Sahara Light: a Novel. Part I. Chapter VII.

2 Mar

“What do you think of the editorial, Hermes?” inquired Cadmus. “It was a threat aimed at me and all other builders and developers of suburban farm land close to Gamara. I heard nothing but lies from a reactionary traditionalist. If our ancestors had listened to similarly frightened dunces, we’d still be back in Greece. The people who built Gamara were bold and courageous souls. They were unafraid of attempting the new.

“What is your opinion of what you just heard Atlas Cimera say?”

The physicist considered a moment before saying anything.

“Opposition from someone like that is extremely serious, I imagine. He must be an influential individual, isn’t he?”

“Indeed, he is.” Cadmus frowned, furrowing his brow. “The politicians and bankers are afraid to death of Atlas Cimera. His power is enormous. Some say he is supreme in Gamara. He can block licenses and bank loans all of us developers will be needing. His opposition is a great obstacle for us.”

The two stared at each other in silence until the host again spoke. “How would you like to visit Niobe on the sixth deck?” he asked. “She lives right over her antique shop.”

“Fine,” said Hermes with an instant grin.

“Echo shares the apartment with her and so we’ll see her as well,” added Cadmus. “I’ll call on the phonic and tell them that we’ll see them.”

Only a short walk from the vertical mover, in a middle class neighborhood, stood the neat little building of xylan. The sign over the front entrance indicated it held “Niobe’s Antiques”.

The dark-eyed, dark-haired, dark-skinned owner ushered the two males inside. “Come in,” she told them. “Echo will be down soon. We can take you out to our Deck Six Central Park.”

“You have a park here?” said Hermes with surprise.

“It’s one of the privileges of living among the advantaged people,” she said with an enigmatic expression. “But let me first show you what I sell in my store.”

“That will be most interesting,” returned the scientist.

Hermes followed her on a short tour of the first floor. She pointed out relics brought long ago from Ionia and the islands: pots and pans, vases, spears and shields, statues, jewelry, cups and plates, knives and swords, tools, treasure chests, and furniture.

Niobe provided explanations and commentary as they moved about in a circle. In the back of the shop, she picked up a silver bar and handed it to Hermes.

“Do you know what this represents?” she asked him.

He shook his head. “No, I don’t,” he confessed.

“Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis, was believed to own bows and arrows made of pure silver.”

He smiled. “I think that I read that legend when I was a child. My parents were sandfarmers and we held a plot to the north of Gamara.”

Her eyes appeared to grow misty. “I was reading about Apollo this morning,” she sighed. “Let me show you what I just learned.”

Hermes followed her into a small office cluttered with shelves of old books. She went to a rolltop devilwood desk, picked up an old volume lying on it, and began to read aloud from the cellulose page.

“Zeus at one time fell in love with a young maiden named Leto. He was attracted to her because she was so mild and gentle. Leto was the kindest, warmest creature in all of Greece. Everyone, both gods and men, loved her except for Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus. Hera raged with envy and vowed she would never allow Leto to have any children. She drove her off of Mount Olympus and commanded that no place on either land or sea give her shelter or protection. Leto wandered all over the world begging every country, city, and island to help her. She was refused everywhere, out of fear of the anger of Hera.

“Finally, Leto came to an island floating in the sea called the Aegean. This island called Delos was not part of the land, neither was it part of the sea. The threats of Hera did not hold here. So Zeus used his power to place four pillars of stone under the small island, anchoring it to the bottom of the sea.

“On Delos, Leto gave birth to two children of Zeus. These were the twins, Apollo and Artemis. They grew up drinking nectar, the drink of the gods, and eating ambrosia, the food of immortality. Both of them were wise and strong, loving music and hunting with bow and arrow.

“The place where the twins were born was a small hill named Cynthus. From this came the title of Apollo: the Cynthian Archer. Under the hill was a sacred cave where he was worshiped. The first oracle of Apollo gave its answers to questions here at Cynthus. Great annual festivals were held in honor of Apollo, with pilgrims coming from everywhere. Processions and ceremonies, dancing and singing, games and sports took place. Young men and women sang hymns to Apollo and his sister. They proclaimed the glory of the Cynthian Archer and his chaste sister.”

As Niobe finished reading, her voice fell to a whisper. “All that we have lost, my friend. Where is Apollo for us today? Where is our Cynthian Archer?”

Before Hermes could say anything, a voice came from the door to the office.

“What are you two doing in here?” demanded Echo, in a bright white dress. “Cadmus and I have been waiting for you upstairs. Aren’t we going to show Hermes the beautiful park we have on our tier?”

Echo laughed as Niobe slammed her book shut.

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