SABELLIUS GOES EAST Series IV

About two hours later after every one had turned in, someone pounded on Sabellius’ door. Both he and Hecate were in bed and already asleep.

“Open up!” A male voice demanded angrily. Sabellius sat up, wondering what this was all about. He reached over and clumsily lit the lamp beside the bed. Hecate sat up in bed, looking at him.

“Just a moment” Sabellius said, as he made his way to the door. He opened it up. Several men forced their way into the room, pushing Sabellius back. He was caught off guard.

“What do you men want?” Sabellius asked. He was surprised at the intrusion.

“Where is Apollodorus? I want my brother!” It was Abaris, and three other young men. One of them held a torch in his hands. Sabellius wondered how he got that up the stairs without the innkeeper protesting.

“Apollodorus isn’t here” Sabellius said. He looked Abaris in the eye.

“He was here. I know that. Where is he?”

“We don’t know where he is. He and his friend left earlier. What are you doing coming in here like this?”

“I have come for my brother. You Christians have kidnapped him.”

“We did no such thing!” Hecate interjected. Abaris looked at her.

“Seize her, men! She was the one they used to entice my brother! We’ll just hold on to her until these Christians return my brother.” The three men quickly moved over to the bed where Hecate was sitting. She saw what they were trying to do. She screamed, and tried to get out of bed. Strong arms took ahold of her. One large hand was quickly clapped over her mouth, muffling her screams.

Sabellius lunged toward the three men. Abaris suddenly swung a club, which he had been holding at his side. Sabellius slumped to the ground unconscious.

“Gag her quickly, and bring her downstairs!” Abaris ordered. The men struggled with Hecate as she tried to kick them, and wrench free from their grip. One of them held his hand over her mouth as the other tied a gag around it. They quickly bound her.

Hecate looked down at her unconscious husband. Her eyes rolled wildly back. She struggled in vain to free herself. Abaris looked down at the young man lying on the floor.

“We’ll teach you to take away my brother! Apollo showed me something was wrong!” he said. He kicked the unconscious Sabellius. “Take her downstairs and put her in the cart. Hurry up!” He ordered. The young men picked up the girl, who was still trying to struggle even in her bonds.

“I should kill him” Abaris sneered, as he looked down upon the unconscious Sabellius. Hecate struggled even more, and tried to speak through her gag. Abaris turned to her.

“I have even better things planned for you, my dear!” He spoke in a low voice. Then he turned to the men with him.

“Take her downstairs. Hold on to her tightly, now! Make sure that gag stays on her!”

In their room next door, Andromache stirred and sat up. She shook her husband.

“Euporus! What was that awful noise? Did you hear it? It sounded like a scream coming through the wall.” Euporus opened his eyes. He had been sleeping soundly.

“What are you talking about?” He propped himself up on one elbow, looking at his wife.

“Didn’t you hear that? It sounded like a scream to me.”

“Come on, Andromache! Don’t you know there are people in this inn who like to party at night? It was probably someone who was drunk. Go back to sleep!”

“Don’t you think one of us should get up and check on it?”

“Go ahead, dear. I’m tired.” Euporus yawned sleepily. He layed back down and puffed up his pillow. Andromache didn’t want to get out of bed and go out into the dark hallway by herself. She shook her head, and turned over.

Hecate lay in the back of the pitching cart as it rolled across the city of Antioch. One of the men was kneeling by her in the back of the cart. He looked at her menacingly every time she tried to raise her head and look around. She tried to look up over the sideboards to see if she could ascertain some landmark, but she was unfamiliar with Antioch, and it was too dark to really see where she was. She felt that they were probably taking her to either the Daphne Park or to Abaris’ villa. She didn’t really know where his villa was. She was worried about Sabellius. Maybe Andromache or Euporus had heard her scream. She hoped so. She wondered why Apollodorus had not returned home. Perhaps he was there by now, and Abaris would relent when he found that out. Surely, Apollodorus would help her. He liked her.

