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Month: December 2018

The Redeemer: Molocar Part 1

The Redeemer: Molocar Part 1

Love, battle and loss in ancient Carthage. Could be an origin story.

Molocar inhaled one last breath of dusk’s cool sea air and stepped down into a crowded enclosure filled with performers preparing for the evening’s show.   Dancers, musicians and acrobats from all over the Mediterranean were busy dressing and painting themselves in bright rainbows of color purchased from merchants from even further lands. He could hear their equally diverse voices conversing with each other or rehearsing a bit of a song. Molocar smiled as he pushed his muscular form through the crowd and emptied the two great water skins he had been carrying into a large bowl in the center of the room.

“Thanks Molocar! “Said a very elder Numidian while kneeling on the ground and splashing water up into his weathered face. “Not sure water can fix old and ugly but it certainly wakes the spirit up!”Molocar smiled. “Your drum could wake a sleeping god, Gulassa!”

Molocar sat down cross-legged next to Gulassa and splashed his face with water several times which cleaned the dust from his brown skin but also slicked his black moustache and beard enough for him to neaten it with a few downward strokes of his hand. He wiped his face with a rag, pulled three small bags from his pocket, opened each and poured a small bit of colorful powdered sand out. He then wet his finger, and started the process of painting his face by putting a red line under each of his blue eyes which marked him as a brave warrior.

“Ha, in another day you’re going to have to do that for real, Molocar.”

“I’m looking forward to see what is beyond Carthage!” Molocar replied as his finger moved down to paint the outlines of the great protector Baal-Hammon, and his virginal consort war-goddess, Tanit on his muscled chest.

“It is not what is beyond Carthage, it is who,” Gulassa said-accentuating his point by cradling his arms like they were holding a pair of breasts.

Molocar laughed as he rose while pushing his bags of powder back into his pocket. He started to turn toward where his troop stored their props and his torches but was quickly stunned in place by something beautiful. He barely heard Gulassa say, “Speaking of.”

The goddess Tanit stepped through the crowd towards him. She towered over the other entertainers she passed and had long black curling hair that seemed to flow down over a thin flowing cotton dress that barely hid her soft bronze body underneath. Her eyes were as gray as stone and the smile she was wearing made you think she just got away with something.

“Who is that?” Molocar asked outloud while not averting his stare one bit.

“That is Simi. She’s our new Tanit,” replied Gulassa. “Go say hello! Opportunities like this shouldn’t be missed.”

Molocar moved toward her as his mind worked on what to say. This was no used servant girl. This was a woman who likely had great men approaching her all day. What could he offer over them!

“Oh, hello,” came a voice from beyond.

Molocar’s consciousness shifted back into focus.

“Oh you poor dear.” She said with a warm smile looking into Molocar’s eyes with pity. She looked beyond him. “Who is the sweet simple man before me, Gulassa?”

“Sweet. There is nothing sweet about him. He is our fierce and brave fire warrior, Molocar.”

“Yes, I play a one of the Lord Protector’s valiant warriors.” Molocar replied hoping he sounded smarter.

“Oh.” Simi replied as her cheeks reddened out of clear embarrassment.

“Yes, I’ve had this character since I came of age. I get to act like a fierce warrior and play with fire. How did…”

“SHOWTIME ONCE THE TORCH IS STRICKEN. GET TO YOUR PLACES!”  the voice of their employer interrupted from beyond.

“We better go.” Simi said turning toward the exit and joining thing many other players rushing out to their positions. Molocar watched her go.

“Don’t worry lad the night is young. Let us go!” said Gulassa with a slap on Molocar’s shoulder.

Molocar ran to the back corner to collect two torches before running out into the nearly darkened sky. The carved stones of the city buildings had already shifted from a sun baked tans, whites and grays to the dark grays of the night. The sun had completed its journey into the beyond.

The troop moved into an open square that was surrounded on all sides by the city’s working citizens who stirred in anticipation. The roof tops were filled with the wealthy merchants and nobles who paid a handsome price to be there.  Molocar could hear the whispered voices of the excited crowd as slaves moved the night’s props into place. A great round pyre was centrally located with a smaller fire burning next to it so that the larger could be swiftly lit when ready.

Molocar moved into position holding a torch in each hand, closed his eyes and imagined himself as the great warrior. His torches became great blades and his skin became weathered and scared. He felt a fire ignite with him that grew in power with every beat of his heart. He held it in waiting for his moment to explode.

The voice of the troop’s boss echoed through the square. “Citizens of this great city we give you the story of the great Baal-Hannon and Tanit!” The central pyre then roared to life in an amazing rush of heat, sound and light that startled the crowd enough to get oohs and aahs.

Molocar and three other fire warriors rushed it from all points of the compass, launched themselves into a forward flip which they landed just in front of the flames to light both torches in synchronicity with each other. They then back-flipped in a similar manner away from the fire and moved through a careful attack routine of spinning and flipping their torches that created mesmerizing circular tracers for the crowd to follow. Their painted bodies told their own tales of bravery and conquest. Gulassa and the other musicians slowly beat the drums of war from behind them. Molocar’s adrenaline pumped harder as he heard more noise from the crowd as their performance progressed.

