family was also called to perform rites to ensure the health of the Two Lands. As these duties were to be performed by priestesses of the lands, she was initiated into the mysteries of the national religion, but while she was an ardent and indefatigable student, they could not prevail upon her to worship the gods. She also worshipped Aten-Rei.
As she grew, she flowered into the most beautiful woman Egypt had ever seen. Such were her charms, Amenhotep called her Nefertiti which means 'The Beautiful One has Come', for he was enthralled and captivated by her before the first moment of manhood, and greeted her as Nefertiti every morning she came to his court. Soon he prevailed upon her to become his wife. Amenhotep and Nefertiti were devoted to each other, Heart and Soul.
As brother to the future Great Royal Wife, Rei-Moses fortunes rose, and as he performed his duties in court so well, he was appointed to high position within the Royal government. This was as befitted the brother of The Great Royal Wife. These were days when the sun shone benevolently upon the Two Lands, and the Nile rose as is right, on the equinox. They were happy days for Rei-Moses, and Miriam called Nefertiti. So enraptured was Rei-Moses by the life of the Egyptian court, he began work upon his own tomb as is the custom of the Egyptians.
And on the death of the Third Amenhotep, the Fourth Amenhotep ascended the throne and became sole ruler of Egypt with his wife Nefertiti. Thereupon he called himself by a new name: Akhenaten. He appointed Moses as his Vizier, and by Royal Decree commanded that all the temples of the land be closed and he himself would build a temple dedicated to the One God who he called Aten. He set his brother Moses as overseer of the construction new palace and temples in the exact centre of Egypt begun by his father, Amenhotep the Third. This place he called Akhetaten which means 'The Horizon of The Sun'.
All of Egypt was in an uproar as the Temples of the Nile had grown rich and their priests lived in opulence that rivalled their Pharaoh. Moses was as aghast as all the others in Egypt but not for the same reason. For Aten was not the God he had described to Akhenaten. Aten was none other than the sun god Rei under a different name. Yet many blamed Moses and the Habiru for influencing Akhenaten and inciting his great Royal Wife Nefertiti to heresy.
The wrath of the people turned against the Habiru, and one day, while Moses was walking along the path towards the workmen's village to the south east of Akhetaten, he spied an Egyptian raising his arm in anger against a Habiru workman. Moses ordered the Egyptian to stop but the Egyptian ignored him for he knew Moses to be a Habiru also. Moses attempted to stop the Egyptian by force and the two men grappled. Moses threw the man to the ground and such was his strength, broke the man's neck.
The Habiru who he had saved from abuse said to Moses:
'This is terrible! Your enemies will tell the Pharaoh and his court you are no longer to be trusted. They will say you are showing your spots: you are a leopard who will lead the Apiru to revolt against the Egyptians, to overthrow the government, and to seat yourself upon the throne as the Hittites had once done. They will say Egypt can never be secure with you as Vizier. They will point to your sister Miriam, and she will be assassinated along with you!'
Looking this way and that way, Moses saw no one watching and with the help of the workman, he buried the Egyptian in a rubble tip, and covered him with sand. A foreman came by in the next moment and asked Moses, 'Where is the overseer?' Moses replied angrily, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' and as the words left his mouth, the truth of the blood guilt struck him to his very soul.'"
Miri stopped reading for a knot had formed in her throat. She was flushed and hot. The story brought her own guilt to her, and she stared up at Ayamu's beautiful face. The innocence within his eyes made her want to scream her guilt. To confess, to pour out her soul to him.
"What's wrong?" he asked sensing her uneasiness. He reached up his hand to caress her cheek, but Miri pulled away. She could not bear to be near him, to foul him with her bloodied hands. She stood up quickly and walked to the edge of the tent and stared out at the desert.
"Miri," Ayamu said softly, "You pull away from me. If there is a wall between us, then please tell me what it is made of, and I will tear it down."
"I cannot!" said Miri vehemently.
Ayamu stood behind her and grasped her arm.
Miri whirled angrily.
"Don't touch me!" She pushed Ayamu aside and stormed from the living area, and retreated to her closed sleeping area, her face flushed with anger. Alone in her quarters, visions of Setem's severed head flooded her mind; his dead eyes stared accusingly into her own. The pungent odor of rotting flesh filled her nose and mouth, and she quickly lit a bowl of incense to dispel it and because that was not enough, she poured a goblet of wine, downing it in one gulp.
She regretted her weakness as the wine warmed her insides. She poured another goblet and carried it back into the outer precinct and smiled at Ayamu.
"I'm sorry," she apologized, "Please forgive me!"
Ayamu did not answer. He lay on the divan, his back toward her.
Miri slipped her arm about his shoulders and slid down beside him on the divan. She hugged him and happily the stiffness in his shoulders melted with her embrace and he turned toward her. She had hurt him and it showed in his eyes. She touched his eyelids and closed them, then kissed him deeply. He resisted momentarily but then he kissed her back hungrily, passionately and they made love. Never once unlocking their bodies from each other, they tore their clothes from their bodies, and fell to the floor amidst a pile of cloth and papyrus scrolls that had fallen with them. Ayamu plowed her like a mad rampaging bull and their cries of ecstasy echoed loudly through the apartment. Not even when the lampstand toppled about them, did they stop. Miri shuddered as white-hot orgasmic waves crashed through her like storm driven waves onto a rocky shore, and she screamed uncontrollably as Ayamu's passion climaxed. Her soul broke free of her writhing body and rode on wings of passion into the world of the immortals.
