by Rebecca Reeves
Realizing he would get no further
rest this night, Vincent decided to roam the far tunnels. It often helped him
to think; besides, maybe he would come upon Narcissa, and she always had some
new insight to offer. Oh, he knew Father blustered at length about “that crazy
old woman,” as Narcissa laughingly called herself. However, Vincent had found
that she was wise beyond conventional understanding, and she had often offered
an alternate perspective for him to consider. Feeling somewhat lighter, he went
down past the Chamber of the Winds, and traveled ever deeper in the tunnels.
As he turned into a large cavern
which contained a small spring that made a pleasant murmuring sound, Vincent
saw the object of his search. Narcissa sat near the spring, her eyes closed,
listening closely. Before Vincent was able to do so, Narcissa spoke. “Ah,
Vincent! Welcome, child. I see you are troubled about something in your dreams--is
it not so?”
“Narcissa, you always know exactly
what is on my mind, and I am grateful. I do not quite understand what the
dreams meant - the images were so fragmented. These same themes have persisted
for four nights now. I do feel they were somehow very important, but...I...”
“Child, you must not fret; we will
see what we can glean from what you do remember. Then we shall perhaps see what
your course must be.” she held her arms out and embraced Vincent warmly. He had
not known until he saw her, how much he needed that hug. “Come, sit here beside
me,” she said softly as she sat back down beside the spring and patted the
ground to her right.
Vincent sat, and wrapped them both
in his cloak- the air was, as always, chilly, and they might be here a while.
He gathered his thoughts, took a breath and let it out slowly, and began.
“I seemed to be in a hot, dry
place, a desert. I was in a darkened
building, unseen by the people who inhabited it; but I could hear them
whispering what seemed to be a supplication. I could not see who or what they
were addressing. I saw lions walking in the courtyard; and men feeding them
fresh meat. I thought that I saw another being like myself. How can that be?
That is all I can recall."
"Well, child, it may be that
you have wandered far in both place and time. Perhaps there is more that you
may learn about this other being you saw. Let me see if I have the correct
powder with me in this bag --yes! Here is one that will guide you in further
revelations. Be sure you have eaten and rested before you take this; there may
be a long while before you return to our world. Take only your Catherine's rose
with you; it will guide you back to this place." She handed him a vial
with a blue powder inside, saying, “This is one dose. The effects last about
four hours of our measure; but once you have started your journey, the time may
flow differently where and when you find yourself."
With that, she stood and walked out of the cavern, calling back, "Oh-and do not fear to meet him."
Vincent wondered who she meant,
but decided to follow her instructions. He would, however, tell only Catherine
the true nature of his journey--to Father and any others who asked, he would
only mention seeing whether some more of the farther chambers could be
reasonably converted for living or storage.
He would wait until he had spoken
with Catherine after her work day was completed. Feeling much more settled, he
returned to the dining hall for a lunch of beef stew and fresh warm bread with
homemade damson jam.
He had not realized that he had tarried so long with Narcissa. Sighing, he prepared for the children's Literature class that afternoon. They were reading the first Laura Ingalls Wilder book, Little House in the Big Woods. The pioneer story held their attention, for which Vincent was grateful, as his mind kept returning to the dream, trying to recapture more images. At last the class was finished, and it was time to prepare to meet Catherine at the threshold of her building. Sweeping his cloak about his shoulders in a long-practiced maneuver, he walked through the tunnels. He felt her fatigue, and knew she was glad to be done with this day. Much to his relief, his headache had subsided.
She smiled as his arms reached up
to her waist as she descended the ladder. "Vincent! I have missed you so
much today! It was such a long, boring day, nothing very exciting, but VERY
long. Testimony in this case is going to be a trial for the attorneys as well
as for the defendant!"
He returned the smile. "That
was a very bad pun, my dear! William has dinner almost ready, and I know that
will lift your spirits. I'm sure the children have some stories from Laura
Ingalls Wilder to relate, as well."
Catherine looked at him more
closely. "What else aren't you telling me, Vincent? Is anyone ill? Was
there some mishap in the tunnels?" She turned toward him, her expression
"Nothing like that. I did,
however, have some rather disturbing dreams last night. I had thought to wait
until after our meal to tell you about them," Vincent replied, trying to
reassure her. Catherine frowned, then nodded and put the matter out of her
thoughts until they were alone in their chamber.
Dinner was lasagna, both meat and
vegetable varieties, with accompanying salad and more freshly-baked bread.