A larger than life helmeted warrior came charging out of the darkness stabbing the business end of a great spear into the pyre causing its tip to burst into a great flame.  He then turned and snapped his body into a guardsmen like position with spear up next to the flames. The drums started beating harder with more fervor.  Molocar and his warriors came charging in performing another elaborate fight routine around the mighty warrior and pyre ending their routines by snapping into guardsmen like positions around the great warrior. The great Baal-Hannon, god of gods has now arrived.

Molocar and his warrior comrades tossed their lit torches into the fire and rushed away into the darkness leaving the god protector alone with the great pyre. Slaves shoveled a fine white power into the fire which quickly turned the yellows, orange and reds into a blinding white flash causing many in the crowd to put their arms in front of their eyes. This blinding spectacle allowed Simi and the other dancers to move into place.

The crowd then opened their eyes to the vision of the Goddess Tanit and four maidens rhythmically rolling their naked curvaceous bodies to the sounds of a gentle bone flute and steady thump of the drums. The women started twisting and turning their bodies ever more rapidly working their black and bronze bodies into a sweat which glistened in the light of the hot fire. It was a dance of lust and beauty meant to capture the attention of a great god and every man and woman watching the show.

The crowd’s attention shifted to Baal-Hannon as the music promptly stopped and Tanit and her maidens pointed at him. He removed his great helmet revealing a handsome yet battle scared bronze face below. He looked toward Tanit and reached out his free hand. She rushed toward him in great dancers stride and they embarrassed like lovers. Molocar and his warriors then emerged from the darkness and did the same with the remaining maidens. Great warriors had now met their muses.

All of the performers turned toward the great pyre with their arms outstretched before it. A slave rushed from the darkness carrying an infant wrapped in white. The child screamed as the slave handed it to Tanit who swiftly unraveled the while cotton from it and held the child up to Baal-Hannon.  Its arms and legs moved about and the screams got greater. Baal-Hannon took the child and then ceremoniously held it well above his head while turning in a circle allowing all in the crowd to see.  Gulassa and his drummers then began hammering their drums rapidly causing a sound close to thunder to shake the square and possibly much of the city. The warriors, maidens and then goddess then faced the fire with arms held high. The drums got fast and louder.  Baal-Hannon then turned towards the fire and hurled the child with all his might into it as it exploded again into a great flash of white light. The crowd roared with delight at the live sacrifice. The crowds, performers and gods would be happy tonight!

When their vision once again returned the performers were gone from the square and it was now being filled with acrobats, jugglers and magicians who began their calmer routines. Torches were struck around the crowd in the square and rooftops as food and drink began to be brought out.  It was now time to feast and be merry.

Molocar walked back into the performer’s shelter with the rest of his act. Many of them would have to quickly change wash and change for different performances later but this was Molocar’s last so he didn’t rush.

Seeing Gulassa rubbing his arms clean at the water bowl he sat down next to him again. “Well, last performance for me Gulassa. Tomorrow I’ll get to see beyond these city walls and become a great hero. Perhaps I will do battle against the Roman!”

“Be wary of what you wish for. Young glorious men go to war only to come out as a tired and burdened old drummer like me or a rotting corpse at the end of a spear,” replied Gulassa.

“Yes but you were fighting Carthage, a more formidable force than a bunch of Numidian horseman!”

“Molocar, you miss the point.  I was fortunate to have been conscripted by Carthage with my army’s  defeat and then released to the servitude of our employer. This was not my wish but I am grateful to be alive talking to you now. The Greek, the Roman, the Libyan and any others in this world will not do this. “Expect no mercy from them.”

Molocar smiled at the old man. “You are just sad to see me go!”

Old Gulassa calmly smiled back and looking down began rubbing his aching arms and silently tending to an aching heart.

“So great warrior?  Where did we leave off? “ Came a female voice from behind. Molocar turned to see a modestly dressed Simi standing behind him with her hands on her hips and a sly grin on her face.

“Oh. Hi Simi. Yeah, um are you hungry? Perhaps we can talk over a meal? Gulassa and I were about to go to the stalls”

“Oh Molocar, this old man needs a rest. You and this young flower go on ahead and be merry.” Gulassa said, waving the two of them off. Simi turned walking with a slight shrug giving Molocar just enough time to see his old friend give him a parting wink as he chased after her.

The pair walked out of the shelter to the periphery of the square where several food merchants were selling meats and breads. The smells of roasted goat, rabbit and lamb made them both realize how hungry they were and they moved to the first available cart and spent their meager earnings on a kabob of each with they ate while walking back toward their shelter. Molocar walked close next to her imagining his hand holding hers. Simi stayed close as well silently hoping he would.

There was a small warming fire the troop had set up away from the show for the performers to recover. Nobody was there so they sat down cross-legged next to each other. They knees touched just a bit.

“So what is this about you leaving?” Simi said looking at him sternly.

“It is time for me to make my mark as a great warrior.”

“That is a very noble thing. Do you worry you might die?”

“If I die it is what is meant to be,” Molocar said looking straight into Siri’s eyes.

