This week I got back to some writing – specifically some more work on a short story, of which more below – and also had the opportunity to catch up on reviewing the next two episodes in Petteri Hannila’s Fargoer series. This brings me to numbers 5 and 6 in the series, and brings the central character Vierra well on her way back towards her homeland – though not there yet. The reviews can be found on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/8796846-richard-abbott) or Amazon (https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/pdp/profile/A2BRVREN5PWOZW) so I do not propose repeating them here! Suffice it to say that I am most thoroughly enjoying them, am happy to give 5* reviews, and am greatly looking forward to further instalments.
The short story I mentioned – The Lady of the Lions is the working title at present – is based around a real letter preserved in Egypt that was written by a woman who may have lived in what I call the four towns. Naturally I am slightly bending the details in my favour to assert that she actually lived in Kephrath, but it is a reasonable possibility. This letter was briefly referred to in a conversation between Damariel and his younger brother Baruk in In a Milk and Honeyed Land, and was a request for help from the Egyptian authorities. There are two of these letters, and the first reads (approximately) as follows:
A message for my lord the king, my god, who is my Sun:
This is a message from Belita-Labiya your maid-servant, who is like the dirt on which you tread. I prostrate myself at the feet of my lord the king, seven times twice over.
May my lord the king save all the land which is his from the power of lawless men, or else it will be lost. Sapuna has been taken. May my lord the king be aware of all these things.
The name Belita-Labiy is a rough translation into Canaanite of the name she gives herself in the letter, Nin-Ur-Maḥ-Meš, or in English ‘The Lady of the Lions’. The story is set something like 150 years before In a Milk and Honeyed Land, so none of the same characters overlap. In historical terms we know nothing about what happened after this letter (and another of broadly similar content) was written. We do know, however, that the land was not lost to the Egyptians at this stage, not until several decades after Damariel’s lifetime, so presumably at some stage there was a response. The story explores how the provincial governor and his army officers might have done acted. More will, of course, be revealed in time…