Sharing the meal and casual conversation of the other tunnel dwellers eased
Vincent's mind a bit, and he was more relaxed when they left the dining hall
and turned down the tunnel that lead to their chamber. It had been rearranged
to accommodate an extra desk and chair for Catherine, but was otherwise much
the same chamber that he had occupied since he was a boy. They each sat in
their favorite chair, facing each other across the table that held Vincent's
journal and pens. Catherine knew that her husband would tell her about the
dream in his own time, so she waited patiently for him to begin.
"Last night, I was dreaming
about a place that I have never seen. It was hot and dry, maybe a desert. I
could see and hear men in a darkened building where I remained hidden. They
seemed to be asking for or praying to someone or something that I could not see
from where I was. There were lions walking outside in a walled courtyard, and
men were throwing fresh meat in to feed them. Then I seemed to be elsewhere. I
don't know how I moved or why, but there was a being there who resembled me.
The sound of the men praying grew louder, and then...I woke up. I have been
wondering what it all means. I visited Narcissa in the cavern with the spring.
She told me that I had traveled in time as well as distance, and suggested I
try to connect with the place and the being by using a powder that assists
these types of visions. I intend to do so. I will be leaving this evening and I
will return when I am through. I am not certain when that will be. Time may be
perceived differently in the realm of dream-seeking. Narcissa told me to take
only your rose to guide me back here to you." Vincent finished all of this
in a rush, barely stopping to breathe. He lowered his head and looked at
Catherine through his hair.
Trusting in her husband's past
experience to tell him which dreams were significant, Catherine sat and tried
to digest this stream of information. She was worried that he would meet with
some injury, or worse, but knew he needed to follow this journey through. Maybe
he would gain more understanding of exactly who he was and how he came to be.
No one knew. Most speculated that there had been some genetic manipulation
somewhere, but that was only conjecture at best. Not knowing his origins caused
Vincent a great deal of pain, so she would support him.
Vincent moved about the chamber,
restless to begin his search. Narcissa had told him to bring only Catherine's
rose, so he had nothing to pack. His usual layers would serve him well, as he
could always remove a few if it were as warm as it had appeared in the dream.
He spent a few moments in Catherine's arms, memorizing the feel, the scent of
her before he stood, gathered his cloak about him, and said farewell. Catherine
watched him go with trepidation.
Vincent went down several levels
of the tunnels, finding a chamber where he had often spent a few days. It
contained a bed and a few basics, such as firewood and a lamp or two, and the
omnipresent candles their community so depended upon. He put the blue powder
into a cup and added some water. He lay on the bed under a quilt, reasoning
that if he were only traveling in his spirit, his body needed to be kept warm.
Closing his eyes, he began slow, deep breathing to relax and let the powder do
its work more quickly. He drifted off...
In only an instant, it seemed, he
awoke again. He looked carefully about him. He stood in a hot desert land.
There was a temple of some sort nearby. There were indeed lions walking about
in the courtyard surrounding one side of the temple, and he could see the
remains of their last meal on the ground. The temple itself seemed to be empty
of people, so he walked inside, carefully keeping to the shadows.
"Welcome, oh my relative! I
saw you in a dream and was amazed. I thought that I knew of all of the family;
it seems I am remiss. I am known as Maahes, son of Ptah and Sekhmet. I am
called the Lord of the Slaughter, Lord of the Storm, Avenger of Wrong, Wielder
of the Knife, Preserver of Ma'at, and Protector of Innocents. There are many
other names, but these will serve. How are you called?" asked the lion-being
suddenly before him. Vincent could not help staring; he had never seen anyone
who looked like him before. The stranger was dressed in a linen kilt and
sandals, with a pectoral piece of gold and lapis lazuli, and a headdress of
elaborate design. His eyes were the same shade of blue as Vincent's.
"I am called Vincent, which
means Victorious," said Vincent." I have never seen anyone like me
before. Are there many of you? What is this place? Am I here in truth or only
in a vision?" After all of this had rushed out of his mouth, Vincent felt
very embarrassed and looked away.
"Your words sound strange,
although I can understand you. Do you live in
"No, I come from far away to
the West--some have called it the
"No one may enter here except
the priests of this, my temple. They are accustomed to seeing me and others of
our kind; they will not notice you. Although you were seeking an answer to your
dreams, you are here in body, although not precisely the one that you left
sleeping. You are just one more god to
them; we have many gods and goddesses here in
Vincent considered this. This
being was a god? Was that where he came from? He had so many questions, but
hardly knew where to begin. He decided to tell Maahes his history, as it was
known. He told him of being found behind
"You did not realize that you
are of divine origin? Did no one tell you?" asked a shocked Maahes.
