Nero Redivivus

Chapter Two

IN THE CAVE OF THE SIBYL

 

Scene 1

The cave of the Sibyl in Cumae, Italy, in the first year of the 68th Olympiad (508 BC).  Two women are seated in the large audience chamber of the cave.  Amaltheia, the older of the two women, has a wild, almost savage appearance, with spiky sprays of platinum-grey hair framing a face that seems at once ancient and yet child-like.  The younger woman, Taraxandra, has a lithe, athletic build and large emotive eyes.  They sit together talking on stone bench.  Behind them through a half-opened oak door a dimly-lit inner chamber, the Adyton, can faintly be glimpsed.  The audience chamber has a high, vaulted ceiling pierced by a myriad of openings, large and small, admitting light at odd, glancing angles, so  that figures within the chamber cast multiple shadows, some looming titanic, others barely a wisp.  In the foreground, the cave’s entrance is at the end of a long trapezoidal passage cut through the volcanic rock.

As the scene opens, it is early morning.  Taraxandra is seen bending over to examine a large pile of oak leaves lying at her feet.

 

TARA. (bitching)  When I worked for Sibyl Albunea in Tibur, she bought me nice big parchment scrolls to take dictation on.  But yooouuu have to make me use these frigging oak leaves that dry up and blow away a few days after I write on them.

 

AMAL. (affectionately tolerant)  I’ve been doing it this way for over a thousand years, my dear.  My sister Albunea, being the youngest of us Sibyls, was always used to being pampered.

 

TARA. (scattering the leaves) All this work I do transcribing your rants, and in the end it becomes a jumble of nonsense.  The customers aren’t happy, I can tell you that!

 

AMAL. (trying to be patient)  Now, my dear, you’re not supposed to socialize with the customers; I’ve told you that more than once.

 

TARA. (indignant)  And if I didn’t “socialize” with them, as you so delicately put it, we’d never have a single blessed soul in here paying good money for this (gesturing at the leaves)…  random bullshit!

 

AMAL. (wearily resigned)  No need to get so flustered, my dear.  There are good reasons why we do things this way.  And I think I’ve explained many times before …

 

TARA. (dismissive)  Well, why don’t you explain again, because, you know, I’m not a thousand years old like you, and it’s not fair of you to expect me to just memorize all this ancient history stuff.

 

AMAL.  (absent mindedly)  A thousand years ago… it doesn’t seem that long.  Like it’s all been a dream, and I’m just beginning to wake up.  Apollo was such a beautiful young man.  I had no idea he was a god when we met.  Of course, I was already a Sibyl and sworn to maidenhood.  But he was soooo persistent.  Said he would grant me any wish if I would sleep with him.  I was such a wicked girl back then – I just made sport of him, not knowing he could really do what he said.  Men are such braggarts, after all. “Any wish?”  I laughed and picked up a fistful of sand.  “Then I wish to live a year for every grain of sand in my hand.”  “Granted!” he smiled, “and now off to bed with you, my lovely.”

 

TARA. (curious)  But you didn’t, did you?

 

AMAL. (straightening herself primly)  Oh no, my dear.  Even if I had known who he was.  After all, we are priestesses of Persephone, maiden Queen of the Underworld.  To betray our vows to the goddess, that no god can command, even Zeus.

 

TARA. (teasing)  So instead of double-crossing Persephone, you double-crossed Apollo?

 

AMAL. (amused)  Oh, you silly girl, not in the least!  I didn’t believe for a minute he could grant such a wish.  I gave him credit for a novel approach to seduction is all.  It wasn’t until years later that I realized…

 

TARA. (still teasing)  And he didn’t get angry after you bilked him like that?

 

AMAL. (recollecting)  Well, he was too clever by half to ever be fooled by the likes of me.  “Don’t you want eternal youth to go along with all those years, my darling?” he cajoled.  Just sparring with me, I thought, more of his witty repartee.  “And if I say yes?” I parried.  “That’s my ticket to paradise.  Yes is what I’ve been trying to make you say all night.” he rejoined.  “Sorry to disappoint, then.” was my reply.  “Have it your way, my sweet.” he said, and held me in his arms so tight my knees buckled.  Then he disappeared… poof! ... like that.

 

TARA. (intrigued)  But he comes back to visit you, doesn’t he.  (gesturing toward the Adyton) In there?

 

AMAL. (assertively)  Yes, but if I had submitted to him even once in the flesh, our ecstatic union in the spirit would have ended forever.

 

TARA. (incredulous)  Ecstatic?  That’s not what I see when I’m transcribing.  Your eyes go wild, like they’re going to pop right out of your skull.  Your hair stands up on the back of your neck like a frightened cat.  Your breasts heave, you foam at the mouth, you gasp for breath, the sweat pours off your forehead.  You lurch frantically, waving your arms and clutching at the air in a terrified frenzy.  You’re like an unbroken mare being ridden for the first time.

 

AMAL. (wistfully subdued)  Far easier it is to submit to a god in the flesh than in the spirit, my dear.  I do feel like that mare you mention, when he comes astride my soul, it shudders with fear and tries to shake him off.  Ever so violently, that I feel my sinews must snap and my bones fly apart.  But then, once he has secured his seat within me, it all resolves into such a blessed calm, and I see the worlds as he does.

 

TARA. (airily)  Which is how?

 

AMAL. (sweeping her arm and gazing around  her)  All of this coheres.  It all becomes perfect, absolutely perfect.  So that I would not wish to change the tiniest particle, and I could only wish that it would just go on forever, just the same, repeating endlessly.

 

TARA. (inquisitive)  But the voice that comes out of you then, I can’t describe it.  It’s like the cave itself is also speaking the words, not just you.

 

AMAL. (entranced)  When the god speaks, all mouths speak with him.  Our cave here has a hundred mouths, and each has a different voice.  Apollo’s voice is all of these voices speaking together.

 

TARA. (pensive)  Sometimes it sounds more like singing than like speech.

 

AMAL. (brightly)  Apollo’s music is what gives it all a meaning.  All the magic is in the music.  Those that can’t hear the music can never understand the message.  They waste their time coming here.  Like the dissatisfied customers you talked about before. (gesturing at the floor) Without the music, this is just a pile of dry leaves.

 

TARA. (challenging)  So what about the leaves, how does it work?

 

AMAL. (standing now and pacing across the chamber)  Each of the leaves holds five accented syllables: a hexameter is what the poets call it.  Each hexameter is one line of the god’s song.  And each of the oak leaves has a size and a shape that resonates uniquely with one of the mouths of this cave.

 

TARA. (eagerly)  Now I get it!  So when the cave sings, the leaves dance to Apollo’s tune, right?

 

AMAL. (satisfied)  Yes, my dear, that’s the secret.  Without the music it’s a random mess.  A hundred leaves on the floor can be combined in countless different sequences, all corresponding to disparate, perhaps even contradictory, messages.  But with the music, each individual leaf has its place in the order, each lifts and flutters in turn to its chosen voice from one of a hundred mouths.