“I hope it isn’t,” Simi said, feeling her body waver just enough to bump her shoulder with his.

Just then a juggler emerged from a tent meters away laughing breaking their moment.

“So what is Simi to do? Do you like performing?”

“Very much so! When I dance I feel like a flower being carried by the wind. I can go anywhere and do anything. I almost don’t know where I am when I do it.”

“Any man watching you doesn’t know where he is either. You are very good at it and will do well.”

“I hope so. The crowd here does seem to appreciate my dancing more than the marketplaces of Tyre. Most of my time there was slapping away the paws of wayward drunkards and entitled merchants.”

“Tyre? You’ve been to Tyre!. What’s it like?

“It is where I was born. When I was a child I would walk the piers looking at a harbor filled with brilliant sail and oarships from all over. Men and women of all colors and sizes walked about speaking in amazing languages that I imagined said very interesting things. I then became of age and it was clear I was nothing but a pretty object to them so I danced for the right merchant who gave me passage west.”

“So what about you warrior? Where are you from?”

“Here in Carthage. My father made shoes a short walk from here. He earned our home and his business fighting against the nomads to the east. He also won my mother who was a performer he loved very much. They both made a good early life for me but were taken by sickness. I was left to fend for myself in the streets but I was lucky enough to learn enough to survive. I now hope to honor their memory on the field of battle.”

Simi swayed into him hard. “Well, I think they are proud you for finding your own way.”

Hearing her kind words and feeling her soft shoulder bump into his he looked over into her eyes. His heart skipped a beat as he feared she would pull back away. She didn’t. Without a word he reached for her hand.  She felt it and grasped tightly. They both felt something wonderful flow between them. He wondered if this was the love his father had for his mother.  Simi prayed she would see him again. They chatted a little more but once the show ended and the lights dimmed they drifted into sleep next to the fire, hand in hand.

*********************

Molocar’s heard the crash of steel and quickly rose from beneath his blanket surrounded by an army that began to stir in much the same way. He put his filthy arm briefly across his face to allow his eyes to adjust to the bright rising sun and think about the wonderful memory-dream he just had from some time ago.  He would see and feel Simi again.

He grasped his blade from the ground next to him, rose and looked around him. It had been two seasons since they had sailed across the sea to this rocky forested island.  He thought the land was a paradise compared to the harsh deserts of the south. He could live well here and build a great farm were Simi and him could raise two brave sons. His mind drifted darkly to the Roman invaders who had come to this great land. If only it could be free of them he thought.

“Molocar, you up there talking to the gods again? While you’re at it please ask for better-salted meat and rounder women!” said a gravelly voice from behind him.

“Juba, I asked them to improve your cooking skills so that your wife will stay round and not starve to death.” Molocar turned and said with a smile toward the diminutive Numidian behind him.

Juba was his only friend.  He was young like Molocar but looked and exhibited the wisdom of an old man. This wisdom had guided them well since their meeting on the stiff benches of the oar ship and though the vicious first battle under the great mountain. Neither had escaped loss or injury. The Roman’s killed every one of their friends and both bore the scars of battle including a vicious one that ran down across Juba’s right eye to his chin.

“You know considering we are to do battle again today. You might have asked for a god’s hand with that Molocar!”

“Hoping the great Hamilcar has take care of that. Great leaders should have more the gods’ ears!” Molocar replied in earnest.

They both looked down the gentle slope the east and could see they weren’t the only army breaking camp. He could see brief puffs of smoke as the night’s fires were extinguished, the movement of their horses to be fed and mounted and heard and felt the beating of their war drums. Great colorful banners steamed over them in the morning wind and he could see sunlight glinting of the metal of their finely crafted weapons and armor. The Roman legion was being readied for battle.

Molocar thought those beasts wouldn’t be sacking a defenseless village or murdering children today. They would be facing the might and justice of Carthage. Those devils will be driven back into the sea or die on a spear hanging high above the battlefield. Fury pumped from his heart through his veins energizing his body and focusing his mind. He would be the hand of a harsh justice today.

Molocar turned and joined Juba in silently preparing for battle. He strapped on plates of battered bronze armor, a dented helm with a red mane upon it and took hold of a painted red shield and sword covered with davits and grooves earned in battle. The sword was slid into a belt he had strapped around him and the shield strapped to his left forearm. He then picked up a plunging spear which he hoped would run more than one of devils through at first contact.

Molocar walked with Juba where the great Carthaginian army was forming up ranks. There were thousands of other infantrymen around them from different parts of the empire. Some of the more specialized combatants such as slingers and horsemen formed their own groups away from the massive formation as did some of the more unique skirmishers who still followed tribal ways. In the space of a slight movement of the sun the chaotic mass of infantrymen had broken into three neat and orderly formations.

Molocar and Juba stood on the far end of the second row of the leftmost formation with spears pointed up at a slight angle. This would allow them to drop them when the time was right or throw them while minimizing the chance of stabbing the men marching in front of them. They both looked behind them to be sure the warriors were doing the same. This army had as many unblooded warriors as veterans so it was wise to check so as to not get run through from behind.