"You are a son of Sekhmet and Ptah, as I am, as are all of our kind. We
have a special duty to perform. Our titles, Lord of the Slaughter and Preserver
of Ma'at--truth and justice, I believe you would call it--cannot be overlooked.
We were created to protect and kill, if we must, to keep our loved ones safe.
It is inborn in us, we cannot do otherwise. Come, Vincent, let me show you a
bit of your heritage so that you may see and understand." and Maahes
indicated that Vincent should follow him out into the sunlight.
Once outside, Maahes walked toward
the lion enclosure. "These are our little brothers and sisters. Tell me,
have you never shared their feelings?" he asked, waiting for his
newly-found relative's reply.
Vincent looked pensive.
"There have been a few times when I was walking near them, when I was
aware of their feelings, the sadness of being caged, the loss of the hunt; but
I didn't stay with them for very long. It was too painful. I also have much
empathy for those I know well, especially my wife. We share a deep connection,
a bond, which is like nothing else I have ever experienced. Even now, with the
distance between us, I am able to sense her and to send her my feelings of
wonder at this place."
"Then you have discovered our
most precious power! Tell me, who was your teacher?" Maahes asked, with a
look of wonder and pride on his face.
"I have a wonderful man who
is my father, although he did not sire me. He taught me love: of truth and
justice, gentleness, literature, poetry, and has cared for me when I was ill.
He is a healer. I have had the love and teachings of a whole community of
people who make up my extended family. But the one who has taught me the most
is Catherine, my wife. In loving her, I have learned so much more about myself.
But I have always regretted not knowing of my origin and how it might help me
to better guide my life," Vincent replied, smiling slightly at the
thoughts of his loved ones. “Oh! There is one who has been a teacher of things
more esoteric. Her name is Narcissa, and she has spent countless hours with me
since childhood, trying to show me how to open my awareness of things not
entirely of the physical world.”
Maahes pondered this reply for a
few moments. "It seems that you have learned much without help from one of
us. Tell me, do these people revere you as their protector and guardian? Do
your enemies fear your wrath? Does your wife receive proper homage as your
Vincent looked back at him,
incredulous. "I have always done my best to help protect my family and my
wife, sometimes regrettably having to kill to do so. But I do not wish or
expect any reverence or homage. We do not have gods such as you in our experience;
I am simply a member of our community. It is a hidden place, where I am safe as
are the others who dwell there. The others protect me as I defend them from
"But Vincent, do you not see?
That is why we exist; we are guardians and protectors of the weak, the
innocent, and of truth and justice, what we call Ma'at. Come, let us leave this
place and go to my home. There is still much to learn for both of us. I would
hear more of this place you are from and how it has been a refuge for you,
although I admit it is strange to think of one of us needing to hide away from
the world of men." He turned and led the way across the wide avenue that
was lined with sphinxes on both sides. Unlike the similar road that Vincent had
seen in books, these sphinxes had the head and aspects of a lion, more like the
Great Sphinx in
They came to a large two-story
building made of white limestone with marble trim. There was a large deep blue
faience vase at each side of the entrance. As Maahes approached with Vincent, a
beautiful woman came to greet them. She wore her hair shorn, her head covered
by an elaborate wig done in what Vincent would have called a
"Cleopatra" style; although he thought, from what he had been told,
that the queen of that name was yet to be born. She had bright blue makeup on
her eyelids and black eyeliner on her upper and lower lids. Now that Vincent
thought, he noticed that Maahes had the same eyeliner lines, and he remembered
that the Egyptians of both sexes had worn makeup as an adornment. Her eyes were
alert and bright, and of a very dark brown.
She was dressed in pleated white linen with a bright sash, and sandals,
and wore earrings and a necklace of gold trimmed in malachite. She was also
very human. She smiled at Maahes, saying, "My husband, I have missed you.
Please come and have some water. Who is this? I do not think I have met him
"I have missed you as well,
my wife. This is my wife, Masika, she who was born at night. No, you have not
met Vincent, because he is but newly arrived in our land and time. He is from a
faraway place called
Vincent nodded his head and
accepted the cool water with ceremony, knowing it was important. It seemed that,
even this long ago, it had become the traditional welcome in a place that was
arid. Offering a guest precious water was more than a courtesy; it also
conveyed the message that the host had no hostile intent. The guest was
supposed to accept what the host offered, signifying his own benign status.
Father would be interested to know this custom was so ancient, Vincent mused.
