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From the Desk of Issa Antar, Priest-Scribe of Neith
Naukratis, Ptolemaic Egypt

Once there was, or once there wasn’t, the city of an old god that was both bird and man, and who had invented many useful things. And in that city lived Issa the scribe, for it was this place where he practised his craft.

In the season when the waters of Iteru lapped at the doorposts of the temple, and blue lotuses reached their blind eyes to the Aten, the scribe of Neith went cutting papyrus in the marsh.

He was old, though not quite as old as the god, and since new troubles had swept through Egypt he had found few apprentices to help him in his work. So he went by himself each morning to the black silt of Iteru, and by midday he returned with a heavy load of the gathered reed.

It was one such morning that the scribe was out among the waters, when he was startled by a snake in the marsh. And as he raised his knife to strike it, wonder of wonders, he could not. For it had changed from a serpent to a beautiful child sleeping among the reeds. So Issa knelt before it and asked forgiveness, but the child only laughed in reply.

Then Issa took the child home and nursed it with bread and milk mixed with honey, so that he might bring the priests and ask their intercession with the old god. But wonder of wonders, in the night there came a knocking at his door, and there was a woman crowned with jewels.

“My child was lost in the flood, and I am come to find it. Tell me, scribe of Neith, what have you seen?”

Then Issa showed her the child he had found, and the woman took it in her arms. There the child changed into a fish, and wonder of wonders, she nursed it at her breast.

Thanking him for his hospitality, the lady gave the scribe a jug of fine wine and a lamp of camphor, and she returned to the river Iteru with the suckling fish. There she went into a broad boat, and a host of oarsmen in noble attire received her. And the boat departed for the sea, and wonder of wonders, Issa the scribe was puzzled at the sight.

So he took the lamp to his chamber, and poured a cup from the wine jug. And on a scroll he wrote the whole night through strange visions. But he never again saw snake nor fish nor child again on the marsh. And though he asked the temple priests of the old god many times about the woman crowned with jewels, they would give no answer.

That is the end of the tale, it has taken flight to another place.

In accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License, the character of Issa Antar is attributed to Wanderer's Library author MalyceGraves. More of their work can be found here.

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