This is the last installment in the series of Thais of Athens translation teasers. The translation is finished and has been dispatched to my fabulous editor. I spent the evening wrapping up the last few illustrations before I get to working on the cover.
And what about Thais? Well, her life had taken yet another turn. After taking some time in seclusion to relax and shake off the weariness of the court life, Thais becomes restless again and goes in search of a new path in life, which she finds... from an inexpected source.
At dawn, the high priestess appeared, ordered them each to eat an apple and take their off their clothes, and led the two friends to the Goddess Averting Old Age – Aphrodite Ambologera. Neither the Athenian nor the black priestess who traveled much have ever seen the likes of this temple. A triangular skylight in the roof directed the bright glow of the sky toward the two walls the color of helianthus petals that converged ahead in the direction of the east.
Upon the walls, bronze nails held up enormous sheets of wood at least ten elbows wide cut from whole tree trunks. Only thousand-year old trees like Lebanese cedars could possess such girth. Two goddesses were painted on them in pure mineral colors used for eternal frescoes by an artist who must have been a greater genius than Apelles himself.
The left painting in hot shades of red earth and flaming sunset portrayed a woman at the height of earthly fertility and health. Her full lips, breasts and hips were so filled with desire, they seemed ready to burst from wild broiling passion, pouring forth the dark blood of the Great Mother, the Queen of the Abyss. Her hands reached toward the viewer in an irresistible yearning and held a dark rose – a symbol of feminine essence and a square vessel with a star that Thais was very familiar with.
“Lilith!” – Thais said barely moving her lips, unable to take her eyes off the painting.
“No!” – Eris replied, “Lilith is kind, and this one is death!”
The priestess raised her eyebrows, as she heard them and pointed at the right wall in agitation. The Athenian sighed in relief, as she saw the embodiment of her dream.
The blue color scheme blended together the sea, the sky and the low horizon. Against this backdrop the goddess’s body assumed a pearly tinge of early dawn, when large stars still shone above and the opal sea splashed against the rose-colored sand. Urania walked, barely touching the ground with her bare toes, reaching up to the morning sky, wind and clouds. The face of the goddess half-turned over her shoulder, looked both into the distance and at the viewer, promising comfort with the gaze of her eyes that were gray, like Thais’s. Light shone over her forehead between her eyebrows, emphasizing rather than competing with the light in her eyes.
A time-blackened incense-burner fumed on a low altar before each painting.
“Were you told of the two faces of Ambologera?” – the priestess asked.
“Yes!” – Thais and Eris replied in unison, remembering their evening conversation with the temple’s philosopher.
“Neither the Olympian gods nor the Great Mother herself can avert the aging of a mortal body. All things in the world are subject to the flow of time. But there is a choice. It is before you. You may burn in the last fire of serving Aphrodite. Or you may transfer this fire to the all-encompassing love, leading toward heaven, serving Urania in tireless care about the happiness of those young and old. Place something that is not necessarily valuable but that is most precious to each of you before the goddess of your choice.”