While he was relaxing in the cooler air inside the house, he was a little
surprised to see a servant, clad only in a plain linen kilt, kneel before him
with a basin and towels, and proceeded to bathe Vincent's feet. It came to him
then that this was also an ancient custom in the Middle East, providing
much-needed comfort if the guest had been walking far, and also showing the
gracious manner of the master of the house.
He waited until they were alone
again, and asked, "Tell me, how did our people come to be here? I am so
full of questions that I never thought to have answered that I hardly know
where to begin."
"I will try to tell you the
story of our people. A long time ago, when the sun first rose on the earth, it
was a sign that the dry land had emerged from the chaos of the ocean. Each day,
Ra rises and renews that act. Each evening, Ra moves from his day bark, or boat
as you would say, into the night bark. He must travel through the Duat, the
underworld. He travels with other gods and must fight with Apep, a serpent. I,
Maahes, am one who may accompany him on this journey. Ra also meets Osiris each
night, he who was resurrected by his wife, Isis. This ensures the rising of the
sun for another day, and the victory of order, Ma'at, over chaos.” he
explained. “Ptah, our father, conceived this world by thought and by the Word.
He is the patron of sculpture and construction, among other things. Our mother,
Sekhmet, was created from an eye of fire by Ra. She is known as the one before
whom Evil trembles, and Lady of Slaughter. These were the beginnings of our
kind.” Maahes paused to let Vincent digest this. “This city, Taremu, was built
to honor all of us. The priests bring fresh meat to our statues and to our
little brothers and sisters; and they honor us and make their petition for
continued Ma'at and protection from our enemies.”
Vincent nodded, still taking all
of Maahes' words into his heart and mind. “How is Ma'at maintained? Is it
something each person does, or only our people?” he wondered.
“Each person should keep Ma'at in
his heart and mind. He should be mindful of his actions and words. When he
comes to the end of his life, his soul must go before Anubis and Osiris, and
make the forty-two declarations of purity. They are for example: ' I have not
committed sin. I have not committed robbery with violence. I have not snatched
away the bread of a child.' When he has said these things, his heart is weighed
on a scale. On the opposite side of the balance is the feather of Ma'at; an
ostrich feather. If his heart is free from sin, it will be lighter than the
feather, and he may pass on to the afterlife. If his heart is heavy with sin
and lies, it will be heavier than the feather, and Ammit, the Devourer, will
consume it. So, Ma'at is our most important principle,” Maahes replied.
Vincent reflected on all of this.
He thought of all of the times that he had defended those he loved--his tunnel
family, especially the children, and Catherine, above all. He found it very
comforting to realize that his dreaded hands with their sharp, deadly claws
could have had their beginnings long ago. He had been created to protect those
he loved, and to preserve justice; something about which Catherine also felt
strongly. Had they indeed been predestined to meet, as Catherine had insisted
many times? He had to ask.
“How do we choose our mates? I
have always feared that I may injure Catherine unintentionally, with my greater
strength--especially when I am enraged or in the heat of passion. It has been a
source of much worry, although Catherine does not fear me. She says it is
impossible for me to hurt her, as we are two halves of the same soul.”
“Then your Catherine is a worthy
consort!” Maahes answered, smiling. “We believe that our mates are predestined,
and that we incarnate together again and again for all time. Tell me, you said
you have a bond, and are able to sense emotions within each other?”
“Yes. It is most comforting...and
most disconcerting at times. I monitor her feelings almost unconsciously, as
she does mine,” Vincent said softly, with his head down, looking up through his
hair at Maahes and Masika.
“You must believe me that none of
our kind has ever harmed his mate or his children,” Maahes said, smiling.
“There is no reason to worry further about the matter. The bond you and your
mate share is a connection forever.”
Vincent's heart leaped in his chest at the mention of children. “Then, we are able to produce children?
We were never sure...will they
look like me? Does the pregnancy or delivery endanger the mother?”
“Yes, Vincent, we are able to have
children. Some may look like us, but most may be more like the human. It is not
known exactly why this is so. But, both males and females may resemble us;
after all, Sekhmet, our mother, was a lioness! Both sexes may also resemble
their human parent. In this way, our familial line does not disappear. The
pregnancy may be shortened somewhat from a mundane human one, but the labor and
delivery process are presided over and protected by the goddess Bes, and are no
more dangerous than any other birth. We believe it an honor from our mother
Sekhmet when one of our children is as we are. Would you like to meet some of
our children?” Maahes asked Vincent.
