|Posted By||Topic » Honeyed tongues and Harbingers.|
Posted: Wednesday, Jul 03, 2013 at 8:57 PM
Bubastis, city of the children of Bast.
A hooded stranger walked into the magnificently gilded forum, for her amusement the Priestess had chosen this room to serve as her foyer for the day. Her last petitioner -a foreign merchant judging by his clothes- was walking backwards awkwardly, reluctant to break eye contact or turn his back on the Priestess until the last moment. He stumbled onto the stranger to the laughter of the Priestess' entourage and, with great forced dignity, chose this moment to turn and exit quickly.
The hooded head turned to regard the leaving figure, then stepping up to the acceptable plot of floor drew down his hood. His name was Saheed and he was an Asar, his introduction said as much and no more.
The Priestess looked about her entourage and before she heard the first word of his petition asked "Your opinions?"
A harem guard with a rough voice that was almost a growl said "His physique appears puny and must be disappointing. Let him keep the shabby robe on."
A scribe added "Anticlimactic. I was tingling with suspicions and then the hood revealed a common Asar."
An archer captain lounging on a couch countered. "It's been such a long time since someone came in shrouded I couldn't resist the temptation to give him access unsearched. He might still prove to be a foreign assassin."
"Oh how exciting," a courtesan added. "Let's see how this plays out."
The Priestess smiled. "Your beard is unfashionable and your hair a disaster. I think-" she hesitated then motioned to her nearest servant girl, "- the sixth hourglass, as you are nonetheless a curiosity."
The servant girl grinned and produced a tiny hourglass the size of a thumb.
Saheed began "I bring you news of great sadness-" He was interrupted by groaning, the Basti everywhere murmuring like an audience that had already heard this one.
"I erred. The seventh one." With a grimace the servant girl removed the thumb-sized hourglass and replaced it with one so tiny Saheed wasn't sure he could accurately judge it from the distance. He sighed heavily and began again.
"Apologies, it is not a tale of sadness I bring, indeed it is one of great indifference. Behold the Aegean Sea, lifeblood of all Hellas, Hellas, that catch-all name for the land of city-states that grew in the shadow of Mount Olympus. Behold mighty Olympus, seat of the Hellenic Gods, sires to the foreign counterparts to the mighty Harbingers... the Demigods."
Ears pricked; despite their feigned indifference, ears pricked.
"Even now a vast army the likes of which the world has never seen rises. The Mycenaean King, power-hungry Agamemnon, and his brother the Spartan, bloodthirsty Menelaus, raise forces with the luxuriant Corinthians and the virtuous paragon Athenians- to conquer the unconquerable walls of the greatest civilization they have ever faced..."
He looked about him, staring challengingly into hungry eyes, "oh, but they are not coming here."
Every Basti reacted as if they had been splashed with cold water. He continued "no, my favored hosts, although I share your silent outrage. The greatest force the world has ever known and it comes not, seeks not to plunder Aegyptus? Dismiss such thoughts from your mind for these Hellenic forces do not come for the promise of wealth, power or even eternal glory to be wrested through the theft of the Divine Ka. No, these armies are razed for spite, for greed but of a different cause: they sail forth to reclaim the most beautiful mortal upon the face of the world. Behold the face that launched a thousand ships, behold Helen... of Troy!"
With a flourish he produced an enchanted scroll and her visage hung for all to see. "Weep or laugh to your heart's contentment at your leisure, for indeed one may enjoy the sorrows of so distant a neighbor, they are so distant from his own. Behold Paris, prince of Troy, summoned by the Goddesses of Olympus to pronounce judgement: Who is the fairest goddess in the existence? Who shall receive the trophy, the mythic golden apple?"
