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Interviews of Kephrath - Tadugari and Anilat

[]Interviews of Kephrath

[]Tadugari and Anilat

[]~ from ~

[] The Flame Before Us

Richard Abbott


© Copyright 2015 Richard Abbott.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the author.


[]Publication details

Matteh Publications


For Roselyn, for family

[]Also by the Author

Historical Fiction set in the ancient near east

p.   In a Milk and Honeyed Land
p.   Scenes from a Life
p.   The Flame Before Us

Short stories:
p.   The Lady of the Lions
p.   The Man in the Cistern

Science Fiction

p.   Far from the Spaceports (in preparation)

[]Cover information

Cover artwork © Copyright Ian Grainger www.iangrainger.co.uk
Original Matteh Publications logo drawn by Jackie Morgan.
Original photographs taken in Israel and elsewhere.
Cuneiform tablet jointly produced by the author and Ian Grainger.
It reads:
[_    If the strong attack your strongholds –_]
[_      warriors your walls –_]


Interview – Tadugari and Anilat

Extract – The Flame Before Us


About the author

About Matteh Publications

[]Character interview – Tadugari and Anilat of Ikaret

&If the strong attack& your strongholds –[ **]  warriors your walls –[ **]Go up to the sanctuary of Ba‘al,[ **]  Step to the holy place of Ba‘al,[ **]Then Ba‘al will listen to your prayer –[ **]  drive the strong from the stronghold,[ **]  the warrior from your wall.

&This is one of a series& of character interviews of individuals and couples from my works of fiction.

In this case we meet Tadugari and Anilat, formerly of Ikaret and now living in Shalem. The story of their journey may be found in The Flame Before Us.

The Scene

&It is a warm autumn evening& in Shalem, shortly after the Feast of New Wine. Tadugari and Anilat have been living in the city for around half a year. We are relaxing under the shade of some fruit trees, looking west. Nearby, several slaves are gathering fruit, and tending a large bread oven built on to the outside of the house.


The Conversation

Anilat gestures to an open straw basket of flatbread and a pottery juglet of olive oil.

“You must try some, sir. On that long weary journey from Ikaret I craved bread like this.”

I take a piece, so as not to insult my hosts.

“Your life must be very different now.”

They look at each other, and Tadugari answers.

“I am still not accustomed to it, sir. In Ikaret I attended the king every day. The great and the noble of the city came to my house, and in the audience chamber I mediated great decisions and agreements.”

Anilat laughs and rests her hand on his.

“And spied on their secret words when they thought themselves alone in a corner.”

“That too. How else could we negotiate such favourable terms?”

A look of grief crosses his face, and his hands clench. She leans forward, anxious and attentive, obviously keen to avert some habitual emotional plunge.

“Those days will come again, husband. Why, even today you were telling me about the border dispute south of Ayn Shams which you resolved. The king of the city here knows your name, and he has given you a position of trust among his own great ones.”

She turns to me.

“The king’s minister, the noble Abdi-Teshup, is an old friend of my husband’s. On the same day that we arrived he remembered his friendship, and made sure that we had a place to live.”

She gestures around her, at the house and the garden. He snorts.

“How well I know it. Everything we have is his.”

“Not so, husband. It was his provision on that first day for sure, but you have since earned it many times over.”

He nods, his features relaxing again and his voice reverting to its normal measured tones. He stands and looks north.

“But we are exiles, Anilat. You, who are my sweetest love, must live forever in the wilderness and never go back to the verdant plain of Ikaret, nor see the great sweep of the bay that washes it.”

She shrugs, her gaze still on him.

“This is good enough for me. Much better this than to be caught up in the ruin of the city.” She turns back to me. “We both lost so many people who were dear to us in that ruin. Friends and family alike. I consider us fortunate to have escaped with our own children alive.”

He sits again and eyes me shrewdly.

“On good days I look for my former home to rise from the ashes and be restored to greatness. On bad days I think it will never live again, and that the great ships will never drift again into the bay, nor dock at the harbour. It is as my wife says: our home is here, as exiles, needing each day to prove our worth to this city.”

I try to think of a subject that might be less controversial.

“Have your children learned the ways of their new home?”

