Here’s the Sunday Fiction... on a Tuesday. Because migraine :(
The Doorway of the Moon
I refused to look at the stone door as it slid closed and sealed me inside the enormous tomb. Now lit by a single lamp, the weight of the darkness and silence pressed upon my shoulders.
The tunnel in which I stood reeked of incense and cooked meat - the remnants of the funeral feast. I stepped over to the lamp, picking it up and carrying it with me deeper into the tomb. Soon the smells of the feast was replaced by the smell of the earthen tunnel. I held the lamp closer to the wall to see how far away from the main tomb I was. Rough red clay lined the walls of the tunnel and I walked on.
Here, in the darkness, it really did feel as if I was stepping into the other world. Ghostly fingers crept along my back and I shivered at the imagined touch.
Again I held the lamp closer to the wall and saw that, here, the clay had been smoothed by expert hands. The horses pulling the chariot of the moon - the Ariashjarogh - were painted on the clay in ochre and soot-black lines. The silver representing the light of the moon glimmered in the lamplight. The horses seem to come to life in my lamp's flickering light, galloping along the wall towards the tomb's inner cavern and, for a moment, I thought I could hear the hooves beat a galloping rhythm on the hard clay.
I headed further into the tomb tunnel until I reached the Night's Doors. They were open, gaping into an even deeper darkness beyond. Within this inner cavern our king lay sleeping.
I swallowed, glancing behind me as if I would see a way out, and then forced myself to step into the ultimate dark beyond the doors.
My eyes soon became accustomed to the deeper darkness of the cavern and I stepped towards the centre, to where the king lay on a gold bedecked marble slab. I started at how alive he seemed even though I could smell the embalming herbs.
He clutched his sword upon his breast, its pommel a stylised silver dragon on blue enamel. His hands and forearms still showed the defensive wounds that he was dealt in the moments before his death and, as I leaned closer with the lamp, I saw how they had been lined with silver and it looked as if he was glowing with the very light of Ariashja from within.
"May the One have mercy on our souls," I whispered and wondered if the king's soul was able to hear me where it was trapped within the embalmed body.
My hands shook as I set down the lamp by the wall and took the paints from my bag. I swallowed past the dryness of my mouth, glad that I had been barred from drinking any of the funeral wine. I needed all my wits about me if I was to paint the doorway to the stars into being.
I said a quick prayer, hoping that it would be able to reach beyond the tomb, dipped the brush into the blue paint, and started writing.
I painted the holy name of the One upon the wall - as high as I could reach - and asked him to harken to me. With the king as my only companion in the near darkness, I wrote the words of the Ashjarlaerna upon the clay.
The lamp's light dimmed and flickered as I neared the end of the Ashjarlaerna words. As I wrote the words "Ashja Indara" upon the clay with the last of the blue paint the light of the lamp died.
I held my breath in the darkness. And waited. And waited.
I went over the words that I'd written again and again. Faster and faster, until I simply murmured ashja, ashja, ashja, as if the word itself could bring light to the tomb.
My eyes burned with tears and I could taste salt upon my lips. I hung my head in shame even though there was no one but the king to see me. I had failed my family. They would open the tomb and find me here by the wall. Dead. My soul stuck forever in this dark place. Indara. Until time ends.
I wept as I placed my hand upon the cold clay, but plucked it away as silver light spread outward from my palm and lit the letters upon the wall.
As the final word was lit, a great wind swept through the room and the Night's Doors slammed shut. I opened my mouth, but no sound came from it. I pressed my hands against my ears to drown out the roaring wind, shutting my eyes.
And then light pierced through my closed lids and I flinched before it faded and I dared open my eyes.
I no longer stood in front of the wall, but in front of the Ariashjarokka; the Doorway of the Moon. Thousands of stars shone in the vast, dark expanse beyond. I stared into the depths of the heavens that had been opened before me, listening to the voices of the stars that sang in the Ashjanamha, and stepped through.
I hope you enjoyed this weird little tale that will form part of Where the Stars Used to Sing.
It would have been titled “The Night the Stars Beckoned” (as I’d said on the blog last week), but I decided to rather change the name once it’d been written.
The story is basically the answer to the question “what happens when you watch a bunch of ancient history stuff on Curiosity Stream”! These included a documentary about scribes in ancient Egypt, and another about the Lascaux caves.