Ayamu had left to attend to watering the crops. Miri sat at a small writing desk, adding up the tolls and harvest records. Since her arrival, Ayamu's fortunes had indeed increased, and she was sure that soon he would be able to make good his debts and return to his home if he wished.
Although she was glad he could clear his name, returning to the Black Land filled her with dread. She was sure someone would recognize her should she return, and denounce her to the authorities. But as she recorded their business accounts, the story of Moses flitted in and out of her head between the credits and debits, the flasks of beer and wine and jars of olive oil and measures of profit. She stared at the scroll of Devorah lying amongst her business books. It seemed to possess its own Spirit containing a Truth she did not wish to hear. She often thought of the rabbis who talked of the Books of Moses as if they were the incarnation of the very God they worshipped, and now she felt the same calling from the Book of Devorah. Her mind was drawn toward it, but that part of her which she knew to be Miri, the child she retained within her, cringed in fear of the scroll. How can you be afraid of Truth? She asked herself, but as soon as she asked the question she thought of Setem and her hands began to shake. She put down her stylus and downed the half filled glass of wine on her desk. She refilled the goblet and to another long draught.
After a moment to steel herself, she reached over and untied the scroll. Her finger traced over the words she had already read and stopped. She gulped down a large mouthful of wine and continued the narrative:
'It was the shame of his deed, not the fear of retribution which drove Moses to flee the Two Lands. He fled Akhetaten up the Nile valley, skirting towns along the way, until he came to Wadi Hammamat, where he appeared disguised as a workman. He hired himself as a laborer to a merchant from Koptos, and hauled a ship from Koptos to the Red Sea where he gained passage on a trading ship sailing along the coast into the Gulf of Suweis. The ship landed in the Land of Midian to trade corn for copper and turquoise, and there, Moses slipped away from the rest of the crew. Destitute, Moses wandered aimlessly through the Land of Midian, a prince reduced to a beggar, and there, all hope lost, he sat down by a well.
Now Reu-El, a priest in Midian had seven daughters, and at that moment, they came and drew water and filled the stone troughs to ease the thirst of their father's flock. But other shepherds came and drove them away from the well to water their animals before the women, as is the custom, for in that land men allow women no rights above their own. But Moses stood up and drove the men away, and then helped the daughters of Reu-El water their flock.
The strong back and mighty arms of Moses made short work of watering for he hauled water tirelessly, and the daughters of Reu-El were soon finished their task. And when they returned in amazement to their father, Reu-El, he asked them, 'How is it you come home early today?'
And they replied, 'An Egyptian delivered us out from the hands of shepherds, who as men demanded their share of the water first, but he stood up for us and declared our right was equal to theirs. He was challenged and had to wrestle for first rights and he bested them all and drove them away! Even after this, he stooped to help us water our flocks!'
"And where is this Heracles?' demanded Reu-El, 'Why is it you have left him behind?'
'We asked him to be our guest, but he refused, saying he could not intrude upon our father without his invitation.' they replied.
'Then call him, that he may break bread with us!' commanded Reu-El.
And Moses broke bread with Reu-El, and performed many services for the priest of Midian. He was content to dwell with the man, who gave to Moses, his daughter Zipporah as a bride. And she bore him a son, Gershom, for he said, 'I have been a stranger in a strange land.'
As the fortunes of Moses improved in the land of Midian, so the fate of his sister Nefertiti disintegrated. The Pharaoh had been poisoned by his own physician and the Egyptian general Horemheb, with money from the priests of Amon, had led an armed revolt against Akhenaten and the followers of his new religion. Nefertiti escaped and with her brother Aaron fled to the papyrus swamps of the Nile delta.
Horemheb and the priests of Amon persecuted all who they believed had led to the closure and defacing of their property, and enslaved the children of Isra-El, the ill-fated Habiru. And the descendants of Abraham sighed by reason of their bondage. And they cried, and their God, by reason of their bondage, heard their cry.
And God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, and with Yitzhak, and Yacobel, and God looked with great anguish upon his children, and determined they should be delivered from the hands of Horemheb.
Now, Moses was watching the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest Reu-El of Midian in the outback of the deep desert, and came to the mountain of God, the mountain they called Horeb. And there, he rested by a bush.
From the bush he ate a handful of red berries, but before he could swallow them, an angel of the Lord God appeared to him in a flame of fire that suddenly flared from the same bush. And as Moses watched, the bush burned with fire and neither the angel nor the bush were consumed!
And Moses, unafraid, stepped to the side of the bush so he could determine why the bush burned yet was not consumed, but as he did so, the voice of God called to him from within the bush.
'Moses!' called God, 'Moses!'
And Moses said, 'I am here!'