In less than an hour, the cart pulled up to the back of the Temple of Apollo among the trees in the park of Daphne. The three men jumped off the cart, and pulled Hecate out. They carried her like a sack of vegetables into the rear entrance of the Temple.

Carrying the torch, Abaris followed the men down a large side hall to a room in the rear of the Temple. Abaris unlocked the door, and motioned for them to carry Hecate into the room.

“Untie her!” Abaris said gruffly. “Take off her gag! I want to hear her plead with me.” The men untied the ropes which had bound Hecate. One of them undid the tight gag. Abaris pushed her into a chair.

“Sit down, wench!” He ordered. Hecate looked up at him in the dim torchlight. She had gotten over some of her initial shock and fear. Abaris went over to a large brazier with the torch. He lit the brazier, which brightened up the huge room. Hecate could see that it was probably a storage room. The walls were stone. She knew they were thick.

“I want to see your pretty face better. You can scream all you want back here. You can even call on your god” Abaris said. “These walls are so thick no one will ever hear you. One of the men will bring you some food in the morning. There are private facililties over there in that corner. There is running water.”

Hecate layed back in the chair and watched the tall, thin priest as he talked to her. She did not reply. Finally, she looked at him with a slight smile. Her smile startled him.

“Do you think you can get away with this, Abaris? I am a Roman citizen of Roman blood. I was born in Rome. My husband is also a Roman citizen…and, in case you don’t know it, he is related to Lucius Septimius Severus, the Emperor of Rome. You are treading on dangerous ground by kidnapping a Roman like me.”

“You’re a cute little liar, aren’t you? Do you think I believe such deceptive talk? You’re nothing but a filthy Christian trying to destroy the old ways of the gods. Related to the emperor indeed! Hah! You are no more related to the emperor than I am!” Abaris grinned. He looked her up and down, in a way that made her momentarily cringe. But her eyes flashed as she replied.

“You will find out the hard way, Abaris. When my husband…” Abaris reached down and smacked Hecate with the flat of his hand. She winced, but looked up at him defiantly with a slight smile.
“That will teach you to smart off to a priest of Apollo. I will kill your husband if he dares to set foot in the sacred Temple of the Lord Apollo! I could have killed him tonight.”

“Even if he existed, I don’t believe your Apollo would treat women like you are doing” Hecate said. Her eyes were still defiant. A smile played upon her lips tremulously.

“Shut up. I didn’t ask you what your opinion was! Apollo has killed women before, although he usually leaves that to Artemis.” Abaris slapped her again. Her cheek even shone red in the light of the brazier and the torch. It stung. Hecate flinched, but she never dropped her gaze. She continued to smile.

“Keep up your defiance, Christian wench. I was thinking about merely selling you privately in the slave market, but…I may change my mind and do something even worse. Just keep talking!”

This time Hecate did not reply. She just looked up at Abaris. She became conscious that she was still in her yellow night tunic. It was rather short. She almost unconsciously tried to pull the hem down over her mid thighs. The other three men were watching her, but they said nothing. Hecate suddenly felt a little sick. Abaris turned to the men with him.

“Leave us” he said abruptly. The men bowed, and left the room. Abaris continued standing there, quietly regarding Hecate. She began to feel a little more uncomfortable after the men left. She sensed that they did not entirely approve of what Abaris was doing. She felt evil emanating from the man. He turned slightly to make sure that the men had shut the door. Hecate watched him almost like an animal would watch a predator.

Abaris turned back to Hecate. He looked her up and down. His eyes rested upon the rather short tunic. Hecate’s cheeks burned. She shifted uncomfortably on the chair.

“You know” he said, smiling at her, “You are rather pretty. I thought most Christians were rather dowdy looking. You seem to be an exception. That is why you are so deceptive…and beguiling.” Hecate did not answer.
“Oh? Now you do not speak? Don’t you know that I have complete power over you? I can turn you into a slave. I can even sacrifice you to Apollo…I can do anything I want to. You are my property now.”

“The emperor does not approve of human sacrifices” Hecate said quietly.