The drums started beating heavily and a squadron of Numidian horseman rode in a quick line ahead of the formation delivering an officer to the head of each. They had just met with Hamilcar to learn any last minute changes to his battle plan. Now they were here to inspire and lead their men to battle.  Molocar wondered if his old friend Gulassa had seen the same decades before.

Molocar’s formation was led by a burn-scarred nomad hailing from the eastern desert.  His walk was heavy throwing up puffs of dirt from rocky terrain below. Once he arrived at the center of the formation he began to speak with a thunderous voice. His foreign tongue mangled most of words but the pounding of his spear on the ground and against his shield expressed their task clearly. All warriors looked down toward the now formed Roman legion with hardened eyes and beating hearts. It was time for battle.

The drums then changed their rhythm and the three formations marched forward to it. Shields were placed in front of bodies and spears held ready. The Roman’s followed in kind marching forward. Molocar could see to two formations of Roman horseman dashing in formation to the flanks of the great army. He hoped that his army’s cavalry was doing the same to foil their maneuver.

Molocar’s army moved down the slope getting closer to the Roman army. He could almost make out faces behind their shields. The drum rhythm increased and Molocar increased his speed matching the Juba who ran eyes forward next to him. He could see the smaller man’s legs pump much faster and harder than most.

His eyes then went forward and he saw the blur of movement as great salvos of bullets were launched from the slings of the Roman infantrymen. He raised his shield along with most of the others as the deadly missiles turned over pelting and piercing their ranks. Molocar felt the thump of a projectile off his shield. In his peripherals, he saw the blur of movement as a comrade tumbled after being felled by a stone. He then heard the crash of some falling as somebody fell behind him. He experienced three more salvos like this and hoped their slingers were inflicting the same. He looked over and still saw Juba still running alongside and was happy he had survived.

He refocused and moved his shield slightly to the side and saw the armies were nearly together. He shifted his shield down to cover most of his body and made sure the point of his spear was forward.  He heard the initial war cries from his army and added a great yell to its as he braced for the great impact to come.

He heard the massive clash of steel as the great armies met. The man’s neck in front of him exploded in blood and gore as a great spear pierced through it. The body fell away sidewise to the ground spraying all with blood but the spear it had wielded held fast in the crowd of Romans he had charged into. He did not die in vain. The man next to the dead hero successfully avoided the first line of spears and pushed his own in only to be pierced by another through the leg. He grabbed the sword at his side but a great blade slashed downward through his shoulder into his torso.

Molocar reached his attack position and thrust his spear into the crowd ahead of him while watching for enemy spears coming through the gaps around his shield. He felt several more strike on his shield but quickly pulled his blade from his side and slashed down harshly to the side of it. He felt the bite of contact and saw the splash of blood at the end of its arc. He then repeated again and again each time with a different angle or arc. He saw spears coming towards the Roman’s to the left and right of him and knew his army had the momentum.

Molocar looked to Juba and saw he was doing the same. His height now benefitted him as many of the spears and blades passed over or around him where the enemy thought he should be. He made it a point to slice low slicing feet and legs that would drop an enemy to the ground to be quickly killed. Juba was already hurt though with a clear open wound on the shoulder of his shield arm. This angered Molocar greatly.

Molocar’s attention quickly shifted to a large blood-covered roman who had climbed over numerous gore covered bodies to square off with him. The murderous beast’s blue eyes stared at him as the two charged  each other regardless of the similar battles occurring all around them. Molocar did not slash on his first attack but instead blocked the Roman’s blade with his shield and used it as a battering ram to knock the cretin off his feet and on to his back. The roman rolled on to his stomach in an attempt to get back up but Molocar stepped on his back pushing him to the ground and pushed his blade through the gap under the Roman’s helmet.

He quickly looked for another opponent but heard a familiar yell from behind him. He quickly turned to see Juba down on his knees holding his shield over his head as a large legionnaire smashed his sword down upon it over and over again. Juba’s eyes met his for a brief second as blow shattered the bone in Juba’s shield arm causing the shield to drop. Juba’s then looked up as his executioner’s final blow came down severing his head from body.

“NO!” screamed Molocar.

He dashed toward Juba’s killer feeling the burn of rage. The Roman squared up to face him didn’t know he was facing a trained acrobat. He had just raised his shield and blade when Molocar leapt over him, landed and spun around blade ahead of him slashing through the roman’s flank, ribcage and spine. Juba’s killer dropped to the ground in nearly two pieces.

Molecar charged into the massive melee picking out the next target of his vengeance.  His blade cut deeply again and again. He felt the occasional sting of a foe’s weapon and the raw taste of blood in his mouth but no injury was great enough to slow his fury.  The crowd soon began to thin and the sounds of the clash of steel gave way to the cries of agony. Finally, the sky seemed to open up as the remnants of a roman army fled the gore covered field. It was over and Carthage had prevailed. His army then finished its final tasks of finishing off the roman wounded with no mercy.

Molocar made his way back to camp silently with only his thoughts. The army had started their celebration but he wanted no part of it.  War had taken from him once again. He sat down next to the fire where he had sat with Juba the night before. He then emptied a waterskin over his head, scrubbed the blood and gore from his body and gear and ate a few olives and bread left from the night before.