God told him, 'Remove the sandals from your feet, for the ground upon which you stand is holy!'
In the twinkle of an eye, Moses threw off his sandals and knelt before the burning bush.
And the God said, 'I am the God of thy father, the god of Abraham, the God of Yitsak and the God of Yacobel'
Moses hid his face from the Lord, and though his eyes were shut fast, his ears were wide open.
'I have seen the great affliction of my people which are in Egypt by reason of their taskmasters, and I have heard their cry, and so I know their sorrows! I have come down to you to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them out of the land which holds them in bondage, and into a good land, flowing with milk and honey, unto the place of the Canaanites, and of the Hittim, the Amorim, Pezzim, Hivim and Yebusim.
Now, therefore behold, Moses, the cry of the children of Isra-El as it has come unto me, see the oppression of the Egyptians upon them. Come now, and I will send thee unto the Pharaoh, that you may bring my children forth from the land of Egypt.'
But Moses protested to the Lord. 'Who am I-' he asked, 'that I should go unto the Pharaoh, and deliver the children of Israel? When I come to the children of Israel, and say to them, 'The god of thy fathers has sent me to you. Follow me from the land of Egypt!' they will laugh at me as a deranged Egyptian, worse yet stone me! They will ask me, 'What is his name, that you know our god?' What will I say to them?'
And God replied to Moses:
'I am what I am, and you shall say unto them, 'He that is has sent me!'"
At that moment Ayamu returned from the fields. He smiled wearily at Miri.
"I'm tired!" he said, and sat down heavily. Miri left the desk and sat beside him.
"You have not been working long enough to be tired," she said affectionately. "Perhaps you need some incentive!" she slithered against him, wrapping herself about him like a snake to a tree. His body was hot from the sun, and she licked the salt from his arm, and snuggled into the nape of his neck. His arm folded around her and brought her in tighter.
"Perhaps some hunting!" he said suddenly.
Miri sat up, offended.
"You want to go hunting the moment I lay beside you?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way!" he protested, "I would just like to get away from the farming!"
"It sounds as if you want to rid of me!" accused Miri, "Am I so repulsive, the moment you have some free time, you cannot wait to get away from me?"
"Can you hunt?" he asked; the idea amused him, and that raised Miri's hackles.
"How hard can it be?" she asked indignantly, "If you can train a dog to do it with you?"
At the mention of the word 'dog', the three canines came to attention at the entrance to the tent, their ears alert and their tails waving slowly from side to side, waiting for the next cue they were wanted.
"You could not even draw a bow!' declared Ayamu.
"I could learn!" declared Miri.
"Indeed?" asked Ayamu his eyebrows raised. He unwrapped Miri from about his neck. "We shall see!" he said enigmatically and strode over to the wooden chest at the back of the house. He rummaged about in the box and produced bows and arrows. One bow and quiver, he wrapped about his own shoulders and the other bow and quiver, he presented to Miri.
"You will treat these with great respect. They are a woman's bow!"
"I could draw a bow as well as any man!" declared Miri standing up and facing Ayamu. "You use the woman's bow!"
Ayamu clicked his tongue at her.
"Miri, Miri. Miri! This bow-" He held it up to her, an elegant black bow inlaid with shell and silver. "This bow once belonged to Cleopatra herself, and is not to be treated unkindly. Her hands strung it; her hands drew it back, her eye lined the sight and no hand ever released a truer shaft! My grandfather Apollodorus was her chief of huntsmen, and she presented him with this bow when she left to join Marcus Antonius at Actium. He at first refused it, but she insisted, saying with Antonius at her side, she had no need for a bow. The land I lost to the Imperial court was the land Cleo herself bequeathed to him for his loyalty and his services. This bow went into battle with her when she rode against her brother Ptolemy, and my grandfather rode at her side. It is he who rolled her into the carpet that she might meet with Julius Caesar! Now-" He shook the bow at her, "Take the god damned bow!"
She took the bow from him and smiled sheepishly at him.
She pulled him toward her and hugged him tightly.
"I'm sorry!" she said happily, "I'll take good care of the bow!"
As Miri and Ayamu stepped from the tent, the three dogs, Anubis, Al-Ana and Demeter were waiting expectantly. As Ayamu lifted his spear from the ground at the entrance, they all leapt happily and mindlessly about their master and mistress, for the bow meant the hunt was on.
A mile to the north west of the oasis, a large rock outcrop pushed up through the sands of the desert, and it was to this hilly projection the hunting party made its way. Amongst the mountains was a small depression where small game made their way to drink at a shallow pool amongst some scrub trees.
As they arrived at the crags, Ayamu gathered some weeds and braided them into a thick bundle around a folded piece of leather. He hung the bundle from an overhanging branch of a sycamore, where it dangled lazily at head height above the ground.
"We'll practice first!" he said to Miri. He drew an arrow from his quiver and drew back his bow. The shaft disappeared with a twang and passed through the bundle of weed, most of the shaft penetrating the bundle. "Your turn!"
Miri pulled back the bow as she had seen him do and released the shaft. It banged against her hand holding the bow and rattled on the stones three feet in front of her. Ayamu smiled and stooped over to retrieve her arrow.