“My daughter, Haleyna, she is pleased with the move.” She looks across at the house. “A Mitsriy scribe, a man we met on that first day here, keeps visiting us. He wants a pledge of marriage, but we have not yet decided. Of course we supervise him: many of the Mitsriy cannot be trusted, and I do not know him well enough to be sure. We already had agreed a lad of Ikaret for her, these last five or six years. But we are almost certain he did not survive. We will wait until the winter for news of him, and we will make this scribe wait for our decision until then. But she is of an age where she should be married.”

He laughs, not unkindly, and picks up the thread.

“As for my two sons – they are twins, you know – my dear wife gave me twin sons, and I have such pride in her. Now they are being taught by one of the king’s generals. The art of war has changed since I learned, and the old ways failed us at the city walls. I will have my boys trained in the new ways.”

“If you had these last few months all over again, what would you do differently?”

He looks down at the table and his voice quavers.

“I would have remained firm of heart for Anilat and my children, instead of losing myself in despair. Or if I could not do that, I would have stayed in the city to die. What came over me was worse than death, and I brought us all so close to ruin before I recovered myself.”

“I would never have let my daughter know that I learned how to kill her.”

I must have looked surprised at the starkness of their answers. Anilat took a deep breath. Tadugari remained silent.

“I thought, just as my husband thought, that death would be better than capture and dishonour. My error was in allowing Haleyna to know of my plan. It should have been my own burden, and I made her share it as well.”

She takes his hand, squeezes it.

“But we are here, all of us together. Ikaret is lost to us, but we keep something of her traditions alive in this house. The outside is that of Shalem, but the heart is Ikaret.”

He nods sombrely, then pours me another drink with his own hands, waving away a slave who had approached to carry out the task. We turn to easier subjects, and they entertain me with Kinahny stories until the sky darkens and only flickering oil lamps shed light on us.

[]The Flame Before Us – Extract

&If the strong attack& your strongholds –[ **]  warriors your walls –[ **]Go up to the sanctuary of Ba‘al,[ **]  Step to the holy place of Ba‘al,[ **]Then Ba‘al will listen to your prayer –[ **]  drive the strong from the stronghold,[ **]  the warrior from your wall.

“&But father will be back& from the north before we have to leave?”

Anilat looked carefully at her mother, hoping to see some sign of the truth of the matter. But the old face, schooled in a great many years of diplomacy, was giving nothing away, and the old voice did not directly answer her.

“You will be leaving as he instructed, a half-month from now. I will wait for his return and follow on after. He has been called to attend to the wishes of the King of the North even now.”

The last was, surely, a simple guess, perhaps even a needy wish. Anilat nodded slowly, wondering if, after all, her mother had no more information than she had already shared. All that she herself knew came from the brief report delivered by the weary rider as he passed by the envoy’s house on his way to the royal palace of Ikaret.

Not long after his arrival, the city gates had been closed, and the priests were called out from the temple to bless and prepare the few city guardsmen who remained. Most of the army had already been sent north to join the collected forces of the great King of the North, assembling somewhere in the vassal territories along the coast. As well as force of numbers and weapons, they had taken wagon loads of supplies, honouring the requirements of the treaty.

The army had travelled by land, along the great Sea Road that ran all the way from the southern sedge lands of the Mitsriy up to the rugged hills in the north. But Ikaret had grown up facing the sea, and the sea still brought most of the wealth to the people. Although the hinterlands were fair, and the overland trade routes reliable, it was the port that gave life to the city. There were so few good harbours north or south along this coast.

For a time the royal family of Ikaret had offered allegiance to the Mitsriy, but no longer, not for many generations. Their loyalty had turned away when the ruler of the Khatti-lands, the great King of the North, had started to expand his sway. He was much closer to them in both distance and culture.

The Mitsriy protests were in vain; the city was simply too far north from their homeland to be retained. It was too far for an effective campaign of retaliation to be considered, even from the unruly collection of Kinahny vassal lands they controlled. Even the most warlike among the Mitsriy kings had never been able to secure their conquests this far along the coast. It suited Ikaret to have her ties of allegiance holding her to the north. The huge flocks of wading birds that feasted in the shallow waters around the bay, emblematic of Ikaret herself, had enjoyed prosperity and comparative peace for a very long time.