He started the grim task of collecting Juba’s possessions. He threw most of it into the fire keeping only a small Numidian trinket to remember him by.  It was an ivory horse that Juba believed would always help carry them through. Molocar thought this quest for glory cost anybody that befriended him their lives. Perhaps it was best to serve the rest of his time without any.

He flopped over on to his blanket and he felt his aching battered body relax. He let his mind drift to the many good times he had with Juba in front of these fires, his young days in the acting troop and even to his childhood where he listened to his parents teach him all sorts of things.

His thoughts drifted to Simi. He imagined her leaning into him in front of the fire. He looked could see the gentle cool wind of the night blowing a tuff of her hair slightly and feel the soft skin of her hand in his. She smelled like the fields of flowers this island keeps and as she talked she looked deeply in his eyes. He could think of nowhere he’d rather be right now.

He started to talk to her in his mind. He told her about the cruel death of Juba. She had heard many stories about him since Molocar met him and tearfully listened while stroking his head gently. He told her of the horrible revenge he had gotten for Juba. He had butchered his killer and many others.  She smiled gently and cradled his head in her lap gently stroking his hair. She told him how proud she and Juba are.  Juba is in a much better place now and is preparing a good home and meal for his family when they arrive.

He then told Simi about how she made him feel. He missed her beautiful form and alluring dance. He missed her devilish smile and forcefully good nature. He missed the way he felt when her eyes met.  Most of all he missed the feeling of not being alone in this world. That there was somebody out there for him. He saw her lip mouth the word, yes, and he then drifted off into sleep and away from the cruel battleground near him.  She was here with him in his dreams and one day soon he would be with her for real.

*******

“MAN THE OARS!”

Molocar’s eyes opened and he instinctively grabbed the large oar in front of him along with every other man on the oar ship.

The man next to him bumped him on the shoulder and with a broken toothy grin said “We’re home! Good food, family and glory!”

Molocar returned the smile while grabbing the long weathered oar in front of him. He hoped he looked much better than this man as he would see Simi soon! He put his hand quickly in his mouth to be sure all his teeth were there.

Molocar watched out through the oar breech onto familiar blue waters and the rocky sun-kissed cliffs of the Carthaginian coast.  His arms started to burn but he pushed harder as he saw the great stone gateway of the protected port drift by him displaying the vivid red, yellow, green and blues of the sails of the great merchant and fishing fleets of Carthage. People moved about between them happily carrying out the day’s business. He then passed another great wall into the great circular pool that housed the Carthaginian naval fleet. He endured a long tedious procedure of docking the boat in one of the hundreds of tunneled docks around the circumference but he was home and that is all what mattered.

Molocar and his shipmates then debarked into a long line to receive their final pay and move on to the rest of their lives. He could feel the energy and happiness that filled each man’s heart. Yes they fought the Romans and won but they were now home and alive!  Thousands of their fellow warriors were not so lucky.  Molocar’s heart sank for a second as he thought of Juba and his family. He then thought of Simi, old Gulassa and his troop and felt a surge of happiness. He would have a new tale to tell!

Carthage hadn’t changed much since he had last seen it. It was still a city of many great structures but also alive with the many different cultures that the empire absorbed.  He moved through the crowded streets like he’d never left and grew anxious and excited as the sounds of minstrels started filling his ears. He turned a few corners and emerged into the familiar merchant and minstrel filled square he had left long ago. It hadn’t changed much either.

He walked double-time into their camp and saw his first familiar face of one of his fellow fire warriors. Their eyes met and with a great roar the actor bellowed, “Molocar the warrior has returned!” Performers heads started popping up from their various activities and many hellos were given and returned.  His old employer approached and with a smile said, “Welcome back Molecar! Come see me when you are ready. I assume you’ll  be wanting your old position? He then patted Molocar’s arms. “Perhaps the role of Baal might be better for this scarred warrior?”

“Yes. Anything. Where is Gulassa and Simi?”

“Right behind you,” said a gentle voice from behind him.

Molocar turned and there was Simi, glaring at him with a crooked smile and hand on her hip.  He lost his breath for a second.

“I see you’re still a little slow, Molocar. Guess a few clubs to the head didn’t fix it” Simi said.

“I’ll just let you two catch-up. Come see me in a bit for a talk Molocar,” said his employer who knew true love when he saw it.

“Uh no. Not fixed yet,” Molocar replied with a slight grin.

She smiled and walked up to him and gently grabbed both of his hands and looked into his dark eyes.

“I knew you’d come back.”

He looked into hers and all the fears and doubts he had left his body. He slowly embraced her and leaned in to kiss her. He felt her warm breath and then soft lips touch his. She pulled him closer to her body and he could feel her gentle hands rubbing his shoulders and back as their passion started to surge.  He reciprocated wanting her to feel the same. She then grabbed both his hands again, looked into his eyes pulled him forward with a devilish look in her eye.

“Let’s go.”

Her let her pull him back toward the large tents. He could hear more hellos from the troop as they snaked their way through to a lone tent in the periphery of the camp. She quickly popped her head into the tent and then out.