"Here!" he said kindly and came round behind her, wrapping his arms around hers and placing his hands over her hands. "Pull slowly," he urged, "Lift you arm! Your elbow! Good! Pull a bit more! Easy, easy." His face pressed against hers. "You see the target?"
"Sight just above it! Good! The arrow will rise in an arc like the chariot of Rei, then drop to the heart of the bundle. You must learn to gauge that arc; feel it with your heart!" He talked softly, reassuringly. "Be one with the target. You and the target are one. The arrow is the line between your heart and the heart of the creature you are hunting. Call upon the goddess Neith to take the shaft in her hand and guide it to your foe. As you feel the beat of the creature's heart, you will feel your own, and she will do the rest for you. There!"
Miri released the arrow.
Her heart soared with the swift flash of the shaft as it flew from the bow. Her elation was short lived for it flew wide of the mark and clattered onto the stones several cubits behind the target.
But they persevered, and Miri was determined to hit the swaying bundle. Time and time again, the arrow passed the target without hitting it. Still Miri would not give up. She tried different arrows; to no avail. She tried Ayamu's bow, but it was, though she would not admit it, stiff and awkward, and she knew she did not have enough strength to draw it. She made Ayamu, against his protests, hold the target still and almost killed him. The dogs, out of boredom had begun to chase the arrows and retrieve them for her. Unfortunately Anubis chewed through one of the shafts, and Demeter ran away with hers forcing the others, both people and dogs to catch her before she would relinquish her prize. Then Miri accidentally shot Al-Ana, who yelped terribly, but after chasing her down for several minutes, they found she had no wounds except to her pride. From that point, Al-Ana decided to sit out the game and hid behind the sycamore, balefully eying Miri as she drew a line on the bundle.
Despite her failures, Miri knew she was closing in on the target; her misses were narrower and narrower. Finally she hit the target, but the arrow glanced off it and rattled down onto the stones again, but she had hit it! She danced for joy and pulled Ayamu into her dance, placing a big kiss square on his lips.
Before he could hug her back, Miri slipped away and returned to her stance. She began to hit the target. Ayamu applauded her heartily from the sidelines. She bowed primly before him.
"Bravo!" he called "Bravo! Would her highness, Queen Cleopatra care to dine with her prince consort?" he asked. From his bag, he produced a cloth and spread it upon the ground and Miri plonked herself down beside him in the shade of the sycamores. There in the sunshine, Miri radiated happiness, and Ayamu basked in her glowing aura. They ate happily, laughing, tossing scraps of cheese and bread to the dogs and each other, the cares of the world forgotten.
As the sun settled into the West, they hid behind a grouping of rocks, and as the twilight of Nepthet blanketed the land, seven tiny antelope stepped daintily from the darkness to paw and drink at the muddy pond by the sycamores. Ayamu brought down a doe with a single shaft, and Miri winced as the arrow tore into the tiny body and the animal staggered; then fell to its knees. The violence of the death was more than Miri had expected from an arrow. Somehow she had though it would be swift and merciful, but although the death was silent, it was no different than the slow agony of an animal sacrificed with its lifeblood gushing from a slit throat. As the unharmed antelope scattered, Ayamu leapt from his hiding space and transfixed the struggling antelope with his spear.
Ayamu kindled a fire and they dressed the meat together. Ayamu drained the blood of the animal into a bowl. The entrails and organs, he placed upon a large heap of dried wood he had piled upon a large flat stone, then poured out a skin of wine upon it and set fire to the wood. Using the bow and a spindle, he created a fire, and as the flames consumed the offering to Neith, goddess of the hunt, he sent up to her a prayer. His duty to the deity over, he and Miri carved up and roasted the remaining parts of the doe on a spit over the fire. The meat was delicious, and Miri revelled in the greasiness of her mouth and fingers after the meal. She climbed onto Ayamu and kissed him deeply, smearing the fat from the meat over his lips, and the two of them squirmed against each other passionately under the painfully clear sky, and their passions consumed, fell asleep under the uncounted desert stars and the bright silvery light of the full moon.
Miri awoke as the moon was at its zenith. She had heard a disturbance. The hair on her scalp tingled, as she peered into the night. It had been such a perfect day, she could not believe Setem would appear now, but her instincts told her he was near. Beside her, the three dogs were alert. They stared out into the darkness, but Miri could not determine what they were seeing despite the full moon.
Then she saw it, a dark shape gliding over the nearby rocks. Anubis began to growl. Instantly, Ayamu was awake.
"What is it?" he whispered.
"I don't know," said Miri, "I saw it move over there!"
Ayamu reached for his spear, and assumed a crouching attack position. Expectant tension rose within her gut and her sense tingled with anticipation. She, Ayamu and the dogs stood unmoving at attention, the only sound, her breathing and that of her lover. The silence was excruciating.
