Fragment. From Delphi. Part Two by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara ArdingerRead Part One of this story here

The two men nodded in mutual respect, and the priest pointed at the old woman, who was now sitting on a three-legged stool. “Your Grace, the Pythoness herself is in attendance today. The Eldest One. Because of your … ah … great generosity to the holy precinct of the College of Lord God Apollo, we—I, myself, I went down … down in the darkness … went down to fetch her. Under the command of the Lord God Himself. All has been explained to you?” As the general nodded, the priest hurried on. “You understand, then, that Lord God Apollo has received your inquiry? The Pythoness will reply. That is, she will convey the Lord God’s words, which I myself will translate. You understand that old women often speak gibberish that common men—that … ah … august personages such as yourself—do not … er … comprehend.” The general frowned. “It’s part of the mystery! It is as Lord God Apollo permits.” The general nodded again. “If Your Grace will kindly excuse me, I must prepare myself. Ordinarily, the younger priests carry out these duties … for the questions of common men … that is to say—”

“Get on with it, man. I’m waiting. My army is waiting. The enemy is waiting.”

The high priest bowed. “Yes. Of course. Waiting.” He bowed again, backed away, and walked with fussy dignity to his station, a pavilion just outside the shed where the veiled woman sat waiting. The pavilion had been especially constructed for this occasion. Gold and white cloths were draped across ebony poles to shade a wide ivory chair for the head priest and a low table for the stenographer, a skinny brown man who emerged from one of the marble outbuildings and stumbled down the slope.

Continue reading “Fragment. From Delphi. Part Two by Barbara Ardinger”

Fragment. From Delphi. Part One by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara Ardinger

The United States has not won a war by the surrender of its enemies since 1945, yet we keep going to war. Young men are committing acts of war to terrorize us at home. Our civilian police forces are becoming increasingly militarized. Who can remember what it was like when the warrior-priests of the mouse-god, Apollo Smintheus, took over Gaia’s ancient shrine?

Long before they came down, she could see the three men in their imitation women’s robes. Because she had no place to hide, she continued to sit calmly on her little stool. She stroked the serpent, which tended to become excitable when the priests were present. It coiled more snugly around her shoulders.

The oldest of the three men, the one right behind the warrior with the torch and the sword, was wheezing heavily as he explained the situation to the boy, whose first trip into the darkness this was. “She’s always back there,” he said, mopping his forehead. “Like a damn snake in a hole.” He paused to catch his breath, and the other two paused with him. “So we always have to run her to ground, so to speak.” He laughed. “Sometimes we have to bind her to bring her out. She’s old. Used to be quite dangerous—” Continue reading “Fragment. From Delphi. Part One by Barbara Ardinger”

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