Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Omens and Maledictions 5

The cave walls were cast into sinister shadows by the flickering torchlight which glimmered on the breast plates and helmets of the Praetorian Guard. The night breezes brought in the smell of basil and exotic flowers from the wild gardens, and blended with the heady incense burned by the Oracle’s acolytes.

The Oracle herself looked deep into the fissure in the rock wall, from which all her cosmic revelations flowed and shook her head, “The Gods have nothing to tell you.”

The Emperor shuffled awkwardly from foot to foot, “Couldn’t you try again?”

She raised a disdainful eyebrow, “It is not propitious. Your oblations have clearly been regarded as paltry.”

The Emperor looked back at the tethered white bull, the heavy sacks of gold coin, the ivory tusks from beyond Carthage, the sheaves of golden corn, the many amphorae of sweet wine, the overflowing bowls of delicate fruits. He felt the rage rise within him. What did the old bag mean by paltry?

He turned to the commander of his guard and gave a desultory wave at the treasure, “Take it all back.”

“That,” the Oracle’s voice was lethal on the night air, her eyes bored into him like a cobra’s with a rat, “ would be a grave mistake.”

“I came for an omen, lady,” The Emperor shrugged, with wry apology. “No play, no pay.”

“The Gods are not mocked,” she hissed at him.

He gave her a derisory smile and ordered the guard to take up his oblations and accompany him back down the winding hill path to the city.

Half way down, the commander of the guard cut the Emperor’s throat. He had his men return the tribute to the Oracle’s cave. As the new Emperor he knew he couldn’t be too careful.

1 comment:

No One In Particular said...

It's a bit like when they ousted Margaret Thatcher.