A deafening roar exploded in the darkness, and a flash of a tawny monster flashed past her eyes, and the camp exploded into sudden frenzy. In the blink of an eye, Ayamu sidestepped the onslaught of the lion and the dogs scattered. Miri froze in shock, but the dogs closed in on the lion's flanks and nipped at its heels, and the large cat turned in fury upon them, but they darted in and out, avoiding the cat's slashing claws. Ayamu lunged at the lion; his spear flashed out and back drawing blood from the lion's shoulder.
The large male roared in his frenzy, for he was assailed on all sides by man and dogs, his attention constantly distracted from focusing upon any specific target. The hunter had become the hunted. After a brief skirmish, an uneasy standoff ensued, as each of his tormentors moved in to worry him, the lion spun to face the attack, and the attacker stalled and feinted away.
The slightest miscalculation would mean death for whoever made that first mistake. At that moment Miri regained her senses and slowly reached down for Cleopatra's bow and her quiver. She slipped the quiver to her shoulder, and carefully bent her bow to string. The movement was swift, smooth and silent. She strung the shaft to the bow as if it were the most natural thing she knew, and removed an arrow from the quiver. She drew the bow as far as she could, and lined the arrow to the heart of the lion. Her heart beat as wildly within her chest as the heart of the lion pounded within his.
"Mistress Neith," she whispered, "Guide my hand, and destroy my foe!"
The arrow flew straight to the mark and buried itself into the lion's chest. The animal reared in anger, his huge head swinging about to reach for the arrow in his chest. Miri strung another arrow and released it. It dug into the lion's flank. Another buried in his shoulder brought the lion heavily to the ground, his front legs suddenly paralyzed.
Ayamu and the dogs closed in immediately, and the deadly spear flashed down. Once! Twice!
The lion was dead!
Ayamu shouted in victory! A loud, excited, primeval shout. He danced about the lion, ecstatic. Miri felt drained. She had caught the eye of the lion as it expired, and the last moments of the animal drained her of energy. It was not pity she felt, for the lion would have killed her in an instant, but the animal had spoken to her through their eyes. It was disbelief.
The lion could not comprehend its own demise. It had known Miri had brought it down, but did not understand her power over him. The strange woman had not even come close to him, yet had destroyed his power in a twinkling. How could that be? The question was in his eyes as he died.
Ayamu pulled Miri from her trance into his dance, and the feeling of sadness evaporated instantly, as it dawned on her she had killed a lion! Her first hunt, and she had killed a lion! She laughed as Ayamu whirled her about, and the dogs danced with them.
From that moment of her first kill, the Spirit of Neith entered Miri. All her spare time was devoted to practicing with her bow. Ayamu coached her patiently, happy Miri shared his love for the hunt, for the blood of his grandfather was strong in his veins. Only he and his father had been farmers, for they had been raised upon the land bequeathed to his family by Cleopatra. His earlier ancestors had prowled the delta marshes near Bubastis, and lived as hunters and fowlers for millennia.
She learned how to strip the sinews from the tendons and make the string for the bow, how to select the best willows for the shaft of the arrows, how to bind the goose quills to the shaft with gut and gum. She even built her own bow under Ayamu's watchful eye, but as much as she was proud of her effort at bow making, she preferred the royal bow of Cleopatra. It had an ancient soul, and in her hands, joined to her own soul, was as much a part of her as her own flesh and bone.
With her new-found interest in hunting, she had forgotten about the scrolls in the jar, and found she had lost interest in the Book of Devorah, but on a warm and peaceful night, she was drawn to the jar once more. With the removal of the book of Devorah, the other scrolls were loose in the jar, and she decided to attempt removal of the others.
She unfolded herself from Ayamu, who dozed beside her, and retrieved the jar. She pulled the low writing desk to the divan, and reached into the jar. Her first attempt at removal created more flakes of papyrus, and awoke Ayamu, who smiled at her dreamily. Finally, another scroll pulled loose. She placed it upon the desk, and tried another. It crumbled beneath her fingers. She realized the scrolls left in the jar were so brittle, she would destroy them in her attempts to remove them. She had not the patience to spend time devising a safer method of extraction and laid the jar aside. If two scrolls were all she could retrieve, then she was satisfied with that.
She unravelled the second scroll.
"Another book?" Ayamu asked. "Is it like the other?"
"No!" answered Miri excitedly, "This one is written in Greek! She read from the scroll. "'I, Herodotus of Halicarnassus,'" she read, "am hereby presenting this history, that time may not colour what we know now as Truth, nor that the great and awesome deeds of both Greek and Barbarian in the course of their struggles be misrepresented by either side, nor the reasons for their travails against each other.
The Chroniclers of the Persians state it was the Phoenicians who were the cause of the disagreements with Greece.'"
Miri sighed disgustedly. "Why is it the Greeks always blame the Canaanites for their own shortcomings?"
Ayamu smiled sympathetically. "Jealousy?" he asked amiably, hoping to soothe Miri's sudden flare of anger.
It didn't work; Miri gave him a look which told him to keep his mouth shut, then pored over the manuscript, her finger tracing ahead then back to where she left off.
"'The Chroniclers of the Persians state it was the Phoenicians who were the cause of the disagreements with Greece;'" Miri continued, "for they came from what they call the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, and having settled in Syria, they at once set forth on their long voyages carrying Assyrian and Egyptian goods to many lands including Argos, which at that time was the paramount city of the states of Hellas.