 

TARA. (rising and kicking at the leaves)  So when these leaves fly out of the cave, they’re useless after that.

 

AMAL. (stops her pacing)  I wouldn’t say “useless”.  “Enigmatic” is more like it.  The same information is there, just without the key to extract it.

 

TARA. (walking toward the cave entrance and looking out) “Enigmatic”… well, we certainly have a reputation for being that among the yahoos out there.

 

AMAL. (sitting again, examining the  leaves)  Speaking of yahoos, my dear, I’m expecting some to arrive here this afternoon from Rome.

 

TARA. (still gazing outward dreamily) Rome?... Yes, Rome…  What was it you said about it? … The future capital city of the world?... or something like that?

 

AMAL. (ironically bemused) Very good, dearie.  You do listen to what I tell you… sometimes.

 

TARA. (becoming more engaged, looking upward toward the roof of the cave) And those six scrolls you keep in the upper chamber above here.  They’re all about Rome, aren’t they?

 

AMAL. (with authority) Yes, about Rome, and her progeny… to the end of this Age and the beginning of the next.  I can see as far as the threshold of the Golden Age, and there my vision fades.

 

TARA. (affectionately) Will you live to see the Golden Age, Mistress, or will your grains of sand be spent by then?

 

AMAL. (resolute) My body will have withered to a wisp of nothing, but my voice will always be present in this cave, my pet, along with the voice of Lord Apollo.

 

TARA. (inquisitive) If you don’t mind my asking, I’ve often wondered why you transcribed those prophecies onto scrolls instead of your usual oak leaves?

 

AMAL. (patiently) For the answer to that, we have to go back about 600 years ago, to the fall of the great city of Troy.  Do you remember that bit of history I taught you as a child?

 

TARA. (uneasy) You know I found those lessons terribly tedious, Mistress, but I do recall that a handsome young Trojan prince came to visit you here about that time.

 

AMAL. (wistfully) Oh yes, my dear.  Prince Aeneas was his name.  He came to me from the burning ruins of Troy – by way of Carthage, I believe.  Attractive, yes, and sooo dashing.  A true warrior in the style of the old Bronze Age.  They don’t make men like him anymore.  He left a trail of broken hearts behind him wherever he went.  The last before he got to me was Queen Dido of Carthage.  Threw herself into the sea when he left her.  He saw her angry shade in the Underworld when I led him there through Lake Avernus.  So began the Punic Curse, which will ultimately destroy Rome… (catching herself) But I’m getting ahead of my story, aren’t I, my precious?  You wanted to know why it was I transcribed those scrolls.  There were originally nine of them, you know.

 

TARA. (sitting down next to Amaltheia and holding her hand) Did you fall in love with Prince Aeneas yourself, Mistress?

 

AMAL. (confidentially) Well, his mother was the Love Goddess herself, so Cupid pretty much did his bidding.  When he wanted something from a woman, he was sure to get it.

 

TARA. (hugging her amiably) And what did he want from you?

 

AMAL. (regaining her thread of thought) Two things, mainly.  One was to lead him down into the Underworld so he could speak to the shade of his father, Anchises.  Which I did, and which is where we also ran into his jilted lover Dido, as I said.  The other was to tell him about the cities that his offspring would found in Italy.  “What makes you think I can foretell that?” I asked him.  He said he’d been referred to me by the young Trojan seer Helenus, the son of Troy’s last king Priam.  (Aside) Poor boy, he and his sister Cassandra were given the gift of future vision by Apollo, but when the girl rebuffed the god’s advances, as I did, Apollo spit into their mouths so that no mortal would ever believe a word they said!

 

TARA. (rising and facing her) But Prince Aeneas believed Helenus, didn’t  he?

 

AMAL. (gathering her thoughts again) Yes, but he was the son of a goddess, remember, and his mother was always whispering in his ear.  Helenus also told Aeneas that he should request that my answers to his questions be transcribed on parchment, not on oak leaves.  And that’s where the Prince used his charm on me, since I have never done that, before or since.

 

TARA. (incredulous) And you filled up nine large scrolls with your answers to Aeneas’ questions?

 

AMAL. (intently) Well, it wasn’t me transcribing.  That was one of your long gone ancestors who wrote while I chanted, just as you do now.  But I had absolutely no idea what was in store for me when I went into the trance to respond to him!  33 centuries worth of human history was poured into my little brain and came out again through my mouth (touching her lips, then sweeping her arm upward) – and through every mouth of this cave!

 

TARA. (awed) My great-grandma’s hand must have cramped with all that writing!

 

AMAL. (rising to her feet and pacing again) On that occasion, the gods filled and carried her as much as they did me.  Neither one of us remembered a thing when it was over.  And there were the nine scrolls.

 

TARA. (following in her footsteps) But why didn’t Aeneas take the scrolls with him when he left you, Mistress?

 

AMAL. (stopping and turning to face her again) The prophecies I’d uttered in my trance told of a long series of bloody wars that would precede the founding of Rome by his descendants.  The Prince did not think the books could be kept secure during all that turmoil…

 

TARA. (interrupting) He was afraid that they’d be lost?

 

AMAL. (mildly agitated) Lost, or worse, fallen into the wrong hands.  He feared what would happen if the contents were widely known…

 

TARA. (interrupting again) But why, if the predictions were of a glorious future for Rome?

 

AMAL. (solemn) Because it wasn’t all glorious, not in the final upshot of it, as I learned when I finally got the chance to read those scrolls myself.  Aeneas’ fabulous family tree is destined to end with a real rotten apple.

 

TARA. (heaving a sigh and sitting again) So why are there only six scrolls upstairs now if you had nine to begin with?

 

AMAL. (pensive) Oh, that brings us back to the visitors we’re expecting from Rome.  You see, my sweet, we are about to receive a delegation from the King of Rome himself, Lucius Tarquin, better known as Tarquin the Proud.  Thoroughly despicable.  He and his equally vile wife Tullia each murdered their siblings and spouses on their way to snatching the throne from Tullia’s father, Servius Tullius, whom they also butchered in the streets of Rome.  They even left the poor man’s body to be eaten by the dogs.  On her way home from the Senate after deposing her father, Tullia actually ran her chariot over the old man’s mutilated corpse and tracked his blood through the streets!

 

TARA. (smirking) Sounds like a real sweetheart.  Can I assume this Proud Tarquin is a tyrant?

 

AMAL. (nodding) Indeed, and of the worst sort.  In the mold of Thrasybulus of Miletus.

 

TARA. (plaintively) You still forget I failed ancient history.  Who was Thrasybulus?