“Yes, but may I first ask
something else?” said Vincent, his brow furrowed. “Then, we are not considered
human? How then are we able to...breed with humans? Is this not wrong? I have
been conditioned to think of myself as a thing outside normal experience. I am
“Ah, Vincent, we are MORE than
human. We are descended from the creator gods themselves! Although we are gods
in our own right, we are compatible with humans. Since our mother and father
gods made the first of us, we have always taken human consorts. In fact, we
must; two of us cannot reproduce. Thus, it ensures the communication between
gods and humans. Please be reassured. Now, come with us.” Maahes stood,
indicating the way out of the room which led to a spacious corridor with
frequent openings to let the faint breeze through.
“Vincent, these are our children,
at least, those who are still living here with us. We have two others, a son
and a daughter, who have their own households.” Maahes indicated two boys who
appeared to be about nine years old. “These are our twins: Ahmose, child of the
moon; and Badru, born during the full moon. They have finished their lessons
for the day and are getting ready to go to the stables, one of their favorite
places.” The boys looked up at Vincent, noting his strange clothes. Ahmose
resembled Maahes, but Badru resembled his mother. Both had bright blue eyes.
Then, Maahes led Vincent to
another room, filled with three little girls, ranging in age from about two to
seven. They all wore their hair in braids with bangs, and had varying shades of
eyes. Two of them had the deep, almost ebony, eyes of their mother, but the
third had the bright blue eyes that greeted Vincent each time he glanced into a
mirror. “These are our youngest daughters: this is Amisi, flower, who is seven;
Jendayi, meaning thankful, who is four; and lastly, Merit, beloved, aged two
years. Our older children are our daughter, Banafrit, beautiful soul, and our
oldest son, Azizi, precious. We will send word to them if you can stay for our
“I am afraid that I must go back. My
wife and family must be worried. One thing I must know, if you have the
knowledge. How was I born into my time, so far from you in time as well as
place? ” Vincent asked reluctantly.
“Long ago, my sister, Shamisé, the
first-born, was pursued by bandits from another realm to our south. She fled
into the dunes, hoping to outrun them. She was pregnant at the time. She was
gone for a long time; and when she returned, she was no longer pregnant but the
child had disappeared. She would not talk about it at first. Eventually, she
told us that she must have traveled to another time, where she labored and
delivered. Just after her delivery, there were people chasing her. She left the
infant wrapped in strips of cloth which she had made from her desert robe, and
left him behind what appeared to be some large building, perhaps one for
healing. Thinking she would be back soon, she led her pursuers away from the
infant. She escaped, but when she returned, her baby was gone. She searched and
searched, but could not find him. Eventually, brokenhearted, she returned to
us. She had been injured and died from her wounds several weeks after her
return. Her mate shortly followed after her, as our kind so often do; we cannot
easily survive the loss.”
Vincent was stunned. So he was
meant to be born here and now, instead of the time he knew. That explained so
much. He was saddened to know that both his parents were dead, but strangely
comforted to know they were together, perhaps in another life. He faced Maahes
with tears brimming in his eyes. “Thank you so very much. At last I know that I was not an experiment
of some misguided scientist. I was meant to be, and my parents loved me even
before I was born. That brings me much peace.”
“You were very much loved and
anticipated by all of our family. Perhaps when you return, you can meet more of
them. You must bring your Catherine and return to us another time. Now that you
know the way here, it will be easy for you to do so. Let me have your thoughts
for a moment,” Maahes said, holding his hands toward Vincent.
“I'm afraid I don't know precisely
what you mean,” Vincent replied, but he felt that he could trust this man. He
bent his head so that Maahes could place his hands on either side of Vincent's
face. He felt only a warmth where Maahes' hands touched him, then all at once
he just...knew how to make the trip again, without resorting to Narcissa's
potion. It was a simple matter now. He smiled and thanked his hosts for their
Maahes and Masika showed him to a
room where he could sit and relax with his thoughts. He ran through a simple
relaxation exercise, breathing in and then out deeply. Then, he thought of the
chamber that he had been lying in when he began this amazing journey--and he
awoke there in another instant. He sat up, looked around, and smiled.
What a story he would have to tell Catherine and Father! Hurriedly, he straightened the bed and started for the home chambers, smiling as he thought of his new-found family and their incredible surroundings. He would indeed love to travel there with Catherine. And to think, children--he couldn't wait to tell her about that revelation. Grinning now, he turned the last corner into the Hub.
This story was written solely for the enjoyment of the fans of Beauty and the Beast. No copyright infringement was intended and no profit has been made.