There the Phoenicians, as is their custom, beached their black ship and there put their goods on display. On the fifth or sixth day since their arrival, almost all their trade wares had been sold, the daughter of Inachus king of Argos, her name in both Persian and Greek accounts being given as Io, came to examine their goods. By the stern of the Phoenician craft, she and many other women of Argos sorted through for whatever they had their eyes upon, when all of a sudden, the Phoenicians set upon them and carried off Io and some other of the women of Argos. These women were imprisoned in the black ship, which set sail immediately for Egypt.
Although the Greeks tell the tale differently, that is how the tale is presented by the Persians, and that is the beginning of the whole terrible affair. After this rape of Io and the women of Argos, so say the Persians, certain Greeks whose identity remained unknown, put into the harbour of the city of Tyre in the land of Phoenicia and carried off the king's daughter, Europa. These, the Greeks claim must have been Cretans. So far though, say the Persians, it seemed to be even trade, but after that the Greeks were guilty of a second injustice for they sailed a long ship into Aea in Colchis and the river Phasis, and raided the sanctuary of the Golden Fleece of the Sacred Ram, and having defiled it so, carried off the king's daughter, Medea. This the Greeks do not deny, for the tale of Jason and the Argonauts is well known.
The king of the Colchians sent a messenger to demand the return of Medea, and compensation for this injustice, but the Greeks, for their part declared the Persians had not given satisfaction for the carrying off Argive Io, and so declared they would give no compensation until this matter was settled. The Persians for their part declared the Greeks who carried off Europa had evened out this imbalance already.
The generation after this, so their story goes, Alexander, known as Paris, son of Priam, having heard of these deeds, used them as an excuse to gain a Greek wife through rape and robbery, for he determined he would have to pay no compensation for his deed, for it balanced the abduction of Medea by the Argonauts. So he carried off Helen, wife of Menelaus. The Greeks, naturally, petitioned the Persians for the return of Helen and a considerable sum in compensation for this outrage. But when they brought their suit, the Persians brought suit against the Greeks regarding the earlier abduction of Medea, saying that as the Greeks had given nothing for that raid and refused to return her to her father, how could they now ask satisfaction from others who had wronged them?
'It is the work of unjust men, we think, to carry off women at all;' was the reply of the Persians, 'but once they have been carried off, to take seriously the avenging of their loss is the part of fools, as it is the part of sensible men to pay no heed to matter, for this is the way of both our peoples. Clearly,' they added, 'the women would not have been carried off were they of no mind to be taken!'"
Miri sighed in exasperation. She turned a disgusted eye to Ayamu. "You men are so arrogant! Can you believe what you are hearing? Does he seriously believe women want to be raped and carried off from their homes and families to lead a life of slavery in some alien land?"
"He's long dead," interjected Ayamu meekly, hoping to dispel Miri's wrath. As the only male within days of Miri, he would have to lay low to avoid her anger.
"And lucky for him he is!" She drummed her fingers momentarily on the table, then took a deep breath. Controlling her reaction, she began to read again.
"'This statement particularly galled King Menelaus,'- I should think so! -'and he gathered a great army and invaded the land of Asia which came under Persian protection and destroyed the power of Priam and sacked the city of Troy. All because of a single Lacedaemonian woman! And from that time on, the Persians regarded the Greeks as their sworn enemies, for the Persians claim all of Asia and the Barbarians who live within it as their own, though Europe and the Greeks they regard as entirely separate.
That is how the Persians view this conflict with the Greeks, and the capture of Troy is the beginning of their part within it. But as to Io herself, the Phoenicians claim they brought her safely to Egypt, but not against her will. She lay, they say, with the captain of the ship in Argos, and became enamoured of him, and left her homeland as she knew she would be cast out anyway should her parents be apprised of her giving of herself to a Barbarian.'"
Miri stopped and looked up.
"Go on," urged Ayamu.
"The page is disfigured," said Miri, "and I am too tired. Perhaps tomorrow."
She snuggled up to Ayamu and they wrapped themselves around each other. Miri blew out the lamp and the room fell under the cloak of darkness.
The scrolls were damaged in places and Miri could only read fragments of tales, but they proved to be entertaining to both Ayamu and herself, and each night before they settled down and made love, she would read from the scrolls. She pulled more from the jar, but the scrolls in the jar for the most part were so badly damaged, not much could be gleaned from them. Miri treasured those readings. It was a calm time, a respite from the hard labours of farming to read from the parchment with Ayamu's body wrapped around hers, his gentle caresses soothing her as she read. Many times the reading dissolved directly into lovemaking, and at times, just the thought of reading would get her aroused.
Her bowmanship improved and soon she could hit any mark within two or three fingerbreadths at a hundred paces. Ayamu marvelled at her aim and declared many times that Neith had descended upon her and blessed them both. The lionskin, dedicated to Neith, dressed and cured, hung over the divan in a place of honour, not in the pile of skins they would sell later to passing traders.