“It’s all ours.”

Simi then gave Molocar a quick pull and they both dropped through the tent flap and on to a soft goatskin next to each other. She laughed and then rolled toward him and put her hand on his chin and said, “Make love to me.”

Molocar felt a surge of lust-filled energy and he quickly rose to his knees removing his clothes and then helping her lift the cotton dress from her form. Her skin seemed to glisten from the heat of their passion and a small beam of light coming through a gap in the tent. He caressed her hips slowly and then moved to the softness of her slightly bulged stomach and then breasts.  She reciprocated by pushing herself closer to and rubbing the dark weathered skin of his muscular chest. He responded by gently kissing her shoulder, her neck and then her lips while his hands wrapped around her to caressing her lower back.  She then moved slightly away and then pushed him down onto the skin with lust in her eyes. With a leap she then mounted him. He felt the warmth of her around him and with a surge of energy they began moving with each other.   It was heaven on earth and as their passion grew he started to feel the small tremors from within her which excited him to the point of release. He pulled her close to him as he did so and then rolled her over into a gentle embrace from behind. They were finally together as one.

“I talked to you every night in my dreams.”

Simi smiled and looking into his eyes said, “I dreamed about you too Molocar.”

Their lovemaking then continued through the bulk of the afternoon. They made up for the hundreds of days apart into a happy exhaustion. Nobody bothered them except to leave a jug of water and a bowl of dates at the entrance which they ate ferociously. They then fell back onto the damp soft blanket.

“So what are you doing now? Are you still Tanit?”

“No, it is a role for young girls to steal. I am now just an old dancer, ” Simi replied looking slightly downward.

“Does this make you sad?”

“No, it is time to be married and bear children. This would make me happy. I have dreamed of it since before you left.”

“And who is be your husband?”

“Why you, fool. You are mine!”

Molocar’s heart warmed at hearing this and he pulled her close to him once again. “Then let us make it so!”

She pulled his arm around her tight and they both drifted off into sleep.

Molocar had the most wonderful dream. He imagined the both of them on their own farm outside of Carthage. It was large and covered with fig trees for as far as the eye could see. Great mountains towered over them to the south and you could almost make out the blue of the south to the north where Carthage lies. A little boy-their little boy was waving a stick around like a sword slaying some unknown foe. Simi had a little girl in her arms and was twirling with her under the warm sun. In the distance below the mountains he could see his troop, camped outside the city with many more stages and performers. He could hear them performing the story of Juba.

Molocar heard Simi start to speak. It was soft but definitely not the scene at hand and his eyes shot open pulling him from his dream. It was still dark with an occasional beam of light leaking in from the remaining fires and torches that still burned. He turned his head toward her to see she was sitting cross-legged with her back toward him and slowly rocking back and forth.

He then heard Simi softly say. “I know I love him and we should be married and have many children.” Then as if replying to response moments later, “You’re just jealous! Go away and leave me be.”

Molocar reached up and touched the small of her back. “Simi?”

Simi jumped feeling and hearing Molocar, then quickly turned around with a smile. She then rose and turned to cuddle with him. “Yes, just happy you have returned.”

Molocar thought this was a bit strange but quickly shifted back into thinking about how nice it is to have her here with him. He then drifted back into a deep restful sleep.

Molocar’s eyes shot open as the clash of steel echoed from outside the tent. He launched himself up and moved out of the tent ready to defend Simi from whatever was out there. As he emerged from the tent he was greeted by a very Gulassa banging away at a pot.

“I thought that would stir a brave warrior!” Gulassa said with a smile.

“It wasn’t the sound of steel but the lack of rhythm. How are you my friend?” Replied  Molocar.

“I am old but still here!”

Molocar noticed that Gulassa’s eyes had gotten cloudy and his gaze seemed as if he was looking at something far behind him.

“My friend. Your eyes!”

“What? I don’t get to see how ugly you are now. This is a good thing!”

“Gulassa, very nice to see you,” came Simi’s voice from behind Molocar.

“Ah Simi, the one person I do miss seeing!”

“Molocar perhaps it would be good for you to put on some clothes,” Simi said while grabbing his arm.

Gulassa released a belly laugh and Molocar looked down and went pale as he realized that in his rush and surprise he didn’t realize he was naked. He quickly rushed into the tent to dress quickly. When he re-emerged from the tent Gulassa and Simi turned towards him.

“Much better! I must get ready for a show. I’ll leave the two of you to catch up,” Simi said with a smile.

Gulassa picked up a walking staff and led Molocar to the food merchants on the periphery who had opened not long before. Molocar’s mouth watered as he smelled things he only dreamed about eating while away. He quickly dashed to the nearest vendor and bought warm flat bread and some sausages roasting nearby for himself and Gulassa. They then walked back to the camp and sat down next to each other near Gulassa’s worn tent.

“So. How was life in service of the King?” Gulassa asked.

“I’m very glad to have done my duty but more glad to be home.”  Molocar then launched into the tale of his travels, battles and his great friend Juba.

