A story best told by an elemental voice.
Mother of Twins
Five thousand years ago, I was cast into the minds of men to observe and mark the river of time. At summer’s height, glorious light gave life to the desert sands beneath the feet of the people I would serve. Solstice, they named that moment when my brother Thoth, Ma’at, his mate, and I, all children of Ra, were formed. We were charged to champion wisdom, justice, righteousness, and harmony. As the least of us three, it was my purpose to write of the deeds of men, to mark the flow of the river, and to provide record of what passed before my sight. Unlike my brother and his mate, I have no personal name. Since Menes united upper and lower Egypt, I have been called Seshat, Sesheta, and Sefkhet. All mean the same in the old language – a female scribe. The latter appellation rings most pleasantly to my ears so that is who I choose to be. Sefkhet Abwy, the scribe.
My voice to my people faded away soon after the Romans imposed their will upon Egypt. None have seen since then what I mark upon sacred persea leaves under the Egyptian sun. Two thousand years have passed since the Romans took away my voice, swiftly for some, less so for others. But the mystery of the river is that it has no beginning nor end. It simply flows and I with it. Egypt sustains me and likely will as long as the memories of men persist. Eleven centuries ago, as men mark time, the river arrived at a precipitous cataract. Wisdom and righteousness had fostered much harmony in some parts of the world. In others, violence and chaos ruled. The river swept all over the edge of the cataract in a malevolent storm of conflict between all nations. This unending storm continues along the river’s course to this day, and yea though I mark the fate of all upon the fronds, and the Houses of Life and Books remain my task, I can do nothing. I observe and write but have been otherwise silenced by the hand of man.
Something new this way comes. I am given voice to write of what might have been. Of a bend in the river that, had it come to pass, might have led to a more righteous time of greater harmony and wisdom. I speak now of a story about a woman-child who aspired to do more than simply mark the time’s passage and tell of efforts of men. I shall name her Nabirye, which means mother of twins in the language of my people when I was formed. Had I been cast upon a mortal coil, perhaps I would have been her. Alas, my fate is to watch and record rather than do. Here then is the flow of the river when it had reached her time.
Six hundred years have passed since the fall of Rome. From the tip of the Italian peninsula to the Isles of Britannia, society lies desolate, fractured, and bleeding. Famine and pestilence reign while petty kings struggle for supremacy, often against the sundered Christian church that had bound them together. Feudal lords battle each other, brother against brother and father against son. Beneath the yoke of incessant warfare, the blood of the downtrodden, the poor, and the uneducated man and woman copiously flows.
To the south and east and across the Mediterranean Sea, a different culture has reached a pinnacle in science, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. The religious fervor of Islam now embraces the ancient kingdoms of Persia, Egypt, and Judea. In four hundred years, the followers of Mohammed have carried stability, peace, learning, and wealth from the deserts of Arabia, across the Sahara of Northern Africa, up the Iberian Peninsula, throughout the Levant, and across Anatolia to the gates of Constantinople. In contrast to the robust and dynamic economies of the eastern empires, the western kingdoms have declined into dark and barbarous states. Bright embers still smolder in Castile, Genoa, Rome, and Constantinople. For all the decay in the body, the West still contains a living heart. Amid both darkness and splendor, a few insightful and influential minds consider at length the path to the future.
For clarity, I shall tell this story in modern English accented by an archaic style. No character within these pages speaks the Middle English or Anglo-Norman dialect of the period. All characters would have spoken their native languages of the day. These include Norman, an amalgamation of Norse, Germanic dialects, and Old French. Some spoke Dansk or early Danish, and some a Genovese dialect of Latin. Still others, Hellenika, the precursor to modern Greek. Languages spoken in the Muslim world would have been Berber, Bedouin, or Egyptian dialects of Arabic. This story is not historical fiction. I imagine what could have been and should have been but for the hand of man.