“The emperor? Who cares what the Roman emperor likes or dislikes! What can he do? You are on the Lord Apollo’s territory now. Whatever Apollo says is law here. And whatever I say on his behalf is law. You’d better be nice to me.”

“You said that whatever you say is law?” Hecate replied. “What about Antigonus? Is he just a figurehead…or is he the high priest of Apollo?” She clearly said the words to taunt him. She couldn’t help it.

“Antigonus doesn’t care what I do! He’s my brother! If I tell him that you are a slave, I can do whatever I want to do…especially if I tell him you are a pretty Christian wench. He feels the same way I do about you stinking Christians!” Abaris continued looking at her. His eyes were boring through her.

“But I am not a slave. My husband will come with the authorities and you will find yourself in hot water. You will go to prison” Hecate said quietly.

“Do you want me to kill your husband? I just told you that I could have done it this evening, but I had mercy on him…and on you. You are insignificant visitors. The authorities do not even know you are in the city. Even the Roman authorities do not bother the Temple of Apollo. They know better. There would be a popular uprising if they invaded the Lord Apollo’s sacred grounds.” Abaris looked at Hecate. A sardonic smile played upon his lips.

Abaris suddenly pulled up a chair. He sat in front of her. He looked into her eyes.

“Look, Hecate. Let’s be reasonable. It is in my power to kill you. No one will ever know that it was done here in the Temple. They would never suspect the respected priests of Apollo of doing such a thing. We have ways of…disposing of those that we sacrifice to Apollo. Oh, we don’t do it very often…but when Apollo desires a human sacrifice, we give him one. He would especially enjoy a pretty victim like you. Your hair is lovely. Your eyes are so…expressive. Your lips are so red…your…” Abaris placed his hand on her leg. Fear gripped Hecate. She tried to disguise it. She looked at him almost entranced, like a small animal watching a hooded cobra weaving before it. She was trying not very successfully to hide her fear. He took her hand to pull her towards him. She let out a little cry, and tried to squirm away from him.

Suddenly Abaris let go of her hand, and stood up. “But I cannot be contaminated by a pretty Christian. Apollo would be displeased.” He seemed to be agitated. He shoved her down, and he sat back down again in front of her. He looked her up and down again. His face was flushed. He was breathing heavily. He smiled. He seemed to be unable to decide what to do.

Hecate was breathing heavily from fear. She lay back on the seat where Abaris had caused her to fall. “You would be wise to release me, Abaris” she said, breathing heavily. “I have told you that my husband is a relative of the emperor. He will not…” Suddenly Abaris viciously slapped her again. This time he grabbed her violently by the shoulders and tried to kiss her. Hecate wrenched her mouth away. She screamed, and shoved him away. He lost his balance and tumbled sideways, landing with a thump on the stone floor. He began to curse. He struggled to his feet.

“You will regret that! You should have cooperated with me! I am a priest! I was showing you favor! To be with me is like being with Apollo in person! I represent him! You ungrateful wench!” It almost looked like a sudden fear had overcome him. He turned abruptly and walked out the room, locking the door. Hecate’s cheek still burned from the slap she had received. But she quickly jumped up and looked around the room, trying to see if there were any way out. Actually, there were no windows. There were only two doors: the one that Abaris had used, and another door on the west. Hecate tried both doors, but they were soundly locked. She began to pray. She went into the little adjacent room, and splashed some water on her face. She felt dirty and she was afraid.

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL LOST MEMORIES OF EDEN

Noah and Naamah

Zillah hung her head, as the tears trickled down her cheek. She had heard the story of Noah’s birth many times. She even knew the gossip about it. In fact, she was tired of hearing about it. She didn’t think it was that important, to tell the truth.

Bathenosh held her daughter close. Her mind traveled back to the events surrounding the birth of her oldest son.

Bathenosh was a daughter of Methuselah’s sister, Barahel. Bathenosh was born out of wedlock, and her mother never married. She had moved in with her Uncle Enosh. And her pretty little daughter had been a childhood favorite of a great uncle, the patriarch named Enosh. Because of her great uncle’s tutelage and closeness to her, she was given the loving nickname of “Bathenosh” (“daughter of Enosh”), when she was just a little girl. It was not Bathenosh’s real name, but it stuck. Her given name was Bilanos.