 

AMAL. (pedantic) Not so ancient.  Maybe a hundred years back.  To preempt any challenges to his reign, he murdered all the most prominent and talented citizens of Miletus.  He once demonstrated this approach to a fellow tyrant by walking through a field and striking off the tallest ears of wheat.   The Tarquin has taught his sons the same symbolic lesson by taking them through his garden and knocking off the heads of the tallest poppies.  In this regard, he and his wife really foreshadow what is in store at the end of Aeneas’ lineage and again at the end of this Age.  There is more than one Thrasybulus yet to come, according to my scrolls.

 

TARA. (again losing patience) Yes, the scrolls.  And why are there only six now?

 

AMAL. (refocusing) You see, before Servius Tullius, Rome was ruled by Lucius Tarquin Priscus, the father of Tarquin the Proud.  When I read about what was coming up in his son’s reign, I went up to Rome with three of the scrolls to warn him.

 

TARA. (confused) Why did you need three scrolls.  Wouldn’t one have been enough?

 

AMAL. (somewhat defensively) Well, though the order of the predictions isn’t nearly as jumbled on the scrolls as it is on the oak leaves, there isn’t a strict time-line sequence either.  It requires some interpretation and piecing together.

 

TARA. (probing) Okay, so you arrive with the three books, and then what?

 

AMAL. (forelorn) You know how it is when you are granted an audience with a monarch.  You have about five minutes to explain yourself, and if you don’t you’re out, and it’s on to the next petitioner.

 

TARA. (sarcastically) And based on the time you’ve already taken trying to explain this same stuff to me, five minutes was obviously going to be impossible for you.

 

AMAL. (resigned) Yes, I’m afraid you’re right, dearie.  A future poet will write that “brevity is the soul of wit”.  So maybe I’m just a witless old hag.  That’s certainly what Tarquin Priscus thought of me, anyway.

 

TARA. (abruptly) So then what happened to the three scrolls you had with you?

 

AMAL. (dryly)  He understood me enough to know that they reflected poorly on his son, so he told me I must sell them to him so that he could have them burned.  He made me several offers; went as high as 300 gold pieces.  I refused.  He said, “You can always re-write them when you return to your cave in Cumae, can’t you?”  I told him, “No, Your Highness, it doesn’t work that way.  These are visions that come to me in a trance, of which I have no recollection later.”  “Well you’ll remember this part about my son, won’t you?” he then asked.  “Surely, Your Highness,” I answered, “but there’s much more than that in these books.”  “Like what?” he demanded to know.  “Like the destiny of the entire world,” I babbled, and started to cry. (She sits down cross-legged on the floor of the audience chamber and hangs her head dejectedly.  Taraxandra kneels beside her and strokes her hair.)

 

TARA. (compassionately)  Then he thought you mad and confiscated your books.  Did you at least get the gold he offered you?

 

AMAL. (sadly) I would not take it.  But he did donate it to the Temple of Diana of the Crossroads here in Cumae.

 

TARA. (tiring) So what brings his son’s emissaries here today?  Or hasn’t Apollo granted you any precognition on that score?

 

AMAL. (shaking her head) Not a clue.

 

TARA. (rising to her feet) Well, if we’re going to entertain the King’s men, we’d better refresh ourselves in the baths and have a bite to eat in the village before they arrive.  (She helps Amaltheia to her feet, and they start toward the cave entrance.)

 

AMAL. (aimlessly)  I suppose it would be unwise to let the Tarquin’s men know about the remaining six scrolls?

 

TARA. (astonished) That would be totally stupid.  But did you tell the old Tarquin about the other books?  If you did, he may have told his son.

 

AMAL. (deflated) I honestly don’t remember.  This has all been a bit much for me, at my age.

 

TARA. (amused) Old already at age 1000?  Shame on you!  Let’s be on our way, then, Mistress.  I have a feeling we’re in for a very stimulating afternoon session. (They exit together from the cave.)


 

 Scene 2

Later the same day, in the courtyard of the Temple of Diana Trivia on the acropolis of Cumae.  The Temple has a golden roof and golden doors, the latter filled with intricately sculpted reliefs depicting scenes of ancient Crete, dating back to the reign of King Minos.  Above the entrance of the Temple are suspended a pair of huge wings crafted from wax and eagle feathers, and on either side of the golden doors stand a pair of enormous boar’s tusks.  The open outer courtyard contains a sacrificial altar and a ritual bathing pool, with the sanctuary of the goddess within the roofed portion of the Temple.  From the courtyard, the statue of Diana, in deep shadows, appears black, with a gleaming golden branch clutched in her left hand.  The Temple is at the center of a labyrinth of laurel hedges surrounded by a sacred grove of oak trees.  As the scene opens, Taraxandra is bathing in the courtyard while a young man dressed in a Roman toga approaches the Temple entrance and begins studying the golden reliefs on the doors.

 

BRUT. (in boyish amazement)  Wow!  This lady is having sex with a bull!

 

TARA. (from within, irritated)  I beg your pardon!

 

BRUT. (abashed)  Oh, excuse me Miss.  I didn’t see you in there.

 

TARA. (angry, hurriedly putting on her robe)  You know, buster, men are not allowed in here unless escorted by a priestess.  How’d you get through the maze anyway?

 

BRUT. (awkwardly)  You mean those bushes?  (drawing out his sword) Well…, I did have to cut through some of them.

 

TARA. (rushing out the door and stomping her foot in fury)  You IDIOT!  You’ve just desecrated the goddess’ sacred grove!  Who ARE you?  I’ve never seen your face around these parts before.  What do you call yourself… DUMBASS?

 

BRUT. (meekly)  Please forgive me, Miss.  This is my first time here.  My name is Lucius Junius, but everybody call me Brutus… which, er, pretty much means the same as “Dumbass”.

 

TARA. (scoffing)  Well named you are then, my boy!  The stray dogs in this town have better sense than you do!

 

BRUT. (tentative)  I’m visiting… from Rome… with my two cousins… Titus and Arruns…

 

TARA. (abruptly)  From Rome, you say.  You aren’t by any chance emissaries of the King – the Prideful One?

 

BRUT. (more assertive)  … the King, yes, Lucius Tarquinius.  He’s my uncle; Titus and Arruns are his sons.  His enemies call him Tarquin Superbus – the Proud.

 

TARA. (cynically)  From what I’ve heard said, his enemies don’t live long enough to call him anything.  Don’t the tallest poppies have their heads knocked off by this tyrant of yours?

 

BRUT. (uncertain and uneasy)  Aw… I wouldn’t know about such things.  You see, I’m the slow-witted one of the family.

 

TARA. (keenly eyeing him)  Or maybe you’d like people to believe that you are… so that Tarquin doesn’t strike your head off, too?

 

BRUT. (pretending to ignore her last remark)  I’m supposed to meet my cousins here at noon.  We’re supposed to purify ourselves and offer an animal sacrifice before we’re admitted into the presence of the holy Sibyl.

 

TARA. (amused)  They’re probably out there hacking their way through the laurel bushes as we speak.  Or maybe they’re not as oafish as you?