Gulassa silently took in in and then swung his arm around Molocar and with a squeeze to his shoulder said. “We are glad to have you back.  Good memories will overtake the bad. Keep brave Juba in your heart and he will never be lost. Now let us talk about good things. Tell me about your night with Simi?” asked Gulassa.

“It was amazing! We loved like I dreamed we would.”

“Yes, she is a good woman. She has been with no other since you left and spoke of you often. Sometimes I would see her sitting next to the fire singing softly to herself- anyways, it is good for her that you are back! It is time to make Simi your wife and the mother of your children. Now let’s get back to last night. Tell and old man about what he has not seen in ages!”

The two talked for several hours.  Molocar gave a few details on the last night’s event and his desire to make a new show of his own.  Gulassa filled him in on events with the troop, city and himself. Molocar felt sad that Gulassa was losing his sight but was happy to be with his old friend once again. Life would be better for all of them. They were all together.

Molocar visited his employer’s tent and after a brief conversation with the current performer playing Baal and they agreed to split the task. Molocar was glad to be back into the show and his comrade was glad to have a few nights off.  They both then walked through the performance with Molocar agreeing to view that night’s performance to see it and refresh his memory.

Molocar left the tent hoping to catch Simi in the downtime between the morning’s street performances and the night’s show. He moved quickly toward her tent as he was about to round the final corner the goddess Tanit stepped out in front of him. She was short, muscular with long locks of a dark hair that covered her pale skin. Her eyes were blue like the sea and she wore the same revealing costume Simi had once worn and flowed around her curvaceous body like a cloud.

“You must be Molocar. I am Sophon. It is nice to meet you.”

“It is very nice to meet you too. I see that you are playing Tanit. I will be playing Baal.”

“How wonderful!  Everybody has said some nice things about you. I know that you will do well.”

“He will do great and you will stay away from him otherwise,” came Simi’s voice from behind.

They both turned to see Simi emerge from around the corner Molocar’s side. She grabbed him by the arm and then seductively said. “Let’s go back to the tent and have some time before the next show.”

“Yes of course, Molocar said letting her lead him away.

“Good, lets leave this rabid dog to feast on the rats,” Simi replied.

“Simi! Molocar said looking back apologetically to a visibly hurt Goddess.

They moved back into her tent and as he was about to ask her what that was all about she jumped up on him forcing them both back on to the skin. She then gave him a passionate kiss while slowly pulling the clothes from both of them.  His thoughts were quickly lost in another passionate round of lovemaking that led to a short but restful sleep.

They woke to the sound of the ready bell. Simi dressed quickly wrapped a loose fitting white cloth around her body. She then walked up to Molocar and gave him a kiss on the lips. He looked into her eyes and without speaking they told each other they loved each other. She then smiled and said, “I must go but we will continue this later!”

Molocar dressed and then walked from  Simi’s tent to the enclosure he and Gulassa had readied themselves in so many years before. By habit, he grabbed a water jug, refilled all the bowls in the shelter and spoke with each performer along the way until he reached Baal-Hammon to help him get his more elaborate costume on.  This made him feel the excitement he loved all those years before.

He walked out toward the square and joined Gulassa who was sitting and joking with the other drummers about anything and everything. He watched his beloved dance to entertain the crowd before the show. He could see her love for the crowd on her face and the love they returned.

The show started with an explosion of color and their employer’s introduction.  Molocar was in awe of the energy and talent of the performers and the colorful pyrotechnics of that flashed from their fires.  Sophon was no Simi but she was an enchanting Tanit and his counterpart played his role with power and precision. Even old Gulassa seemed to pound his drum harder than the years before. It was inspiring and invigorating. His mind was still twirling with many new ideas he could try when the show ended. There was so much good in this.

The crowd began to disperse and Molocar made his made through the mass toward Simi who was helping usher them out toward the food stands beyond. He excitedly walked up to her and grabbed her by both hands.

“That was wonderful! The troop did a great job. You and the other dancers were beautiful. Tanit and Baal-Hammon  were performed perfectly and did you see the fires?  Amazing!

He then noticed that Simi was smiling but there was some sadness behind it.

“Yes the dog plays my role well.”

“Oh Simi, forget about that. There is only one Tanit!”

He then picked her up over his shoulder like a savage and carried her back toward the tent. She laughed the entire way and when they got back they shared some water and figs in front of a warm fire. They laughed and talked until the moon got high. Molocar talked to her about all his great ideas he had for a show and she quietly listened and laughed at his jokes. When the moon got high and fires started to ebb the moved back to the tent and fell asleep in each other’s arms once again.

They woke to a busy but beautiful day. Simi did not have to work the first performance but needed to visit the baths and clean her costume.  Molocar met with his employer and his counterpart and they decided that he would observe the day show and then perform at night.  The day show had far less fire but it allowed him to absorb more of the routine and pick out the key parts to focus on. It would take him a couple shows to get great but he was confident he knew enough to be good.

When the sun was halfway down Molocar walked back to Simi’s tent and found her in it brushing the curls of her hair as she stared into the reflection of the water in front of her. He walked up behind her and he put his arms around her letting her know he was there. She smelled like lavender and her skin was as soft as fur.