The old patriarch watched her much of the time when she was a child. He was the only real father she ever knew. Her mother was gone a lot. Enosh taught her many secrets about herbs and healing. Some suspected her of being a sorceress, but indeed she was not. However, the events surrounding the birth of her son Noah forever changed Bathenosh’s life. Even her great uncle, the patriarch Enosh, could not protect her from the shadow that fell across her life when Noah was born.

What happened was that, coincidentally, around the time that Noah was conceived, Bathenosh, Lamech’s young, new teenager bride, was visited by a stranger on a horse, while Lamech was out in the field with some of the neighboring farmers. She was only about sixteen years old, and in the bloom of youth and beauty.

As Bathenosh stood in the kitchen, holding the sobbing Zillah close, her mind went back to that day. Even now, she could still clearly picture the tall, handsome stranger that rode up to the house that day, while the men were gone. She would never forget him. Indeed, she would soon have good reason not to do so.

Bathenosh was one of the prettiest girls in the entire area. This was acknowledged by almost everyone. Many of the other women were jealous of her beauty. Other men besides Lamech-seth had courted her, but her mother, Barahel, and her uncle Methuselah, another important patriarch in her life, had favored her cousin Lamech, the Sethite. Lamech was Methuselah’s handsome son. And so she had been given to Lamech, who seemed to dearly love her. He had been one of her most ardent suitors.

Bathenosh would never forget that fateful day, when she first met the tall stranger. Lamech and the other farmers had been out in the fields, trying desperately to get in the barley harvest before the crop was damaged. It was a struggle against time. The young Bathenosh had been left alone at the house, with only an old servant, who was crippled up. He lived in the barn, which was used to house several milk cows, and a few horses. The old servant slept most of the time, but Lamech found him useful.

Bathenosh was left alone in the house to care for the geese and the goats that wandered loose near the house. She was young and fairly new at her duties, but did her best to keep the house clean, and to take care of the small animals, as best she could. The old servant was supposed to milk the cows, and to feed them and the horses. He could not keep up with the goats or the geese. The men would stay in the fields, working even into the moonlight if necessary, to get the barley harvest in. It was critical. They usually did not have enough moonlight, and so they would plow up a circle of land, and build a large bonfire…if there was no wind.

The tall stranger rode up to the house around dusk. He was at least seven feet tall, with a powerful, muscular build. He was dark-haired, with piercing gray eyes. His complexion was medium. His countenance frightened Bathenosh at first…but he soon put her at ease.

“Young maiden” the tall rider said, as he dismounted. “Have you any refreshments for a stranger? Do you have any provender for my steed?” Although, he wore no body armor, it was clear that he was a warrior. He carried a bow and a sword. A quiver of arrows was strapped to his back. Bathenosh wanted to run at first. She felt fear shoot through her like an arrow. But the kindness of the tall warrior disarmed her. He intrigued her.

“Please, young maiden with the beautiful countenance” Samhazi spoke courteously. Do you not have a little hospitality for a tired warrior? I have fought with the enemies of your people. I am weary and thirsty.” He smiled, as he dismounted. He stood head and shoulders over Bathenosh. She was intimidated.

“My lord, my husband and the men…ah, there is no one here but myself and an old servant…” Bathenosh bowed her head, being somewhat bashful in the man’s commanding presence.

“Surely, young maiden…one who is so beautiful and charming must likewise be hospitable and gracious to a tired warrior.” The warrior smiled. Bathenosh noticed that his teeth were white like pearls. His gray eyes sparkled, as he smiled, and looked expectantly at her. His melodic, almost rhythmic, speech soothed her.

Bathenosh took courage. “My lord, I will draw you some cool water, and I will bring you some bread and cheese out here.” She bowed her head, and started to back away from the tall man, who looked at her with humor in his eyes.