 

BRUT. (brightening) We’re here on important business for the King.  Uncle Tarquin’s pet project is the great Temple of Jupiter on Capitol hill, which was begun by his father.  When the foundation was dug, the head of a man was found with all its features intact…

 

TARA. (mischievously interrupting)  One of your uncle’s victims, perhaps?

 

BRUT. (pausing with an appreciative smile, then continuing)  The Etruscan soothsayers all said that this was an omen that Rome would one day be the “head” of the entire world, and that the Capitol would stand as the citadel of a boundless empire.

 

TARA. (dismissively)  That’s old news, Brute boy.  My Mistress foresaw that 600 years ago.  (reciting from memory)

One line of kings will end, five centuries delay,

And then from Trojan blood another has its day;

Across a realm so vast its empire holding sway.

 

  BRUT. (attentive)  So your Mistress, I take it, is the Sibyl herself?

 

TARA. (modestly)  I guess you could say I’m her priestess-amanuensis.  I handle the clientele and transcribe her visions.  Anyway, you were saying about your business here…?

 

BRUT. (collecting his thoughts)  Yes… well, Uncle was so pumped up by the soothsayers’ prediction of Rome’s future glory that he decided to build a magnificent palace for himself on Palatine hill.  As one of the wooden pillars was being raised, it split open, and out slid a long red serpent.  This was clearly another omen, but this time the soothsayers offered no interpretations.  I guess they were stymied.

 

TARA. (sneering)  They weren’t stymied.  They wisely kept their mouths shut to avoid losing the head to which the mouth is attached.

 

BRUT. (surprised)  They said that your Sibyl here in Cumae would say what it meant.  Or, if not her, then the Sibyl of Delphi.

 

TARA. (knowingly)  The Etruscan soothsayers doubtless remember that my Mistress was naïve enough to share her inauspicious forebodings about the Tarquin kings with your uncle’s father years ago.  The thanks she got back then was for him to confiscate three scrolls of her predictions and destroy them… (catching herself)  Oops!

 

BRUT. (pressing)  Scrolls, you say?  I was told you transcribe everything on oak leaves that blow around, so that whatever sense was in them gets jumbled up.

 

TARA. (resigned)  That’s our reputation, for sure, unfortunately.  (confidentially)  Listen, would you do me a favor and just forget what I said about the scrolls.  I was just making stuff up when I said that. (changing the subject)  What’s that thing you’re holding in your hand?

 

BRUT. (offhandedly)  It’s just a gift for the Sibyl, nothing special.

 

TARA. (taking it from his hand and examining it)  It looks like a piece of wood.  Cornel wood, isn’t it?  You’re going to give my Mistress a piece of wood?  (sarcastically)  I’m sure she’ll be very impressed.

 

BRUT. (quietly)  She will understand what it means.

 

TARA. (feeling the weight of the wood in her hand)  But this is way too heavy to be just a piece of wood.  Is there something inside it?

 

BRUT. (hesitating at first, then commiting himself)  You’re right.  It’s filled with gold.

 

TARA. (overcome with recognition)  Wait a minute!  My Mistress told me this morning that you three would be arriving from Rome.  She said:  “Of the three, one is like gold hidden in a stick of cornel wood.  In him we must place our trust.”

 

BRUT. (relieved)  Then we can stop bullshitting each other now?

 

TARA. (warming to him)  I’m willing to take you into my confidence.  But first you’ve got to tell me what’s up with this dumbass act of yours.  I’ve got to tell you, I saw through that one pretty quick.

 

BRUT. (jocularly)  It’s good thing my Uncle isn’t as perceptive as you, or by now I’d be under the sod with my father and brothers.

 

TARA. (nodding intently)  Oh, now I get it!  You had to pretend you weren’t one of the tall poppies to save your own head.

 

BRUT. (somewhat defensively)  Not just to save my own head.  I intend to lead my people against this tyrant – to drive Tarquin the Proud from his ill-gotten throne… one day.

 

TARA. (aroused)  His reign is founded on the blood of his own brother, wife and father-in-law.  But the scrolls tell of another, even more deeply steeped in the blood of his family … and of his reincarnation.  My Mistress refers to that one as Beliar, “the Terrible Snake”.

 

BRUT. (focused)  Like the snake that crawled out from inside the pillar in Tarquin’s palace?  I’ll bet you have a very good idea what that omen means, don’t you… er… I’m sorry, I don’t remember getting your name.

 

TARA. (impatient)  My name’s not important… Taraxandra, if you you must know.  But you’re right, the figure of the Serpent fits perfectly into what I’ve read in the scrolls about the Tarquin kings, and of the succeeding Roman kings who will rule the world.

 

BRUT. (visibly crestfallen)  Succeeding kings?  I had hoped to establish a republic once the Tarquin is expelled.

 

TARA. (consoling him, hand on his shoulder)  And so you shall, Brutus.  The Roman Republic will endure for almost 500 years, and will be the model for other republics to come.  (looking into his face)  Can I teach you what this snake symbolism is all about, or do you want to keep playing the dim-wit?

 

BRUT. (cheerful) Sure, I can play the school-boy instead.  Go ahead, teacher.

 

TARA. (playfully prim)  Ok, let’s start with those pornographic sculptings on the Temple doors that you found so fascinating a few minutes ago.

 

BRUT. (enthused)  Yeah, some babe fucking a bull, and some dude ejaculating snakes… Hey, there it is again, SNAKES.

 

TARA. (pleased)  Ok, you catch on fast for a dunce.  The “babe”, as you put it, is Pasiphae, High Lunar Priestess and Queen of ancient Crete.  Annually, at midsummer, she selects a new consort from the men of the Bull Clan; hence the image of her copulating with a bull.

 

BRUT. (curious)  So then what happens to last year’s bull?  He gets put out to stud?

 

TARA. (joking, then serious)  Why, you want to apply for the job?  You’d be disappointed, though, because the previous year’s consort is ritually sacrificed – his body torn to pieces and spread over the fields as a sort of fertilizer.

 

BRUT. (wincing)  Ouch!  Consider my application withdrawn.

 

TARA. (refocusing)  Only the head and spinal cord of the former consorts are preserved, and they are interred in labyrinth tombs.

 

BRUT. (concentrating)  Head and spine – kind of snake-like, no?

 

TARA. (pleased)  Exactly.  The former consorts become oracular serpents.  They are the Queen’s “eyes and ears” in the Underworld.

 

BRUT. (confused)  Why does she need “eyes and ears” among the Dead?  She’s some kind of weird necromancer?

 

TARA. (taking him to task)  You’ve already convinced me you’re not a dope.  No need to show me what a wise-ass you can be.  (gathering her thoughts) We’re talking here about the Age of Myth, when the boundary between Life and Death was much more passable than it is now.

 

BRUT. (again confused)  Passable?  In which direction?