In the centre of the onion field stood a lone acacia tree. Ayamu had been tempted to remove it, but for had decided to spare the tree, for it would serve as a bower for the vine he had brought with him from his farm in the Nile Delta. Over time he had pruned the vine, and with careful watering, it had thrived. But try as he might, the vine grew no fruit, for in the heat of the desert, the vine remained evergreen, and the cycle of pruning, flowering, fertilization and fruition did not occur. It grew only small green berries that did not mature and bore no true grapes.
Still, due to the careful husbandry of the vine which wove its canes about its trunk and along its two main branches, the acacia thrived and spread her arms out further and higher, and as Ayamu trimmed away her lower limbs, she became a much needed shade tree of good proportion.
When the heat of the noonday sun became too unbearable, Ayamu often retired to the shade of the acacia and played on a small reed pipe, one of the few possessions he had salvaged from his life in Egypt.
As soon as she heard the pipe playing, Miri put down her weaving and gathered a small bundle and carried it out to Ayamu. She sat at his feet and unfolded her bundle: a flask of beer, some bread and cheese. And her sewing. She often embroidered as Ayamu played. He stopped for a moment.
"Did you bring a story?" he asked.
She reached into her bag and removed a broken piece of parchment. "There is not much here," she said apologetically. She smoothed it out on her lap and scanned the page. "It's written in Greek, but it doesn't seem to be part of the Book of Herodotus," she said finally, "The style is not so matter of fact." She ran her finger across the page then returned to a suitable beginning.
"'So, condemned unjustly by Zeus and bound by adamantine chains to the granite rock of the Caucasus, the proud and noble Titan Prometheus suffered for granting succor for the human race. Daily a daemon in the shape of an eagle, beak and talons terrible to behold and razor sharp, tore at his body, and devoured his organs. Yet, secure in his knowledge of rightness, the noble Prometheus bore his agony in silence, determined his secret withheld from Zeus would save the human race, and against his heart the eagle could not prevail.
His body bound and his spirit free, he refused to submit to the God's tyranny. Each day he was restored to health, and each day was again devoured alive. For aeons he suffered this torment, and on one of these days a beautiful heifer frantically passed by. She was tormented by a furious little gadfly that bit her mercilessly, though she flicked her tail this way and that. Such was the tenacity of the insect, the poor cow was apprised of no rest. Taking pity upon the tortured beast, he called to her to come close, and as she did, he deftly flicked his chain and killed the fly that plagued her so. The beast stopped in her tracks and stared in amazement at him, and at length she approached and spoke to the Titan.
'I cannot thank you enough! That fly has been tormenting me without respite! Who are you, so kind and brave, who suffers so? What crime has condemned you to such a cruel fate?'
'I am Prometheus,' the Titan answered, 'And sealed within my heart is the name of the woman who will give birth to the son who will topple Zeus from his place in Mount Olympus. Should I reveal her name, Zeus will deliver me from this torment, for it is he who has condemned me to this suffering because I shall not reveal the name of his successor.'
'I should have known Zeus was responsible for such agony, for it was he who also condemned me to a life of torment!' replied the cow, with as beautiful a voice as Prometheus had heard, 'For I am a woman beneath these horns upon my head. But once I was free, a princess, daughter of Inachus of Argos-'
'You are Io!' declared Prometheus, 'Dear girl! Were you not dedicated to preserving the sacred flame of Argos? The fire which I myself brought to humanity that it might flourish against the darkness that plagues the world? How is it you came to this terrible pass?'
'I was once a lucky and happy girl, for the future lay before me full of promise and joy, but somehow, in his wanderings Zeus spied me and overcome by lust- he says love- determined to take from me my maidenhood.
Under cover of night, Zeus sent to my maiden bedchamber, velvet visions of sultry night. His voice kissed my cheek like the southern Zephyr, carrying the aroma of exotic spices from far off lands; and each night within my breast, dreams of desire bubbled like a witch's brew and left my heart exposed to Aphrodite's arrow.
He came to me like a sparrow, and I, a young girl, a child, willingly opened myself to him. Overcome by passion, he declared his love for me, and took me in his arms, but before he could take my maiden hood from me, Hera, his wife descended from Olympus in search of her husband- my ardent paramour!'
'You need tell me no more!' replied Prometheus, 'For the wrath of Hera is as well known as Zeus's infidelity!'
'It is not she who condemned me to this form!' wailed Io, 'But Zeus himself! I cannot believe a god so loud and boisterous would cower so before his own wife! But cower he did!
Quick as a flash, he transformed me to the shape you see before you, and turned to face his wife!
'Where is she?' Hera demanded.
'Who?' replied he.
'I can smell another woman!' said Hera angrily, and then spied me behind Zeus. 'What have we here?' she asked and she pushed him aside. She ran her hands down my flanks. Were I not a cow at that point, I would have fainted dead away, but as I was no longer myself, all I could do was stare dumbly at Zeus, then at Hera.
She knew. He knew she knew.
But he protested his innocence, and as he rambled on, Hera all the while smiled her terrible smile and stroked my flanks.
'This is the most wonderful cow I have ever come across!' she said finally, interrupting Zeus's useless denials, 'You must make me a gift of it!'