“You are not only fair to look upon, but you are very courteous. You have been taught well. I am sure your husband would be pleased with your hospitable manner.”

Pleased at his compliment, Bathenosh smiled, and turned to go. The stranger reached out and gently took her arm. She sucked in her breath in surprise, and fear gripped her again.
“Do not be afraid, pretty maiden. I will not harm you. I am a warrior.” He released her arm. “I just wanted to ask you if you perhaps had some wine, which might warm my soul?” Bathenosh quickly looked into his gray eyes. She boldly held his gaze for a moment. Their eyes held one another.

“Yes, my lord” she finally replied. “I will bring you some wine.” She quickly went into the house. A fear came over her that perhaps he might try to follow her. What would she do? She hurried to find some bread and cheese. Then she found the jar of wine, which belonged to her husband, Lamech. She gathered up the food, and almost ran back outside with the meal.

The stranger had sat down upon a plank bench, which Lamech had placed outside the house under the shade of a large pine tree. A soft breeze stirred the branches of the tree. He wore a thin wool tunic, with a beautiful leather belt. The tunic came down below his knees. His dark hair was rather long, and combed back behind his ears. It did not cover much of his neck, however, since it was trimmed. A sword hung from his leather belt. He removed the quiver and bow, as well as the sword, laying them on the bench beside him.

He stretched his long legs out in front of him. Bathenosh remembered remarking on how long his legs were. His horse was tethered to a nearby tree. He turned and smiled, when he saw Bathenosh approaching politely with his food and drink.

“Ah, the beautiful maiden returns with gracious hospitality! How long have you been married, fair maiden? Are you happy?” The stranger smiled, again revealing his perfect teeth.

Bathenosh did not answer. “Here is your food and drink, my lord. I hope you find it to your satisfaction.” She politely lowered her eyes, while holding out the tray, carrying the bread, the cheese, and the goblet of wine.

“Ah, it looks delicious. A meal fit for a prince…for men or…even for angels.” The stranger looked up at the young girl, and smiled, as he accepted the tray of food.

Bathenosh was not sure why, but his mention of the word “angel” frightened her. She looked up, startled. Bathenosh looked at the young man intently. He smiled, holding her eyes. Bathenosh could not help herself. A smile played upon her lips as she looked into his eyes.

“Please do not leave me, young maiden. I am very lonely. Sit here near me, while I eat and drink. I will not harm you.” The warrior looked at her earnestly, almost pleading.

Bathenosh hesitated. She did not know what to do. She was afraid to stay, and afraid to leave.
“Please” the young warrior said. He reached over and laid his hand gently on her arm. His tremendous height, even while sitting, and something about his commanding presence, paralyzed her. She felt weak in her knees. She wished that Lamech were there. Finally, she meekly sat down on the long bench beside him. “As my lord wishes” she said, quietly. Then she added, “I am a married woman.” She looked up at him with her large, brown eyes. “It is not proper for me to sit here with a stranger.”

The warrior regarded her quietly for a moment. Then he spoke. “Do not be afraid. I will not hurt you. Your husband’s name is Lamech. I know all about him.”

Bathenosh looked up with surprise. “My lord, how do you know my husband, Lamech? Have you ever met him?”

“I have seen him before…but no, we have never formally met.” The tall warrior began to hungrily devour the bread and the cheese. He lifted up the large goblet of wine, and drained half of it down.

“Where did you see my husband, my lord? He rarely leaves this plateau north of the Lake Van region.” Bathenosh asked. She looked somewhat doubtful. But she was intrigued.

The warrior smiled. “You are such a pretty little thing! Why are you looking so doubtful? I will explain to you.” The teenage girl looked down demurely.

Bathenosh was uncomfortable. “I should not be sitting here talking with you, my lord. It is unseemly.” She started to get up. The warrior immediately reached out, and touched his hand upon her forearm. “Please, stay just a little longer. I haven’t even told you my name. You wanted to know where I saw your husband, didn’t you? You haven’t been married to him very long.”