 

TARA. (briskly)  In both directions.  For example, Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld – whose Priestess my Mistress is – spends part of each year in the Upper World.

 

BRUT. (cracking wise again)  Sort of a summer vacation?

 

TARA. (intently)  Alright, Mr. Comedy, listen up now because here’s where it gets a bit heavy.  Let’s go back to your question about the Queen’s access to the Underworld through her dead consorts.

 

BRUT. (interjecting)  The snakes?

 

TARA. (quickly) Right.  Now, the Underworld and the Upper World are part one big Cycle, like the ebb and flow of the tides under the influence of the Moon.

 

BRUT. (eagerly)  Hence all these lunar goddesses and priestesses that we’ve been talking about.

 

TARA. (affirmatively) You got it,… good boy!  So in the Age of Myth, there is this linkage between the Upper and Under Worlds, things moving forward in one world, and backward in the other.  Like the Sun going east to west in daytime and west to east at night.  Eternal recurrence.  Nothing ever dies.  Time – in terms of a Past that’s gone for good and a Future that never arrives – simply does not exist. (becoming dreamy)  A series of timeless moments, each one a transparent jewel condensing Past, Present and Future in a single perfect unity.

 

BRUT. (tentatively) Sounds wonderful.  But that’s not the world we’re living in now, is it?

 

TARA. (sighing)  Because of the evil that’s come upon the World, the realm of timeless Myth has been forced to retreat into a few enclaves – and even those are disappearing fast.  You’ll visit one of them today, in the Cave of the Sybil.

 

BRUT. (getting impatient)  I guess you’re coming to this, but, what went wrong in this whole thing?  Something we can blame on these god-damned snakes?

 

TARA. (collecting herself) A revolution has taken place.  The snakes have made themselves kings.

 

BRUT. (perplexed)  How does that work?  A serpent wearing a crown?

 

TARA. (thoughtful)  My Mistress has had a vision of a red serpent with seven heads, each bearing a crown.  She says it represents the dreadful one who comes at the End of Time. (regaining the thread) But I’m getting ahead of my story.  At some point, the Queen’s consorts refused to act as her agents in the Underworld.

 

BRUT. (dubiously)  Can you blame them?  Getting chopped up for fertilizer isn’t all that appealing.

 

TARA. (defensively)  But Death has a different meaning in the Mythical Realm.  Through their Labyrinth Tomb, they were given the path to Rebirth, to Reincarnation.  They became immortal heroes, living not one life, but many, each more glorious than the last.

 

BRUT. (still doubtful) If those labyrinths were anything like the one you have here around this Temple, those dead heroes would have been lucky if they ever escaped to be born again.

 

TARA. (pointing out one of the reliefs on the Temple doors)  Do you see this?  I realize it’s not as eye-catching as some of the sexual scenes.

 

BRUT. (examining one of the doors)  The dude in the Labyrinth seems to be rolling up a ball of thread.  So that’s the way he finds his way out?

 

TARA. (teasing)  It actually works better than a sword.  (solemnly)  It’s the golden thread of the unifying process that runs through Life and Death, connecting this World and the Underworld.  The Virgin Goddess who dispenses that thread in the scenes on this door is named Ariandne, the “Most Pure”.   Hers is the condition of Pure Oneness that encompasses all possibilities, all conceivable outcomes.  It’s the perspective that lifts the hero above the Labyrinth, as if he had wings.

 

BRUT. (gazing upward)  Like those I see suspended above this door?

 

TARA. (also looking up)  Those are the wings on which Daedalus flew from the Labyrinth of Knossos, in Crete, here to Cumae.  It was he who sculpted the golden doors you’ve been admiring.

 

BRUT. (taking her hand)  Are we getting close to the end of this lesson, teacher?  There’s some stuff I’d like to teach you, if you’re willing.

 

TARA. (coyly)  Let’s just concentrate on the snake-kings for now.  Your other serpentine diversions can wait for later.

 

BRUT. (focusing again)  Ok.  So the cyclical immortality of many lives was no longer good enough for the Queen’s consorts.  They started dreaming of what everybody dreams of – immortality in one life, in this life.

 

TARA. (pointedly)  Yes, but that dream is a false dream, a seductive dream, a dream that leads to damnation.  The Queen’s consorts resort to violence to forestall their own deaths and perpetuate their reign as King.  Instead of submitting to sacrificial death themselves, the King substitutes another victim.  Initially, the surrogate victim is a young man who would have been the King’s successor.  Later, the ritual evolves into child sacrifice – less risky for the King.

 

BRUT. (examining the doors again)  And I can see that pattern of surrogate sacrifices depicted here on the golden doors.  I guess that explains the ejaculated serpents, too.

 

TARA. (assuredly)  Yes, the King’s offspring are no longer his successors, but his substitutes in the Underworld.  So the linkage between Life and Death is broken.  The endless Cycle of Myth begins to dissolve and is replaced by so-called “historical Time” – a one-way chain of events going nowhere… nowhere but the Abyss.  Myth – the eternally recurring Truth of the Pure State – is accounted lies.  And in its place come the shameless falsehoods of “recorded history”, written to justify the impositions of the powerful upon the weak.

 

BRUT. (sadly)  What we know of historical Time goes back to the Trojan War, doesn’t it?

 

TARA. (agreeing) Symbolically, yes.  My Mistress considers Homer to be a great liar, by the way.  Anyway, the story of Troy portrays the Queen of Sparta, Helen, as wicked for freely choosing her consort.  In the Age of Warfare, she had to be subordinated to her King, Menelaus.  With the fall of Troy, the victory of the Snake-King was sealed… for a time.

 

BRUT. (recollecting)  Rome was founded by the descendants of Trojan exiles.  Does that have something to do with all this?

 

TARA. (excitedly)  Yes, the founders of Rome were from the bloodline of the Trojan prince Aeneas.  More specifically, from the bloodline of Aeneas’ son Iulus, or Julius – a name that appears quite a bit in my Mistress’ scrolls.  The kings that will come after the Tarquins will be his descendants – six of them, the last to be reborn as a seventh.  They are the seed of the Serpent.

 

BRUT. (inspired)  So the omen of the snake in Tarquin’s palace presages his downfall?

 

TARA. (quietly)  Yes, but we must not endanger the Sibyl by making that interpretation plain to the Tarquin’s sons.  My Mistress will know how to say it so that it will be truthful, yet they will be deceived.

 

BRUT. (hushing her)  Quiet!  I believe I hear my cousins approaching.  (pretending to have just arrived himself)  So this is the place where we must offer our sacrifices to great Apollo before consulting the Sibyl?

(Titus and Arruns enter, dressed as Roman warriors)

Cousins! Welcome!  Allow me to introduce you to Taraxandra, the Priestess of Diana Trivia – Diana of the Crossroads.

 

TITUS. (arrogantly)  Crossroads!  There were certainly enough of those getting to this place.  What’s that you have out there, Miss, a maze?