My heart froze!
Zeus stared at Hera open-mouthed, speechless. I know from that moment, and in retrospect, this god is no deep thinker, but he at least knew he could not deny this request of Hera's without revealing my true identity to his wife. What excuse could he make?
So, albeit reluctantly, he released me to her care.
But cognizant of Zeus's single minded passion, Hera knew he would not rest until he had bedded me, regardless of my form, and so gave me into the care of Argus!'
'Ah!' said Prometheus, "So crafty! My brother Argus has a hundred eyes, and never do all of them sleep at the same time, but in groups and individually, open and close. Zeus could never approach you without being seen!' Prometheus smiled, delighted at the thought of Zeus's passions thwarted. 'How it must have galled him!'
'While I was thus confined, Zeus called his son, Hermes, for he alone is the equal of Hera in guile. Informed of Zeus's desire to release me, he agreed to help. Donning the guise of a country cowherd and veiling his godhead, Hermes approached Argus, seemingly unaware of the Titan's presence, playing an achingly wonderful tune upon a reed pipe.
Attracted by the melody, Argus called to Hermes the cowherd to sit by him and regale him with his music, which was exactly what Hermes had planned. There under the shade of a fine oak, Hermes played ancient lullabies that caused the very birds to drift down from the air and fall soundly asleep at his feet. But try as he might, always an eye or two winked open when all others had shut. On and on he played and spoke in a soothing hypnotic tone, relating boring tale after boring tale, filled with relentless details of which were of no concern to the plot, as drowsily and monotonlessly as he could.
At last, one story was successful: the story of how the god Pan loved a nymph named Syrinx, who fled from his advances, and as a last resort to protect her virginity, was changed into a tuft of reeds by her sister nymphs. Undeterred, Pan cried, 'You have done all you can to avoid my desire, but still, you shall be mine!' then plucked the reeds and fashioned them into a shepherd's pipe. Since that time the shepherd's pipe has been called the Pan pipe.
The little story, to me at least, does not seem so tiresome, but Argus found it so, and every one of his eyes fell asleep, whereupon Hermes leapt up quickly and slew Argus on the spot! In a twinkling he disappeared, off to tell his father Zeus, I was unprotected.'
Prometheus shook his head sadly. 'That Argus should be felled so terribly to satisfy the whim of Zeus's desire' he sighed. 'Would that the traits of each god and goddess were wrapped into a single being, and so avoid such petty squabbles!'
'It was not Zeus but Hera who appeared before me!' replied Io. 'She was of a like mind as you, but not so understanding. She swore Zeus would never again find me and created the gadfly which has from that time until this moment tormented me mercilessly. I have run back and forth along the shore of the sea, past myriad beaches in hopes the waves would wash that terrible fly out to sea, but I could not shake that determined insect!'
'Tell me,' pleaded Prometheus, 'My brother Argus, did he at least receive a proper burial. My heart aches at the thought of his murder!'
'Please forgive me!" replied Io, 'I am so thoughtless! My happiness at being delivered from my torment has blinded me to your sorrow! Hera buried him as is fitting, but his eyes, she removed, and has placed them on the tail of her favourite bird, the peacock.'
'Thank you,' said Prometheus gratefully, 'So much in life ends in tragedy. Such a small thing can be all I could hope for!' Prometheus looked about him. 'You Io, must flee from this place and travel as far from Hellas as you can, for should Hera hear of your release from the gadfly, she will surely devise something worse.'
'You're right,' replied Io. 'I wish I could help you,' she added, her eyes filled with compassion, 'But those chains are charmed and I have no power against them. But I promise you this, Prometheus: wherever I go, I shall tell of your unjust suffering, and perhaps, one day, the tale shall fall upon the ears of someone able to release you from your bonds.'
Unable to embrace, Prometheus because of his chains and Io for her lack of arms, they parted in tears. Io wandered through fearsome lands. The part of the sea where she had sought to wash away the gadfly, became known as the Ionian Sea, and the Bosphorus, which means in Greek 'the Ford of the Cow', was named in honour of her passing across it. But the greatest honour came to her when she reached Egypt. There, far from the influence of Zeus and Hera, she found she could from time to time return to human form.
In the Land of the Nile, it is said that, in her human form she conceived from the God Horus and bore a son Epaphus, after which, she was worshipped and honoured as a goddess, where they called her by the name of Hathor, which in their tongue means House of Horus. And true to her promise to Prometheus, she told all who would listen of his suffering, and the story was passed on from generation to generation. Finally, from the line of her descendants, rose Heracles, the greatest of the heroes, to whom the gods themselves were barely his rivals, and from whom, one day, Prometheus would win his freedom!'"
"What a story!" cried Ayamu with delight, "It is rare a Greek tale ends in such a happy circumstance!"
"They have a gift for tragedy!" admitted Miri, "But they are a race of warriors, how else could their tales end?"
Ayamu's answer was interrupted as the dogs sounded a warning alarm. Miri and Ayamu rose and stared off into the desert. Through the shimmering haze, riders were approaching, and Miri and Ayamu glanced uneasily at each other.