The End of Things Ch. 17: Downfall

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Hypatia consulted Orestes, the Governor, about the mob of parabalani who harassed those of us going to the Mouseion, but when he sent soldiers to clear a path, that just created further tension. Whatever these “monks” were, peaceful they were not.

Violence begets violence. For some time Kirill’s monks had been harassing the Jewish community in Alexandria, arguing that if they would not “convert” peacefully, they should be made to do so. They kidnapped several Jewish women and forced them to convert and to marry Christians. Inevitably, elements in the Jewish community responded with violence, and just after the Paschal celebrations, all hell broke loose, with mobs of Kirill’s supporters sacking the Jewish quarter of the city.

Kirill announced that all Jews who did not convert should leave the city within a month. Many did, others protested to Orestes, who, in turn, protested to Constantinople, arguing that Kirill and his mob were getting out of hand.

Hypatia asked if I would see Kirill, which I did. It was not an occasion I shall ever forget.

As a known Christian, and properly dressed – that is in clothes which all but hid me from view – I was allowed access. I could see, at once, that he was on edge. I gave him the message.

“You do not understand, Carwen. The existence of the Jews as a separate community is an affront to the Gospel, and my men are doing God’s work.”

“You really think that the Jesus who died on the Cross and asked for forgiveness for those who crucified him wants this?”

“We have a duty to bring the kingdom to pass,” he answered, ignoring the question.

“Do you want to make Orestes clamp down on the Church?”

“Let him try. I tell you, Carwen, the parabalani cannot be stopped. I am their leader, and I must follow them when they are doing God’s work.”

I looked at him. Suddenly he seemed uneasy.

“You can’t control them, can you, Kirill?”

“Nonsense, girl, of course I can, but I will not stop them when they are doing God’s work.”

I could see that I was getting precisely nowhere.

“Tell Hypatia she should leave the city – and if you are wise, you will go with her.”

I looked at him. I realised, he was frightened. The forces unleashed were not ones he could control, and he knew it. I sensed his fear.

“We have to believe that this is for the good of the Kingdom. Can’t you get Hypatia to convert? If she only would, things might yet be saved.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, suddenly feeling alarmed.

“Just go, you, Hypatia and the rest of you. And go now!”

His own fear had communicated itself to me, and I went back to the Mouseion feeling thoroughly upset.

I told Hypatia what had happened.

“What do you think darling?”

“I think,” I told her earnestly, “that Kirill has no control over Peter and his extremists.”

“I am not running, Carwen, Orestes and his troops will protect us, we cannot just run away. Besides, we have Stumpy and our Amazons to help.”

I could see her mind was made up, so did not argue.

Stumpy and Bella could both see how upset I was.

“Look,” I said, “I think that Bella and you, ought to go back to Lesbos for a while, and I will follow as soon as I can.”

They both looked at me.

“No, Carwen,” Stumpy said, “we are not leaving you. We shall be safe enough here.”

For the next few days my sense of foreboding hung over me like a thunder cloud.

Outside the Mouseion, the mob increased in numbers, and we decided that we’d stay inside until things calmed down. But they did no such thing.

On the sixth day of what was becoming a siege, Hypatia decided to act.

“I am going to see Orestes, darling, I need him to take firmer action.”

“It’s not safe,” I argued, “we have to take care.”

“Carwen, we are not just going to be cowed into passivity by violence. These people need to see that. If they won’t, then they need to be faced down by real soldiers.”

I admired her courage, but advised against it. But I could see her mind was made up.

“At least take some protection, darling, please.”

“They will not attack me, Carwen. Not even Peter and his parabalani are that stupid.”

“Well, at least take me with you.”

“You would come with me?”

“Silly, I love you. I wish you would not go, but if you do, let me and some of our Amazons come with you as protection.”

I talked with Stumpy, who, like me, was against the whole idea. kaçak iddaa But, seeing that Hypatia was determined, allocated two of her best Amazons to help us.

“I should come too,” she said.

I looked her squarely in the eyes.

“No,” I said, “we need you to organise the defence here. I have an awful feeling, Stumpy.”

“Don’t go,” Bella pleaded.

If I am honest, I did not want to go. But I felt boxed in.

The chariot was prepared, and Hypatia and I, and the guards got on board.

As we drove toward the crowd, it parted for us. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

But driving along the main road, we saw that it was blocked. We’d have to take a different route. The charioteer took us via the back streets, which seemed mercifully quiet, and outflanking the roadblock, we got back onto the main road. Then it started.

A roof tile narrowly missed my head, and then, out of one of the side streets a mob rushed at us. We tried to speed up, but to no avail, even after the horses hit some of the mob, it continued to crowd us.

I drew my sword and stabbed at a man trying to grab Hypatia. He went down. One of the guards joined me, and together, we grabbed Hypatia and tried to cut out way through. I saw the charioteer and the other guard disappear beneath the mob of men.

Not expecting to meet resistance, those trying to grab us were momentarily repelled, and we pushed on. Then my guard was hit by a tile, and she went down. I picked up her sword and pressed forward, but it was too much. I went down, I could see them grab Hypatia who screamed my name.