A little over two years ago, the first stories of raiding groups harrying the fringes of the settled lands had reached the city. A long way north and west of Ikaret, they mostly struck at island settlements, or very remote coastal towns which could not be easily reinforced. Rumours of troop losses had spread, and the great king had been swift to silence the more vocal of his critics. But the reports were still carried, by traders and officials more concerned about the immediate risk to their life and livelihood than the king’s displeasure. Then there had been a lull for a while, and it seemed that peace had returned.

But as the weather turned colder, and winter drew close this year, forlorn and homeless groups had started to come down the Sea Road. The first few dozen of these were treated with kindness and a spirit of welcome. But dozens swelled to hundreds, and generosity could only stretch so far. Some of them stopped around the outskirts of the city, clustering in great tented pools around the streams and wells. Others moved on again, southwards, hoping to find better favour among the Fenku, or even the Mitsriy. They would have a long journey southward, along the Sea Road, but perhaps the effort would be worth while.

“Are the children ready to leave? Yours and your brother’s?”

Anilat brought her thoughts back into the room and nodded firmly.

“Indeed yes, mother. Provisions are ready for all of us. My three little ones are with Auntie now and she is preparing them with tales of journeys.”

She stopped, hesitant. How could she speak about her older brother and his refusal to leave the house? Her mother waited, her face shrouded by the hood she wore. She had never liked the climate here, and found the winter air far too cold for her southern body. Anilat had become used to it as she had grown up, and earlier today had relished the freshness of the sea breeze drifting in over the land.

“If User-Amun will not leave, you must be ready to take his children as well.”

So she did know after all. If events took this turn, Anilat and her husband Tadugari would be taking five children when they left. But her brother’s daughter and son were considerably older, and they should be able to help make the journey easier.

“Mother, when you leave here, where will you go? All the way back down to the Beloved Land?”

Her mother sighed.

“It is so many years since I was last there. So many years during which your father and I have moved from place to place at the bidding of the king. And my memories are clearer of Gedjet than of the Beloved Land. It is a great sorrow to me. It would ease my heart to see it one last time. But it is a long way, and I am already old. Listen now. You must take the children from here when the time is right. Your husband will wait too long: you must be ready.”

“I will not leave him. If he stays, I stay, and the children with me.”

“All of the fruit of my body is in this one city together. In times like these, that makes me afraid. Shall I see all of you taken together? The good of the family requires you to leave when the time is right. I will not hear argument about this.”

The two women were silent together for a while. From the courtyard, they could hear the chatter of the servants arriving back from the fish market. Finally the mother spoke again.

“And what of your sister?”

“She says that she will follow whatever the great priestess decides. She says that for her, it is as though she was a chantress of the kind you used to talk about when we were young together.”

“The more fool her to think so. The priestess is not so high, nor the temple so grand, that she should do that. And her with child as well. You see, Anilat? You must take the lead here and ensure that the children are safe.”

“Why should she be anxious? She has confidence that even if some remnant of this enemy should escape destruction to the north, our own city guard will hold the walls and gates.”

“Could the King of the North hold Taruwisa? Could his army hold his southern coastal towns? Do you think our soldiers have held the northern border?” There was a silence in the chamber. Her mother’s breathing was rough, laboured in the damp air. “Well, how can I blame her? I sit here and wait for my own husband to come back from the north. Am I so different?”

“What about Taruwisa and the coastal towns? I had not heard anything of them?”

The old woman, eyes shrewd and bright in her lined face, made a little move of her hands. Anilat, understanding it as dismissal, gave a little bow and left the room.

[]Notes and Background

[]About the author

Richard Abbott has visited some of the places that feature in this story and others set in broadly the same region. As well as writing fictional accounts of the period, he has also participated in the lively academic debate surrounding it.

Richard now lives in London, England. When not writing he works on the development and testing of computer and internet applications. He enjoys spending time with family, walking and wildlife – ideally combining all three of those pursuits at the same time.

Follow the author on:

  • Web site – www.kephrath.com
  • Blog – richardabbott.datascenesdev.com/blog/
  • Google+ – google.com/+Kephrath
  • Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/In-a-Milk-and-Honeyed-Land/156263524498129
  • Twitter – @MilkHoneyedLand

Look out for his other works, which include the following.

