There are stirrings in the camp. Darkness is still dominant. A man or two or animal or two or three are waking and are making the guttural sounds of being awake.
I hear the distant sounds. Have always been an early riser. Have used the silence still in the household to make mental notes of tasks to be done first and in descending order.
Here in a caravan, nothing to do but lie and make notes of aches and pains of my aging body. That the creator gave great resilience to the female body. That he gave that resilience to a younger child bearing age female. Myself passed the childbearing years, and in the declines of internal ethers, it makes me reflect on the sum of days possibly left me.
There is a stirring outside my tent. “Little mother”, the caravan’s boss’s first wife, has brought both a lamp and a vessel of steaming tea. J.D., without question, lets her pass into my tent after announcing aloud. “Mistress. The boss man’s lady wishes entrance.”
I am eager to rise and greet a visiting face. My maid reluctantly awakes and leaves the tent after preparing “little mother” a place to sit near myself still seated upon my bedding materials.
“Forgive my boldness dear lady but Ahmed says that you will soon leave us upon the trail.”
Without further prompting I reach for a scroll and begin a quick astrological prediction for her unborn grandson –
“You say it is a grandson lady?”
“Yes. The chart speaks of one strong and dominant. If not a boy, then a very powerful woman.
The old woman began to laugh and then replied.
“Better a weak son than a strong daughter goes the old saying.”
While I did a lot of work on the chart, the sex of the child or any child unborn is in the hands of the fates or the gods and not totally within the realm of mere mortals to decipher or to command.
I take my first sip of the tea. We begin to gossip. First we talk of those on the caravan with us.
Little mother begins.
“Those boys with the last three camels are a bad lot. They gamble and argue amongst themselves. Ahmed is always telling me to keep an eye out for anything missing from our meager campsite when they are about.
There are four other women on the caravan. If they are wives, mistresses, or slaves, she cannot state. Their men never let them out of their sight.
“It is not for me to question these things. At least none of them are big in the belly. I will not be asked to be midwife in the middle of some night on the run of the caravan.”
Her eyes were dark and reflected the light of a single lamp light, so beautifully. That wrinkled skin and missing teeth took nothing away from her present beauty. No doubt she was a beauty in her day to attract so strong and cunning a man as her husband.
I am reminded of my faded looks and gone forever youth. Little in the sacred writings reflects upon or gives comfort to the act of aging.
That the blessing to live to see your children’s children is the most powerful blessing the creator can bestow.
There was a shouting outside our tent. Little mother’s husband was awake and unattended.
“I must run lady or he will beat me.”
“If he beats you, he will eat a cold supper full of sand tonight.”
She gave a great toothless smile in response before departing.
Dawn had arrived.
Any day now they would arrive at a predetermined place. I waited for the arrival of four horsemen with another six horses. Our departure from the caravan was quick. Our three camels stopped to unload passengers, goods and supplies. I first determined through J.D. and Ahmed that these horsemen were of the “way” and my journey’s end would likely be a safe one.
Four armed horsemen and J.D. and young fresh horses seemed adequate protection from random thieves along the trail. Anything larger than a dozen organized thieves in the hills and on horseback could be negotiated with or traded with. My status as a Magi would carry weight in many quarters. With a horse or two and a pouch or two of silver and the honor of a trade, a trail bargain, and a trail oath would likely settle any dispute.
Besides, these days on the frontiers of the Roman empire, large organized gangs were not too likely. Roman patrols were always looking for a fight with anything that represented backbone or balls and in any way shape or form challenged Roman authority.
If anything, an organized trail gang would be giving kickbacks to a local Roman centurion stationed in this god forsaken land.
I had enough power with languages and customs that my negotiations would recognize and respect trail signs and we could survive any few close encounters so close to my destination.
The horsemen took us for a trip of three days to the south before arriving deep into Roman territory. The horsemen seemed glad to be leaving no doubt out of fear of the Romans. I gave them a special blessing for the journey home.
It is strange sometimes when I play the part that I did at the side of my long dead husband, that the blessing of the master still meant so much to the horsemen or the camel drivers. The world was changing. The world was becoming ugly and alien. So much of the world was now Roman.
The long, long journey took its toll. I stayed at what could be called an inn for a week before traveling further. Of course I demanded the best that the innkeeper could provide. I put him and his family out into their stable while I had a whole room to myself along with my possessions.
I had to change from the role of grand lady to that of middle class pilgrim.
I brought my lesser clothes with me and began to wear them about the inn as I took my daily walk. There was a need to acclimate myself to the culture here abouts.
Time to adjust and time to reflect. This was all so sudden. The departure from my son’s side and his struggle for power I saw in my stars. Still, it was a closing chapter.
All my life I was someone’s daughter or wife or mother. My roles were written for me. I never had too much to say or to do. Mostly I was a useful ornament and a walking repository of memorized sacred scripts.