Picking myself up, I slashed and hit out, two, three and then a fourth man went down, but I could not cut my way through. The bastards had her. I saw them rip her clothes off, and then the red mist descended.

Maybe because they were after her, maybe because tackling me was a secure route to death, or maybe because by this stage I was, myself, covered in blood and gore, I was able to push through into an alleyway. Two men were stupid enough to pursue me. I killed them both.

Weary, but furious, I stupidly decided to go back, but as I tried, three more men came down the alleyway. I backed against a door and defended myself. My sword arm was weary, but Stumpy’s training took effect, and as the last of the three ran, I looked with despair. Then I felt the door give.

“In here, quick.”

I found myself in a courtyard facing a tall woman.

“Are you hurt, sir?”

“I am no man,” I said, taking my helmet off, “I am Carwen of Britannia.”

“Sorry, Miss,” the woman said, “I am Miriam. Are you hurt?”

“I have to get back out there,” I said, “I need to protect Hypatia.”

Miriam looked at me.

“You can’t. Quick, inside.”

I went upstairs. I looked out of the window and wished I hadn’t.

Many have written about what happened that day. I will not, I cannot add to it. The brutality, the cruelty, the sheer barbarism of how they hacked my love to death. Even as I write this on board a ship back to Lesbos, my blood runs cold. I saw what I saw. I wish I had not seen it. It was the triumph of barbarism over civilisation. I wept. But Miriam was right, if I had gone out there, I would have suffered the same fate.

Kindly, she offered to bathe me and provide fresh clothes.

I was battered and bruised all over. My armour had saved me from being killed, but was dented and, in places, had been pierced. My torso was a mass of angry bruising and cuts. My arms ached; so did my heart.

“Here, let me help,” she said, putting soothing oils on my wounds.

I suddenly felt a sense of utter weariness.

I had warned her, I kept saying to myself. I had told her. Why oh why had I not insisted? That last look of hers is seared into my memory.

“You need to rest,” Miriam said.

“I need to get back to my friends,” I said, pulling my weary frame together.

I grabbed my sword. My armour was too battered to be useful, and if I’d been thinking clearly, I’d have said the same was true of me. But I wanted to get back – if I could. On foot, and in ordinary clothes, I stood a chance – though how I would get into the Mouseion was another matter; but I had a plan.

Against Miriam’s advice, I slipped out.

The mob had moved on. There were bodies in the alleyway – most of them left by my sword.

I made my way past the wreckage of the chariot, the head horses, and the discarded clothing. I saw the kaçak bahis two dead guards and the charioteer, but no traces of Hypatia beyond her torn clothing. I hurried on.

I came to the church with the secret passage back home and ducked inside. It was empty. The air outside had been acrid with smoke, so it was good to be out of it.

I made my way to the crypt, and thence home.

Bella cried in alarm when she saw me.

“Carwen! Stumpy, come quickly!”

Bella held me.

“Carwen what on earth?”

Stumpy came in. She took one look at me.

“They got her!” That was all I could say before collapsing into Bella’s arms.

Some wine and care from Bella brought me round. I asked what was happening.

“We’re under attack,” she said. “Stumpy and the Amazons held the perimeter for as long as they could. Did you get to Orestes, are reinforcements coming?”

I’d almost forgotten that was why we’d gone.

“No, we were ambushed, the others are dead. No one is coming to save us.”

She ran off to tell Stumpy.

I could hear noises upstairs. I could smell smoke.

Stumpy and two of the Amazons came running in.

“Bella told me. We have no option but to fight and die,” she said.

“We could go the way I came,” I said. “They will not know of the secret passage, and if we move fast, we may make it.”

“You look in no shape to run.”

“It’s either that or we get ripped to shreds,” I said, shuddering as I remembered what I had seen from Miriam’s window.

That decided it.

Taking what we could carry easily, the four of us headed for the secret passage and the church.

I have no idea where I got the energy from to keep going. My entire body ached. But the survival instinct is the strongest, and knowing the alternative, I kept going. From thence I led them to Miriam’s, hoping she would let us in. She did.

We hid there for three days while all around us the city was in uproar. We could see smoke from the direction of the Mouseion.

Miriam, who was a widow looking after her sick mother, gave us refuge. We gave her money to help feed us, and Bella and she ventured out to get food – and information.

Apparently the Mouseion had been sacked and burned. Hypatia’s body, having been abused, had been burned. Orestes had, it was said, ordered more troops, but for the moment, the parabalani had control of Alexandria. If it had not been for Miriam, we’d have been victims of the mob. As it was, we could only wait – and watch.

As I developed a fever, that was as well from my point of view. Miriam and Bella nursed me through the fever, and by the fourth day, although weak, I was back – aching and tired, but back.

Bella, who had hardly left my side, asked what we should do?

It was a question which had tormented me while I had lain there.