Historical Fiction – full-length novels:

  • In a Milk and Honeyed Land, available from most online retailers, and general booksellers in
    • soft-cover ~ ISBN 978-1-4669-2166-5
    • hard-cover ~ ISBN 978-1-4669-2167-2
    • ebook format ~ ISBN 978-1-4669-2165-8 In case of difficulty please check the web site www.kephrath.com for purchasing options.

Feedback for this novel includes:
the author is an authority on the subject, and it shows through the captivating descriptions of the ancient rituals, songs, village life, and even a battle scene… the story grabs hold of the imagination… satisfies as a love story, coming-of-age tale, and historical narrative…” (Blue Ink Review)
…The lives of these ordinary people are brought to life on the page in a way that’s absorbing and credible. The changes that are going to take place in this area are quite incredible… a wonderous land that seems both alien and yet somehow familiar…” (Historical Novel Society UK Review)
  • Scenes from a Life, available from most online retailers, and general booksellers to order in
    • soft-cover ~ ISBN 978-0-9545535-9-3
    • kindle format ~ ISBN 978-0-9545535-7-9
    • epub format ~ ISBN 978-0-9545535-8-6 In case of difficulty please check the website www.kephrath.com for purchasing options.

Feedback for this novel includes:
The author is extremely knowledgeable of his subject and the minute detail brings the story vividly to life, to the point where you can almost feel the sand and the heat…” (Historical Novel Society UK Review)
…lovely description – evocative sentences or phrases that add so much to the atmosphere of the book” (The Review Group)
The striking thing about ‘Scenes’ is… its sensitivity: its assured, mature observation of people” (Breakfast with Pandora)
  • The Flame Before Us, available from most online retailers, and general booksellers to order in
    • soft-cover ~ ISBN 978-0-9931684-1-3
    • ebook format ~ ISBN 978-0-9931684-0-6 In case of difficulty please check the website www.kephrath.com for purchasing options.

Feedback for this novel includes:
…A surprising tenderness in the face of brutality, loss, and displacement is the emotion that underpins the action…” (Breakfast with Pandora)

Historical Fiction – short stories:

  • The Man in the Cistern, a short story of Kephrath, published in ebook format by Matteh Publications and available at online retailers, ISBN 978-0-9545-5351-7 (kindle) or 978-0-9545-5354-8 (epub).
  • The Lady of the Lions, a short story of Kephrath, published in ebook format by Matteh Publications and available at online retailers, ISBN 978-0-9545-5353-1 (kindle) or 978-0-9545-5355-5 (epub).

Science Fiction – full-length novels:

  • Far From the Spaceports, in preparation for release later in 2015
    • soft-cover ~ ISBN 978-0-9931684-4-4
    • ebook format ~ ISBN 978-0-9931684-5-1 In case of difficulty please check the website www.kephrath.com for purchasing options.


  • Triumphal Accounts in Hebrew and Egyptian, published in ebook format by Matteh Publications and available at online retailers, ISBN 978-0-9545-5352-4 (kindle) or 978-0-9545-5356-2 (epub).

[]About Matteh Publications

Matteh Publications is a small publisher based in north London offering a small range of specialised books, either in ebook or softback form. For information concerning current or forthcoming titles please see mattehpublications.datascenesdev.com/.

Interviews of Kephrath - Tadugari and Anilat

This is one of a series of character interviews from The Flame Before Us. This interview is with Tadugari and Anilat, who fled the destruction of the city of Ikaret and settled in Shalem, at the southern edge of the hill country and a morning's walk from Kephrath. If you like the interview and extract, The Flame Before Us is available as a full-length novel. The Flame Before Us: Conflict and commitment in the shadow of a city's downfall The raiding ships have come before, but this time it is different. This time the attackers are coming to stay. The great kings and their vassals collapse as the newcomers advance. Walk with refugees, migrants, and defenders of the land alike, as they struggle to create a different way of life beside the ruins of the old. Can alliance, commitment and love survive the turmoil?

  • Author: Richard Abbott
  • Published: 2015-11-03 13:10:07
  • Words: 3336
Interviews of Kephrath - Tadugari and Anilat Interviews of Kephrath - Tadugari and Anilat