 

TARA. (patiently) The Goddess’ power extends into the Underworld, where there are no straight paths, but endless partings of the way, spreading out into the infinity of alternate realities which comprise her realm.  Therefore, we make our offerings to Diana Trivia wherever three ways meet.

 

ARR. (impudently) Can it, babe.  Save that mystical mumbo-jumbo for idiots like our cousin here.  We just need to know what hoops we’ve got to jump through before we get to pose a few questions to that Sibyl of yours.

 

TARA. (suppressing her anger)  You will have to sacrifice a young bull to Lord Apollo, and a spotless ram to his sister Diana.

 

TITUS. (drawing Arruns aside out of the hearing of the others)  Strange, brother, but I had a dream last night that I went out to find a sacrificial ram and encountered a shepherd who offered me two splendid rams born of the same mother.  I sacrificed the first, but the second charged and gored me with its horns.  As I lay on the ground, mortally wounded, the Sun appeared overhead and suddenly changed course in mid-sky.

 

ARR. (dismissively) I told you to stay away from those Etruscan astrologers.  They’ve been filling your head with all their nonsense about the end of the Age of Aries, the Ram, and all the changes in kingdoms that portends.  They’ve got you worried about a bunch of superstitious tripe.

 

TITUS (hesistant) Well, maybe you’re right.  It just seems odd.  Like I’ve been here before.  Before I left Rome, the stargazers warned me about that we are about to enter the last “month” of the Age of the Ram, and that the Sun would follow a new track.  They showed me some charts they’d made showing conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn in Taurus, then later in Libra.  A great battle on a lake, they talked about.

 

ARR. (impatient)  If the Etruscan soothsayers knew jack-shit about anything, do you think we’d have travelled all the way down here to talk to this crazy Sibyl woman?  We’ll ask her about Dad’s prospects, then we’ll ask her about our own.  If the old man is going down, we’d best know about it so we can secure our own positions, right?

 

TITUS. (uncertain) Well, if you say…

 

BRUT. (interrupting)  Listen, fellas, the Sun’s starting to get low, and I don’t want to be hanging out in that witch’s cave after dark.  So let’s get our animals, slit their throats, and get outta here.

 

TARA. (formally)  I’ll set up the altar while you find your animals.  About five stadia down the road from here lives a shepherd whose ewe gave birth to two fine rams a few months back…

 

TITUS. (whining) Oh, no, don’t tell me…

ARR. (yanking his arm) Come on, brother, let’s go.

 

(Titus and Arruns exit, leaving Brutus and Taraxandra alone)

 

BRUT. (intimately)  We need to talk more later about those scrolls and…

 

TARA. (playfully)  You know, my Mistress has a strict rule against fraternizing with the clientele.

 

BRUT. (roguish)  That’s ok, ‘cause “fraternizing” is not what I have in mind.

 

(He takes her right hand and kisses it, then she presses her left hand against his lips.  They gaze at each other for a moment, then he departs.)

 

TARA. (wistfully)  Wonder if my Mistress can tell me how this one will turn out?  (pondering)  Nah!  All the magic is not knowing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scene 3

The cave of the Sybil, late afternoon of the same day.  Titus and Arruns are impatiently pacing back and forth in the audience chamber, while Brutus stands gazing into the inner Adyton chamber.  Within the chamber, Amaltheia is dimly visible, seated cross-legged, wearing a long silvery robe.  At her feet, Taraxandra sits with a writing quill in her hand amid a pile of oak leaves.  The golden glow of the low afternoon Sun slants through seemingly countless openings in the walls of the cave, generating within a legion of spectral silhouettes that seem to dance around each of the human figures as they move about.  Every few minutes a cacophony of voices, as if from a huge crowd, fills the cave, then resolves itself into a sonorous hymn, as if intoned by a celestial choir.  This pattern repeats several times, then stops, and Taraxandra emerges from the Adyton with a bundle of leaves between her hands.

 

TARA. (breathless)  I’ve transcribed my Mistress’ visions of the future of your city.  The oak leaves will now reveal to you what the Sybil has seen.  (She sets the pile of leaves down on the floor of the audience chamber and takes a step back.  The myriad mouths of the cave resonate like pipes of an enormous organ, filling the chamber with an intricate, ethereal fugue, in response to which – one by one – the leaves rise up from the floor and float about the chamber.  As each leaf rises, the Sybil recites one verse of rhyming hexameters.)

 

AMAL. (from within the Adyton, still in a trance)

Each word I utter as my Lord doth bid me say,

Though know I not wherefore or what may be my lay;

Before mine eyes the vision of a Final Day

To come with speed upon a seed that blows astray.

 

The Time of which I speak draws near the race of men,

When from the East to West return the Tribes of Ten,

And Beliar will come with signs to show, but then

The Nations perish and the Earth is free again.

 

In  Seven-Seven-Seven shines a Star so bright,

Much greater than her rivals of the day and night;

All pillars of the World bereft: Space, Time and Light

Will melt all into One, suspend the birds in flight.

 

Then from the Heavens will a blazing River flow,

Consuming each and all the wicked as it goes,

As many as with Usury’s gilt idols grow,

With venal interest reaping more than they can sow.

 

Again the Earth belonging equally to All:

Lives then will be in common, with no fence or wall,

Will be no poor man there, no rich, no great or small,

No king, nor tyrant there, and none to be in thrall;

 

No seconds, minutes, hours, or days or years allow,

No winter, spring, or summertime to plant and plow,

No births, no deaths, no need for men to worry when or how,

No yesterday, tomorrow, just one endless Now.

 

Alas, before that Dawn effaces the dark Past,

Rome’s line of Trojan blood must usher in one last,

Reborn a dynast from old loins August Sebast,

The dreadful sloughing Snake is as an actor cast.

 

When with their weft of twisted thread three Sisters Fate,

The son who stabbed his mother’s womb shall recreate,

He reappears as Caliph of the Persian state,

Across Euphrates leads his power to the Roman gate.

 

For sport he burned Rome once, and it shall burn once more,

While in midair for all to see the Snake doth soar;

Against King Herod’s Temple launched a grievous war –

A Temple Third on Zion’s hill shall he restore…

 

ARR.  (loudly interrupting)  We didn’t come here to listen to your lousy poetry.  We’ve got some important questions we need answered, pronto, you dig?

 

(At once the music stops and the leaves begin to drift to the floor.  A sad whimper is heard from within the Adyton.  Taraxandra leaps at Arruns and vituperates in his face.)

 

TARA. (exploding) You FOOL!  My Mistress spent hours preparing herself for this session, and you’ve just RUINED it!  Why don’t you just go back to Rome and take your little brother and this jackass with you (motioning toward Titus and Brutus, but with a wink and a nod to the latter).

