Thief in the Temple
As Artemis’ moon hung big and round and orange in the sky, and Zandra hid behind the towering stone columns and glanced over her shoulders, down the steps of the temple at Delphi. In the darkness, the streets were empty. She clasped her hands close to her breast and felt the pounding of her heart. It was so terrifying and different, it could hardly be her own. She felt the eyes of Athena on her, and was unprepared for her wrath. The Oracle was corrupt, and she took the sacrifices and indulges the people brought to her to give false prophecies. Only a fortnight ago the Oracle had assured her brother’s survival, but now he was dead, in the skirmishes in the countryside. Adelphous’ story was not the first of the Oracle’s treacheries; he was one of many casualties of her clouded eye.
And so, taking back the gold pieces that they had given the Oracle to barter with the Goddess… it wasn’t thievery. She could steal nothing from the goddess if it had not been presented to her. Without Adelphous to mind the household in their father’s continued absense and to help with the grain harvest, they could scarce afford food to survive. Her mother had already dismissed what servants they could afford, and now, the family was desperate. So Zandra had said nothing and disappeared with the cover of night. She would not tell her mother, her sister. She would not shame her family. She would not be caught.
Zandra took her sandals in one hand and took the hem of her white linen dress in the other. From her many visits, she knew the layout of the temple well. At night, the Oracle disappeared to a separate room, where she attended to herself, for nobody could see her face. The priestesses would be retired throughout the temple. In the moonlight, she could barely make out the shapes of them as the rested on the stone floor.
One step at a time, she walked between the soundly sleeping priestesses. The altar was at the farthest end of the temple, and she need only to be slow and soft in her footsteps. There was no sound but her own footsteps, and the breathing of the priestesses. Sometimes she could feel their breath on her feet as she moved. The altar stood in front of her now, piled with treasures. She let the hem of her dress fall to the ground and reached out her free hand to grasp some coins by the edge.
“Awaken! Awaken!” a female voice rang like thunder to the sleeping priestesses. Zandra froze, but even as her mind was paused with fear, her feet knew to flee, and between the rousing devotees of Athena, she ran.
“Awaken!” the voice continued to appeal. “The Oracle! Athena has taken the Oracle!”
Zandra did not stay to hear the details. She ran as quickly as her feet would carry her and did not stop until the Temple at Delphi, now lit with candles, was less than the height of her hand. In the escape, she had dropped both of her sandals, but it hardly mattered. She would do without.
Goddess protect them all, the Oracle was dead.
I’ve been sitting on this idea and will definitely come back to Zandra and Adelphous in a more refined short story, preferably not written while watching Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. I don’t think that I could comfortably write a full-length historical fiction novel, but sometimes it’s nice to work with it in short stories. Gotta use my degree for something, after all. Was inspired to write something ancient-Greek since I saw My Life in Ruins and Cassandra Jade’s recent post inspired this specific story.