This is a continuation of earlier posts. Context is found in previous parts.
I have stood at the end of the road, watching others haul their carts, laden with salvage away from the rising waters. The floods I had feared on this wide open plain have been realized. I made my choice to build at some distance from the river, too afraid of losing the little I have been able to keep from my Alexandria. I haul water in buckets rather than dig an irrigation channel, knowing that it will stunt the growth of my plants, limit the fruit. Everything is in pots anyway. I can load them onto my cart if I should need to leave. I’m not ready for the risks that come with acts of permanency, be they trenches for water or trees in the ground.
I watch the people of Away & Beyond, pitying them as they rush to save their precious belongings. But at the same time as pitying, I am envious. They have time. They have warning. The rains that fell for days on end further upstream have swelled the creeks and rivulets in a predictable rise, villagers along the length of the waterways being alerted by messengers from afar. And so, with warning, these people that I simultaneously pity and envy, have been able to take those belongings they most cherish, rescue those they love from the inevitable floods that have engulfed their open plains. They have lost their houses, will have to rebuild, but they have saved more than I.
Wariness is my bed mate now. I have prepared my cart in case the water rises any higher. I have surveyed my route of escape, set aside a little extra preserved food in case it is needed. The reality is that I will most likely be safe. The town clerks surveying the damage to the outlying areas have noted the water’s rise slowing and expect it will peak this evening, receding again on the morrow. But I have taken the warning to heart and I am ready leave if the water reaches my neighbour’s furthermost fence, even if others choose to stay.
Word of others forced to leave my Alexandria, even temporarily has reached me in my exile. The Great Library continues even though I have been forced to leave it in the care of others. It pleases me that my efforts have not been in vain. It is the one thing that makes living away from my cherished city of learning bearable. Away & Beyond is the only thing standing between saving that cherished knowledge and its loss for eternity.
The plains in Away & Beyond renewed by the rains and flooding waters will bear strong fruit, even for my potted saplings, although they will take another year or two before they fruit. I will need to transfer them to the grounds soon, I suppose, lest their roots become bound. This saturated soil being renewed with the silt carried on the river’s broken breadth will feed animal and vegetable alike well.
Planting, establishing roots. It’s inconceivable to my Alexandrian mind. To plant is to commit to new horizons I am not willing to accept as mine. I still see the sun rising over the broad ocean’s shimmer and set on the houses and hills so absent from the flat landscape I see now. I am not ready for this new world. I will wait a little longer and hope that the river’s waters stay away from all that is mine, at least for now.
The day has been long, long but satisfying in Away & Beyond. Despite the turn of the seasons with the cooling days it brings I can see my labours bearing fruit. I am tired, but for once, once in some months, I feel satisfied. I permit myself the luxury of an apple, a pear from the fruiterer by the road. Their sweetness soothes my craving.
Others have moved back to their own homes, taking with them brooms to sweep out the debris left by the floods. I did not need to move afterall; Tyche spared me, this time at least. I’m not sure I would have survived another disaster and I give thanks at the city walls, even though I live beyond their bounds for it was the people of the city that saved the land near me. I stroll by the watercourse toward my abode once my thanks are made, watching the darkening sky. The night is still warm and my meandering along the drying banks shows me a beauty in the dim half-light I had not appreciated until now.
A messenger comes, cloaked to blend with the night galloping on blackest steed, the glint of his stirrups, the horse bit, the late notice of his approach in the moonlight. I expect him to pass me by on his way to some more important person in some grand abode; instead, he halts abruptly by me.
“Ariadne, you would be she? They told me to look on the plains to the south for the woman wearing a neck-band, green-blue as only Egypt fashions.”
My necklace, a gift I wear constantly given to me in my Alexandria. It is my constant reminder of my Great Library. “You saw such hues in darkened night from high upon you horse? The eyes of a eagle must be your gift!” I am wary. I am not well known here, too new, too laboured to have time to form close bonds as I’ve sought to re-establish some semblance of stability. The plains here are wide. How did he find me?
“I have traveled far, farther than you may expect, asking wherever I may for the woman so described. You are elusive; I was told you would be cautious. I bring you news from Alexandria.”
My heart stops. What news could be so desperate as to send me a rider from so far?
“Who are you, messenger and why do you seek me?”
“My name is Hermes. I have traveled by way of Rome and visited your Alexandria before seeking you under instruction of Atlas himself. He regrets the great upheaval his shifting position has wrought upon your city.”
Hermes. Atlas has sent one of his own line to speak to me? “A Titan, pitying my insubstantial human? Can it be so?” I do not realize I have spoken aloud.
“Even a Titan respects the honest of the earth. The gods know the damages caused by their supreme battles and sometimes note those deserving of their peace. We gods would cease to exist if there were none such as you, believing in our power. A little advantage now and then preserves our very being.”
Pieces on a chess board, that’s how most people think the Gods treat us. They move us where they see fit; to hardship, from safety, by pleasure, through pain. I wonder which I am being moved to now.
“The shifting that so shuddered your world has ceased, but there now comes another threat. The marauding plagues of vile darkness that once were content to watch from afar now gather to encircle your Great Library. They are cloaked in slime and seek to smother that which underpins truth and knowledge. It cannot be allowed.”
Pain. And hardship. Again. He has brought me pain and hardship. The satisfaction of my day has dissipated entirely and I sink to sit on a fallen tree. I know not what to do.
“So much for so long. It took millennia to build the Great Library, the resources and knowledge of eons are collected there. Why must others seek to destroy what is light and truth? Is a world where we all feel safe not to be?” I am frustrated, I am angry. These marauding hordes from some unknown threat have been seen at a distance before. I wish I had been able to neutralize them then. Keeping all in darkness is their way, for in that they seek to rule, destroying the legitimacy of the true Gods so they die when men turn their backs on them, when men cease to believe.
Hermes continues. “You have time. And you have this.” He hands me a small laden pouch, the string drawn tight. Within, I find silver pieces. “A little weight to you hands, to help with the search. Use these pieces of Laurium well. Perhaps you will strike gold and save your Great Library.”
Save my Great Library. With silver from the fabled mine. I only hope I will not be using them to pay Charon instead. I look at the watercourse to my side and wonder if I will be returning to my Alexandria not to celebrate in its restoration, but to send custodians of my Great Library across Styx.
The messenger leaves me, no more said, disappearing into the woods. I remain on the mound, wondering where to begin. I had dared to hope for renewal. It seems that I must first work still to save what remains before there can be any new growth. My Alexandria. It seems I will be home to visit sooner than I expected.