“I am going to perform tonight.”

“Really, so soon?”

“Yes, I’m ready. I picked up on a lot at today’s performance. Some has changed from long ago but the basic steps are the same. I am not worried”

“Great, I will watch from the crowd and keep the Tanit and her harem from taking you.”

Molocar laughed out loud but in his head was thinking she seemed to be worried his heart would wander too much. It bothered him a bit but perhaps this is just how she is. He had a performance to concentrate on. He could show her his love was only for her after.

The rest of the afternoon went well. He ate some but was nervous. This was good though. It was nothing like the fear before battle and he was making something wonderful. He closed his eyes a bit at this thought and Simi woke him up a sometime later.

“Time for you to get ready!”

Molocar and Simi once again prepared for the night’s show. They moved out several moments before the ready bell and split up shortly thereafter. Molocar jogged to the enclosure in his excitement and as he was stepping  down into it, Gulassa stepped up.

“Oh I thought I smelled the God of Gods. You should ask your goddess for some lavender next holiday.”

“Perhaps I should take your nose instead!” Molocar said helping the old man up the stairs and then leaping down to prepare.

Molocar’s counterpart was there and he helped him paint his body many great colors while walking through the performance a final time. The sand was as itchy as he remembered it but he quickly moved into the preparing his body for performance with a series of stretches and lifts. It had been a long time and he did not want to injure himself with so much good going on.

Molocar moved out of the shelter to his place just as his employer called the troop to their places. He closed his eyes for a second as he walked on imaging each move. He entered the square and could see that things were nearly set. He looked over and saw Gulassa with his drum and turned toward Simi who was looking at him.

“You look amazing. Molocar!” a voice said from behind.

He turned and saw Sophon-Tanit standing behind him.  Feeling bad about their last conversation he replied.

“Sophon you look beautiful. My performance will have to be great to outshine you.”

Sophon blushed but her eyes bulged wide open a moment later looking beyond Molocar. He started to turn to see what she was looking and an enraged Simi charged by him with a lit torch over her head. He watched in horror as she struck the young actress across the head with it knocking her to ground. She then pounded on her with the murderous fury of an enraged warrior. Sophon’s costume caught fire causing her to writhe and give a scream he had only heard on the worst battlefield. Simi continued to beat her as if trying to stifle her screams.

The crowd and troop first froze silently watching the violent attack with mouths wide open. They then pushed and shoved their way toward the melee almost knocking several performers to the ground. This was like an arena to them .  Molocar could feel bloodlust in the air.

He could not let this continue so he pushed toward Simi. The crowd had bunched in tight causing him to use his great strength to pry his way through. One patron made the mistake of trying to push him and was quickly smashed to the side. As Molocar broke free he witnessed a Simi deliver a final blow to Sophon’s broken form. She then turned toward him and when he looked into her eyes he didn’t see Simi. He saw a demon staring back at him. He froze in sheer panic.

“Murderer!” came from the crowd along with the first rock which struck Simi in the upper chest with an audible thud. She screamed in pain and dropped to her knees and buried her head in her arms hoping to protect herself from the stoning to come. The crowd began to surge along with many more thrown rocks which struck her as harshly as the first.

Molocar was pushed hard by the crowd behind him. He pushed back as hard as he could with arms stretched trying to keep them behind him. He began to falter forward from the sheer power of the crowd. He then saw Gulassa almost roll out from the crowd. He placed his body in from of Simi’s and his cloudy eyes looked in horror ahead. The crowd then collapsed in and Molocar was knocked to the ground. He felt many feet on and about him. He could hear screams up ahead. It seemed to go on forever he felt more feet on him and he quickly lost his breath. Things then went very dark.

************

Molocar felt a hand on him and he opened his eyes. He was lying flat on the ground and when he moved his body felt bruised from head to toe. He rolled over to see his employer looking with concern at him. His mind came back into focus and he suddenly remembered what had happened.

“Simi!” he said rising quickly.

The employer quickly put himself in front of Molocar and grabbed the warriors shoulders as he rose.

“Molocar, you don’t want to see this!”

“No!” Molocar said knowing what was beyond.

He pushed by the older man aside and saw Gulassa and Simi’s broken forms in front of him. The mob had done its cruel work and battered them to death. Molocar felt dizzy for a moment and his stomach turned. He could feel chest pump hard as he tried to process what he was seeing. He tried to inhale but couldn’t find his breath. He then dropped his knees gasping and felt his agony pour from him in a great wail. He put his head in his hands and sobbed into them.

His mind then spun from grief to rage. What had he done to deserve this? He had done what he was supposed to! He had served his king and his god and lost much in return. Why was this happening! He had lost all he had loved and when it was finally time for some happiness it was taken from him.

He opened his eyes and looked toward the great pyre ahead of him. He thought of the gods and how could they have let this happen.  He wanted revenge on them. He wanted to show them the pain they had caused.  He would enter the afterlife and exact his revenge. He would then find Simi, Juba and Gulassa and build a just world to live him. He looked toward the still burning pyre and launched towards and into it. His body was quickly consumed but his spirit was not.

The gods did indeed take notice.