 

ARR. (not backing off) Listen, Sister, we paid you plenty for this audience.  We’re entitled to get what we came here for.  (wiping sweat off his brow)  God, it’s steamy in here!  (reaching for a cord on the far wall)  Let’s open up some of these gallery windows.  (He pulls the cord and a gust of air rushes into the chamber, swirling the leaves around in a vortex and finally blowing them out of the cave.  As the leaves scatter, Titus rushes around the chamber, frantically clutching and catching three of them.)

 

TITUS (trying to read the leaves, then sheepishly approaching Taraxandra)  I don’t know how to read Greek, Miss, could you please, er…, maybe read these to me?

 

TARA. (viciously)  Can’t read Greek?  Why don’t you try doing it Greek style?  Just shove them up your ass!

 

AMAL. (emerging from the Adyton, no longer entranced)  Now dearie, control your temper.  Granted these men are ignorant and coarse, but their city is still young and their culture crude.  They can’t help that.  We must be patient and try to teach them.  (to Titus)  Hand me the leaves,

young man, and I’ll read them for you.

 

TITUS. (handing her the leaves)  Thanks, ma’am.

 

AMAL. (reciting from the leaves, one at a time)

Superb the Latin tribes will muster at the Lake,

Defeated there cannot his Roman throne retake,

While Dioscuri Twins embronze the bearded Snake…

 

TARA. (completing the stanza in parody)

I think – this all – has been – one fuck – ing big – mis take!

 

ARR. (gesticulating and waving his arms wildly)  Time out, Ladies!  Either I get some answers PDQ or I’m outta here on the next boat to Delphi.

 

AMAL. (accommodating)  Well, I think we’re trying our best to answer your questions.

 

ARR. (calming down)  Ok, maybe I haven’t made myself clear enough.  We already know about the battle on the Lake.  The Etruscan soothsayers say it’ll be at Lake Regillus, and my father loses his crown there…

 

TITUS (eagerly) And the astrologers tell us – during this same time – the Great Conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn are mutating from the Earth Signs to the Air Signs…

 

AMAL. (interjecting)

From Taurus then to Libra, such a mortal din!

Thus begins the Seventh Great Month, after which a Redeemer will be born and sacrificed.  After his death comes the Bronzebeard Serpent, descended from him whose beard will be reddened by the touch of the Twins Castor and Pollux after the Battle of Lake Regillus.  The Serpent dies and is reborn toward the end of the Twelfth Great Month, which begins with the Great Conjunctions mutating from Water to Fire Signs.

Toward Sagittarius the Scythe joined with the Tin:

Thus doth the renovation of the Age begin.

 

ARR. (restraining his impatience)  Look, we definitely respect your powers of seeing thousands of years into the future.  But we’re interested in the IMMEDIATE future of our kingdom and the Tarquin dynasty.  If our father is going to fall from power, we’d like to know when… and who’s going to succeed him.

 

AMAL. (confused)  Oh, I see.  If I’d known that, we all could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble.  I can answer that from what’s already written in the scrolls.

 

ARR. (pouncing) What scrolls are you talking about?  I thought my grandfather had those burned.

 

TARA. (drawing Amaltheia aside) Can I have a word with you Mistress? (They retreat back into the Adyton) Why are you telling them about the other scrolls?  Do you want them to destroy those, too?

 

AMAL. (dazed)  I’m still feeling the aftermath of my trance, my dear.  Yes, I know I slipped up in there.  Don’t worry, I’ll fix it.

 

TARA. (concerned)  Be careful what you tell them about the fate of Tarquin Superbus.  Keep it obscure, if you don’t want their father to send his henchmen down here to shut us up.

 

AMAL. (confidentially) You know what’s in the scrolls as well as I do.

 

TARA. (hesitant)  I’m not sure I know what you mean.

 

AMAL. (whispering the verses)

Dumb animal speaks doom to the Superbus king;

Dissembled brute to Rome republic’s blessings brings.

 

TARA. (catching on)

To kiss his mother’s lips, his face to Earth he flings.

 

AMAL. (still whispering)  Exactly.  I didn’t know who those lines could be referring to, but today I made the connection.  It’s Lucius Junius – better known as Brutus – the “dumb animal”.

 

TARA. (animated)  Even I called him out as a dumbass when I first saw him.  No smarter than a mongrel dog, I said.

 

AMAL. (with authority)  That “dog”, as you called him, will speak with such eloquence that the people of Rome will rise up and drive the Tarquin tyrant from his throne.  After his final defeat at Lake Regillus, he’ll actually come here to Cumae to retire.

 

TARA. (urgently)  Alright, but if we tell his sons all this they’ll murder Brutus, and probably the two of us to boot.

 

AMAL. (composing herself) I think I can handle it, my dear.  When we go back out there, you take Brutus aside while I’m talking to Titus and Arruns.  Tell him about falling face down when I give the cue to kiss his mother.

 

(Taraxandra takes Amaltheia’s hand and leads her back into the audience chamber.  Amaltheia approaches Arruns, while Taraxandra draws Brutus into the Adyton.)

 

AMAL. (addressing Arruns and Titus) You want to know how much longer your father’s reign will last?

 

TITUS (eager) That’s question number one, yes ma’am.

 

AMAL. (reciting)

The tyrant Tarquin need not ever yield his reign

Until a dog with human voice shall speak his bane.

 

ARR. (amused)  A dog speaking with a human voice?  I guess we’ll wait a long time to see that happen. (Taraxandra and Brutus re-enter the audience chamber from the Adyton.)  Unless our retarded cousin here becomes an orator.  (He and Titus chuckle maliciously.)

 

TITUS (persistently) Ok.  Father will be happy to hear that answer.  Now for the second question.  When the old man finally gives it up, who’s next in line?

 

AMAL. (reciting again)

Whoever is the first to kiss his mother’s lips

Will next assume the mantle of Rome’s leadership.

 

(Brutus pretends to trip over his own feet, falling face down on the ground at the feet of his cousins, who laugh gleefully at his apparent mishap.)

 

ARR. (caustically) That’s why we brought you along, cousin.  When things get a little tense, you’re sure to provide the comic relief.

 

(Brutus kisses the ground, then rises to his feet with feigned awkwardness.)

 

BRUT. (pretending to be embarrassed) Forgive my clumsiness, cousins.  Don’t let me distract you from your important business.  Which one of you will be the first to kiss his mother, then?  Are you going to have a race back to Rome?

 

ARR. (contemptuously) That’s how a moron like you might see fit to settle it.  But we have a smarter way of deciding this, (now addressing Titus) don’t we Brother?

 

TITUS (uncertain) We both see Mother at the same time and let her choose which one she wants to kiss first?

 

ARR. (irritated) That won’t work.  Of course, since you’re her “baby”, she’ll kiss you first.

 

TITUS (flummoxed) Well then, what do you suggest?

 

ARR. (dominating) We can draw lots to see which of us gets the first kiss.