My heart ached. My Hypatia, gone! Not only gone, but in a manner so brutal that it marked the eclipse of civilisation itself. Alexandria, which had seemed to be cultured, such a monument to the culture that had built it and allowed it to flourish, the epitome of civilisation, that cultured contrast to my own lands, had nonetheless witnessed an act of such barbarism, such brutality, that my mind was overwhelmed.

The whole journey to Alexandria had felt like a transition from barbarism to the heart of civilisation; now it felt as though I was in the heart of a darkness so complete that no light could penetrate it.

How? How I asked myself, could a faith founded on the love of God for his people have produced men who thought it acceptable to tear a woman apart because she was not “one of them”?

It was, I realised with a shudder, the same instinct that had refused to acknowledge the place of women in the church founded by Jesus. Power was what was wanted. Power, they said, to save people. To save them by killing them. At least the Saxons didn’t try to pretend they were after anything except land, women, and plunder. There was a barbaric honesty about that. There were no fine sentiments, no words about it being “good” for anyone save themselves.

And yet and yet! Kirill was not a bad man. I doubted he had meant for Hypatia to be killed, and I was sure (and was right, as I found later) that would disclaim all responsibility. Yet he was responsible. He was their leader, their “father,” he could have set another example – but that would have threatened his power. When it came down to it, power was what he wanted. illegal bahis It was what they all wanted.

I felt like turning my face to the wall in despair. What was the point? And yet at that darkest moment, I recalled what Calliope, “the last of the Amazons,” had written as she watched her own civilisation fall into ruin:

“As I look back now, a year to the day I arrived on Lesbos, I know it was the right decision. But can we survive as an isolated enclave with Amazonia and its achievements fading into the mists of legend? We shall see. But my heart is filled with foreboding. I shall seal this and leave it with other records of our City State in the archives of Sappho. Surely, we women will rise again?”

She had left it there. I had read it. I had held her manuscript in my own hands. I could not fall below the level of events. Calliope had her doubts, but she had seen Lesbos as an enclave of hope. The least we could do, that I could so, was to be faithful to her hope. Indeed, in writing this as the ship approaches Lesbos, I have tried to emulate her, setting down my hopes and my despair, my loves, and my losses.

When I first read Calliope’s work it moved me. On that fateful day in Alexandria it saved me.

I turned to Bella, knowing what we should do.

Reaching up from my couch, I pulled her to me.

“We should make love,” I said.

She smiled.

“Oh, you ARE feeling better, aren’t you?”

Kissing her lips passionately, I whispered:

“I am, and you feel so good.”

My hand slipped inside her tunic to caress her soft breasts. Slipping the strap off her shoulder, I pulled her breast out and kissed it. She did feel good. Soft and warm and loving. I felt life returning. I sucked on her nipple until she moaned loud enough. I looked into her eyes, soft with love and desire.

This, this I thought, is the antidote.

I stripped her, admiring the perfection of her body.

Sitting her on the couch, I knelt between her thighs.

“You are beautiful, Bella.”

She sighed, and began to feel her own breasts, pulling on the nipples. I wanted her. My mouth engulfed her pussy, sucking on it, drawing her juices into my mouth. I breathed out on her clit, which brought loud moans from her. My tongue worked up and down her slit, taking her thickening cream and lavishing it on her clit, which I put my lips on and sucked, flicking it with my tongue.

“Oh, oh, Carwen, fuck, yes, yes, yes!”

Parting her lips with my fingers, I twisted and pressed them into her, feeling her pussy yield and grip them. My left index finger reached down to where her cream was coating her tight asshole and I teased it before pressing a finger in there, which made her squeal and maul her breasts harder.

She rocked against my fingers and tongue, lost in her desire – and in mine. I wanted to give her this intimacy, life would triumph, love would redeem us, hate and brutality could not win, not ever.

I poured my love into eating her out and loving her, and she poured herself out to me as she came hard against my face.

Her tension remained; I could feel it.

I mounted the couch and inserting my leg between her thighs, moved so that our pussies met. That caused fresh moans from Bella, and as our juices met and mingled, I felt her rough hair against me, the friction making my pussy even wetter; when our clits touched, we both moaned.

Lost on a sea of desire, we pressed against each other. I managed to get my lips on her nipples and began to suck and bite them, which fired her to fresh efforts to grind herself against me. We pressed, we twisted, we loved. It was a devouring fire, which instead of destroying created – love seemed to swell and grow and then burst in our joint orgasm.

As we began to calm down, Bella pulled me between her ample breasts.

“I love you, Carwen.”

“I love you, Bella,” I said.

We had spoken much of desire, of lust and of pleasure, but here, when civilisation lay in ruins around us, that spark of love seemed to ignite our hearts. I felt the despair that had overcome me begin to pass. There would be light in that darkness. Love would save us.

Stumpy found us wrapped in each other.

“At last,” she said, “you two have taken long enough!”

I looked over, sleepily.

“I thought she was your girl,” I said.

“She is, when I need her, but she’s your girl, Carwen – and always will be.”

That felt good.

I hugged Stumpy.

I could not tell either of them how much their love and friendship meant to me, but I knew for sure that Calliope had been right. Women must rise again. The question was what we should do next?

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