"Of course everyone knows the result of his judgement, even the scribes of Thoth record this: enticing Aphrodite received the title and fair Paris kept the prize. Of the vanquished deities who needs hear a word? Does it matter who the rivals were, if Athena, or Hera, or Artemis, or all three, or perhaps other Goddesses who were deemed unworthy to even mention, to even attend?" He heard catlike hissing. "Of the myths and rumors, who can tell; that the golden apple is less trophy and more magical artifact, that he who bears it will become the object of the affection of the most beautiful mortal in the world... That Helen abandoned husband Menelaus and Daughter to escape with fair Paris... mere stories no doubt. Well, not that last one, that is known fact."
He looked about, tantalizingly. His eyes came to rest on the hourglass, empty for a while now he wagered. "Well, I believe I have bored you enough. My gratitude to you, benevolent Priestess of Bast, for your patience and hospitality. I must be on my way, I have been modestly paid to convey this message to every other great city in Aegyptus before I set sail across the treacherous... well, treacherous for you I suppose, waters of the Aegean for home."
"A thousand ships, you say?" The Priestess purred.
"Yes, a thousand ships each laden with dozens if not hundreds of their bravest men, their finest horses -I understand the Corinthians go to battle on winged steeds-, their gilded chariots, great monsters and magical creatures captured from exotic locations spanning the entire Hellenic world... and the Demigods of Olympus."
"Winged steeds you claim. And you say the Corinthians are... 'luxuriant' was the word you used?"
"Quite lavish in their personal effects. I dare say they are the wealthiest nation present in the conflict."
"And the Trojans stand alone?"
"Oh no, my apologies. The Trojans have allies as well, though none so numerous or so famous. Well, none as much as the legendary Amazons. Their queen, Penthesilea herself, leads her warrior-sisters to battle. And warbands of every nation flock to serve as auxiliaries, allies and mercenaries. Why, I have even heard that Demigods of Dionysus and Artemis lead bands of Satyrs into battle with them. Imagine that, the greatest human war fought not solely by humans... oh, I apologize. I mean Asar. I forget the words of Aegyptus at times. But yes, the Trojans are in such dire straits that they welcome the children of other gods with welcome arms. Why at this rate the battle of Troy will resemble the Siege of Abydos, in scale if not meaning." He turned so as to leave.
"Why hold, noble sojourner, we would hear more from you. Come, stay as a guest of my table and tell us more of these Asar from so far away, these Demigods and their... treasures."
When Saheed left the Priestess' hall the next morning, head aching, tired, his shabby clothes worse for wear and the few coins he allowed himself to bring in his pocket-sack picked, he ventured back to the inn where his hosts awaited him. "Did it go as expected?" a Basti asked asked while his companion moved pieces on game trays, enjoying his solo game of Hounds and Jackals.
Saheed had left the suggestions unsaid, implicit. He couldn't out-mock a Basti, pointless to even try. But to serve as the messenger for a foreign insult, now -that- he had reason to believe would work. Vanished from Aegyptus or not, a divine beauty contest without Bast? The most beautiful mortal (he had substituted the word 'woman') in the world a human?
"The Basti ready to go. I am sure a Harbinger or two will receive word of the affront from our dear Priestess' lips and make way to Troy. To rightfully seize the golden apple for Bast's altar, to show up the Asar with true beauty, to loot the riches of fallen Corinthians... perhaps even to bring Helen of Troy herself as the greatest prize to Bast herself. Oh yes, they will be going. And as honored guide and friend, i am to accompany them. I dare say we'll be busy on both sides of the conflict."
"As expected." the gamer declared.
"My friends," Saheed said, raising a fresh goblet with his companions, "to the WarGods!"
Posted: Friday, Jul 05, 2013 at 8:48 AM
A most excellent story! Well done!!!
Posted: Friday, Jul 05, 2013 at 11:28 AM
Posted: Friday, Jul 05, 2013 at 7:03 PM
Very good, Thanks
Posted: Thursday, Sep 26, 2013 at 4:31 PM
Well written, and a your vision of the Basti is an absolute cracker.