 

BRUT. (picking up some slips of straw from the floor of the cave) Shall we use these as lots? You can each draw from my hand.

 

ARR. (to Titus) I say we go back to our camp and have one of our slaves set up the lottery.  I’m afraid these witches (motioning to Amaltheia and Taraxandra) might use their magic to fix the outcome.

 

TARA. (dismissively) And why should we do that – even assuming we could?  We don’t give a rat’s ass which one of you gets picked.

 

TITUS (firmly) For my part, I agree with my Brother.  I have the feeling something is going on here with you ladies – and maybe even with our dumbo cousin, too – something we’re not totally privy to.  Too much whispering and looks passing back and forth for my comfort. (to Arruns) Let’s head back to camp now,Brother, it’s getting dark, and I’m getting hungry.

 

BRUT. (innocuously) Do you mind if I stay behind for a while, cousins?  I have some questions of my own I’d like to ask.

 

ARR. (condescending) You wanna know if you’ll wake up some day and find that you’ve become a genius?  You needn’t trouble these ladies with that, I can answer it for you.

 

TITUS (mocking) Don’t get lost finding your way back to the camp, dummy. (to Arruns)  Let’s be on our way.

(Titus and Arruns exit, the echoes of their malignant laughter lingering for a few moments after they’ve left the cave.)

 

BRUT. (to Amaltheia) There’s so much I don’t yet understand, I don’t know where to start.  For instance, that part about the Great Star in 777?  Is that a year measured from the founding of Rome?

 

AMAL. (pensively)  No, that is by the Hebrew reckoning, my dear.  In the Sixth Millennium after the Creation, the seven-hundred and seventy-seventh year.  According to the first book of Moses, when Elohim created the stars on the Fourth Day, She said: “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven.”

 

TARA. (interjecting) You see, Brutus, all Hebrew words have a numerical equivalent, just as your Latin words do.  They have an interpretive method called “gematria”, based on these numerical equivalents.  So the sentence –  “Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven.” – breaks down into two numbers.  “Let there be lights” works out to be 666 – the number that indentifies the Reborn Serpent – while “in the firmament of heaven” equates to 777 – the year of the Great Star that augers the onset of the Serpent’s reign.

 

AMAL. (resuming calmly) Yes, and Moses gave us a clue to his meaning when the wrote the word “lights” – me’orot in Hebrew – defectively, that is, without the vav, so that it can also be read me’erat, which means “curses”.

 

BRUT. (intrigued) Can you tell from all this where this Great Star will appear?

 

AMAL. (nodding)  Yes, my dear.  The prophet Isaiah speaks of Leviathan, the “Dragon of the Sea”, whom he describes as the “Elusive Serpent” and the “Twisting Serpent”.  This is the crooked snake in the grip of the Serpent-Handler of the constellation Ophiuchus.

 

TARA. (interjecting again)  It’s the same constellation in which another such brilliant star – “supernovas” they’ll be called – will appear at the beginning of the Twelfth Great Month, in the 364th year of the Sixth Millennium, by the Hebrew reckoning.  By the way, the gematria of the number 364 represents both “His Anointed One”, who is the Messiah of the Jews, and “the Adversary”, who is the Serpent.  This teaches us that both are fated to return during the Twelfth Great Month.

 

BRUT. (to Amaltheia, awestruck)  This is all so incredible – that you can see so far ahead in Time, even to the very end of Time it seems.

 

AMAL. (humbly) My vision is not so special.  What I’ve seen is really becomes quite apparent once you awaken from the dream of sequential Time.  Then experience wraps around you like a great Circle, and from its Center you possess all parts of the Circumference equally.  Two thousand years in the “future” becomes just another “now”.

 

TARA. (serenely) Mistress and I have studied the writings of Anaximander of Miletus.  He teaches us that all of the Worlds emerged in the Beginning from the Apeiron – the eternal and undifferentiated source of all things.  The Apeiron is Being in its purest state, without separation or boundaries, everything in phase with everything else, perfectly coherent.

 

AMAL. (pleased by her pupil’s display of erudition) Very well stated, my dear.  Time as we experience it is simply a condition in which things have fallen out of step, out of phase with one another.  When the spheres of the Stars, the Sun, the Planets and the Moon revolve harmoniously, there are no days or months or years to count.

 

TARA. (self-assured) Our goddess Diana reveals to us the great Omniform of all phases, so that every Being is capable of assuming every shape.  Et omniformis, omnia est.  Behind the curtain of linear Time, there’s a Permanent World.  While inertia is the supreme law of mundane Time, the principle of the Apeiron is metamorphosis: Things are not static, but become other things, by the process inherent in the foundation their Being.

 

(It has become dark in the cave, and the eyes of the Sybil shine brightly by the light a solitary torch.)

 

AMAL. (mystically) Behold God’s fire!  The Light that has not separated from its Source.  I see a Brutus of long past, grandson of Aeneas, whom the goddess leads to the shores of Albion to found his kingdom.  And also a Brutus yet to be born, his dagger dripping with his tyrant father’s blood.  And this Brutus before me, whose own sons will not be too great a sacrifice to preserve Rome’s fledgling republic.

 

BRUT. (subdued) There’s still so much I don’t understand.

 

TARA. (to Amaltheia, imploring)  Mistress, please allow me to accompany Brutus on his way back to Rome … and…

 

AMAL. (gently) … and, yes, I know.  You’ll ask to bring the scrolls with you.  I dreamt all this last night, it seems, my dear.  Funny how that dream just came back into my head as you began to speak.

 

BRUT. (avidly) Those scrolls would aid my cause immensely, (looking to Taraxandra with a smile) but I’d need some help with the Greek translations.

 

AMAL. (playfully) No need to make excuses, my dear.  I’ve already guessed what the two of you are up to.

 

TARA. (throwing herself at Amaltheia and hugging her)  I promise to be back within the fortnight, Mistress, if you’ll let me!

 

AMAL. (graciously) Of course, my pet.  You can take three of the scrolls, the others I’ll keep here in the upper chamber.

 

BRUT. (somewhat disappointed)  But they’d all be safe with me…

 

AMAL. (firmly) It’s not you I’m concerned about.  It’s the one they’ll call Sebastos, or Augustus in your tongue.  Under the influence of his very wicked wife, he’ll take it upon himself to do an “editing” job on these books one day.

 

TARA. (animated)  Alright, then, it’s settled. (grabbing Brutus by the arm) We leave in the morning for Rome to overthrow a king!

 

AMAL. (aside)  And to set the stage for kings to come.

 

(A voice from the cave is heard singing)

 

Relationships of ownership, they whisper in the wings,

for those condemned to act accordingly and wait for succeeding kings;

And I try to harmonize with songs, the lonesome sparrow sings:

There are no kings inside the gates of Eden.

 

(A sudden gust of wind extinguishes the single torch, leaving the cave in darkness as the scene ends.)