Bathenosh blushed. “How did you know that, my lord? I did not tell you that.” She sat back down, and looked at the tall man. She noticed the muscles on his arms. They rippled with power. He wore no beard, but was clean shaven. He wore no jewelry. He exuded strength and power. She felt it, mixed in with a certain fear of the unknown. Yet she knew that she was interested in what he had to say. She looked at him, hesitating.

“That is better, pretty maiden. Now you tell me your name, and I will tell you mine.”

“You probably already know my name, my lord. You said you knew my husband’s name.” The man had put Bathenosh somewhat at ease. She smiled.

“Indeed, how could I not know your name? The name of one who is so lovely, and whose beauty is well known in this region. Your name is…” The man smiled, hesitating, so as to tease. “Your name is…Bathenosh, but your real, given name was Bilanos.” He smiled.

Bathenosh gasped. Her brown eyes widened, and she put her hand to her mouth in surprise. “How did you know that? Not very many people know my real name.”

“Well, I have admired your beauty for a long time…from a distance. I know a lot of things about you.” The young warrior took the last bite of cheese. He looked at her and grinned. He lifted up the goblet, “Here’s to the prettiest maiden in this region…nay, in the whole earth!” He laughed, and lifted his goblet to drain the last of the wine. Bathenosh blushed. “I must be going, my lord. It is not good for me to stay here. My…”

The young man took her arm for a moment. “Please, once more I beg you. I am not finished speaking with you. I am your guest. Please do not leave just yet. I will not harm you. I have told you that.” He looked into her eyes. She returned his gaze. His gray eyes were like cloudy pools of mist. She felt lost in them. She suddenly felt like she was being entranced. She could not take her eyes away from his. Slowly, he moved closer to her. She could not move.

“My lord…” Bathenosh drew in her breath sharply. He drew near, and bent down to kiss her lips. His kiss was like a searing flame. It was like a fire shooting through her being. She wanted to cry out, but she could not. At the same time, she felt almost like swooning.

Only a few moments went by, but to Bathenosh they seemed like an eternity. She breathed out with a sigh. She felt like going limp in his arms, but something inside of her seemed to strengthen her. She let out a muffled cry, “Dear God, Lord Jehovah, please help me!” Her words hit the stranger like a lightning bolt. He suddenly sat up straight in alarm.

“What did you say?” His brow furrowed in alarm. He frowned. He stood up quickly. He quickly composed himself. He smiled pleasantly, “Well, I thank you, Bathenosh, for your hospitality. I must be going.”

He seemed suddenly nervous. His nerves seemed jarred. He looked slightly agitated.
Bathenosh was also startled. “You should not have done that, my lord. I am a married woman.” She also stood up. She was breathing heavily from the power of his embrace, and from his kiss.

“Ah, yes. So you are. I apologize, dear maiden. I was carried away by your beauty. I could not help myself. Indeed, what man could…in your presence? But I am indebted to you. I beg your forgiveness.” He reached for his weapons, and put them on. He looked over at his horse. Then he looked back at Bathenosh.

Bathenosh stood there, almost in a daze. She had put the back of her hand on her lips, which were still burning. She had never been kissed like that. Several young men had stolen kisses from her…but never one like that. Who was this stranger? Her mind raced. He was so tall that he towered over her.

Bathenosh summoned up her strength. “You must leave me, sir. You have violated my husband’s hospitality.”

The stranger looked at her for a moment. He nodded. “I was overcome by your beauty, Bathenosh. I have asked your forgiveness. Again, please forgive me. I would never harm you. I am your servant. If you ever need me, just call out for me, and I will come to you. Wherever I am, I will hear your call…I will come to help you.”

“W-Who are you?” Fear again flooded Bathenosh’s mind, but it was mixed with intrigue, and a flush of emotion. “You never told me your name.”

The tall stranger had walked over to his stallion, which had been quietly grazing, while tethered to the tree. Bathenosh almost unconsciously followed the man over to his horse. She stood before him, as he prepared to mount. He turned to her.

“My name is Samhazi” he said, looking down pleasantly at her. He smiled. His smile was dazzling.