Elissar’s Star Sapphire
One citrine evening, a beautiful maiden in Aegean blue silks washed upon Tyre’s shores wearing a glistening sapphire tiara that lit the evening’s sunset. It was so bright from a distance that Septy Queen Alissa’s chamber maid saw the young woman and had a group of Tryian women carry her to King Azmelqart’s castle in Yas’ holy island.
Now Azmelqart who was old but kind, had an only child, with queen Alissa – Prince Metan. Both the king and queen were desperate to find a bride for him before the end of the Norouz. It was customary then to choose favorable marriage dates for good fortune based on the constellations in the sky. That evening, Draco’s constellation was visible, and Alissa saw that an omen of her prayers being answered by Tanit Goddess of Purity. She knew that Azmelqart worshiped Melqart, but he also loved her very much to refuse her any request. Naturally, she asked him to help her offer dry olive pits into Tanit’s temple fires for blessings.
The two old royals had just come out of Tanit’s temple when Septy informed them of the young woman’s presence in the castle. She told them that she believed the girl was a princess because of the tiara on her head and the silks she was wearing adding that she was very beautiful.
Alissa smiled and turned to Azmelqart and said: “the Gods heard us love and sent this princess to us”.
“Patience my queen, we do not know if she is betrothed or even a princess. Let’s wait for her to wake and hear her story” said the wise old king.
The next morning Septy went to fetch the young woman after having ordered the maids to bathe the girl and give her new clothes. When she arrived, she heard the ladies in waiting scream and scramble amidst a loud thud. Terrified Septy stormed into the chamber and announced: “What is happening? Is everyone alright? King Azmelqart awaits your presence my lady”.
Septy had been looking forward searching for the woman in the room thinking she must be behind the dressing divider already when she saw all the maids on their knees pleading to Ishtar to bless them as she has blessed Eirene. She was shocked and said:” What is the meaning of this? Who is Eirene? Is the young woman ready? Up, up all of you. We can’t keep the king waiting.”
The seven chamber maids rose to their feet and were falling in line when one of them, Jezebel, stepped forward and said: “My Lady, Eirene is ready to see our king. We couldn’t convince her to let us bathe her or wash her clothes. The moment she sat in the water; we saw the morning crescent settle in her palm stringing the water in pearls that made her glow inside out. She then took her dress and threw it into the fire, and it came back new and pressed. We believe she is the daughter of the sea god. We have been blessed my lady”.
“What in Baal’s name are you saying Jezebel. We only worship Tyrian gods here not Roman or Assyrian ones. Eirene come out now. You must present yourself to our king” said Septy.
Eirene stepped out of the tub walked past the dressing divider with her golden locks draping over her shoulders with one hand extended with her palm facing upwards. Septy could see the crescent slowly shrink fading its light and sink into the maiden’s palm as the water droplets floated into the air and formed perfect strings of beads and silver threads embroidering her Aegean silk tunic. Her multicolored sapphire tiara reflected the light in prisms over the chamber’s colored glass windows dancing into the eyes of the maids and Septy. Dazzled by the scene, Septy fell to her knees and said: “Shaher has blessed us with your presence Eirene. You honor us with your presence. Please come with me”.
The two women walked into Azmelqart’s court and bowed before the king and queen. Azmelqart gestured for Eirene and Septy to rise and look at him.
“I am Azmelqart son of Ahab King of Sidon and Tyre. This is my beautiful queen Alissa daughter of King Adon of Byblos. Welcome to my castle and city. What is your name and where are you from child?” said the king.
“I am Eirene daughter of Shaher the moon and Elthemis the sea. I bring bounty and peace to all who welcome me. From my father I bring light and tranquility and from my mother I provide good counsel, fairness and protect the old ways. El’s Sapphire Tiara is proof of my lineage. The blue sapphire is for creativity, green for bounty, orange for wisdom, pink for love, white for spirituality, and yellow for knowledge. I seek a righteous king to be his rightful queen to whom I shall give the star sapphire of power and peace. I was on my way when a storm struck my ship and lead me to shores my lord” said Eirene.
“Eirene my child, I am but a mortal king whose mother Elan gave her life to the Morrighan crow to liberate this land and spread peace. You are a divine child. I have a son, my only son, Prince Metan. I do not know if he will be a righteous king or a match for thee, but I would be honored to join the house of the Melqart’s servants to those of Shaher and Elthemis. We all seek peace and wisdom. Tonight, we shall hold a banquet in your honor. Prince Metan will be your host. I hope you enjoy your stay in my kingdom and find what you are looking for” said the wise king.
Eirene smiled for she had heard of Metan the foolish good-hearted handsome prince of Tyre who is in search of unconditional love. She lowered her eyes and bowed to Azmelqart saying: “Thank you for your beneficence King Melqart. It is a great honor to join you and Queen Alissa. I look forward to the evening and meeting Prince Metan. If you may, I would like to leave Yas’ lands to Tyre’s open seafront to speak to my mother Elthemis and make an offering”.
“Very well my child. Septy and Juba the head of the royal guard shall escort you to Tyre’s seafront. They will protect you and provide everything you need. I am Azmelqart son of Elan the loyal servant of the gods and their ways. May the gods accept your offering Eirene”. Said Azmelqart.
With that said, both Septy and Eirene left the king’s court and headed to the gates of the castle where Juba was waiting with the horses. Juba bowed to Eirene before helping her mount the white stallion he picked for her and all three rode to Tyre’s seafront. And just before they were halfway to their destination, Eirene turned to Septy and said: “Septy, I need to find the finest mead in Tyre and candy the darkest red apple you can find for the offering”.
“Certainly, my lady. I know the finest trader for candied apples in Phoenicia. His name is Philosir of Ugarit. His shop is not far from here. Juba can show us a shortcut just behind these bushes and beyond the stream” said Septy.
Shortly, all three crossed the stream and reached Philosir’s shop. Septy selected an offering plate from clay adorned with red anemones and gave it to Eirene to put the three candied apples she had selected from Philosir’s table.
Soon after arriving to Tyre’s sea front Eirene walked to the Sarab point until the water reached her knees. As she went deeper into the water Septy and Juba watched the water particles float in the air like pearls around her. The waves calmed and the waters parted. Out came Themis shining bright with her coral crown and diamond sparkling skin. She was sitting on a the largest ormer shell they’ve ever seen pushed by pink bottlenose dolphins. Eirene knelt and offered her candied apples plate letting it float towards Themis.
“Eirene my child, I am pleased to see you return to your home. Have you found what you are looking for on Yas?” asked Themis
“I believe I have queen mother that’s why I am here to ask for your blessing on my journey. The sea shall always be my home. I shall visit as often as I can. Please accept my offering of candied apples and bless my union to Prince Metan son of Azmelqart son of Ahab” begged Eirene.
“Azmelqart is a good man. I knew his mother the devout Elan daughter of the loyal priestess Elishat. We remember her martyrdom and Elan’s sacrifice to have Azmelqart and save Phoenicia. A fine choice you’ve made Eirene. Go now knowing that you shall bear the one that shall add to the sapphire sea crown the star sapphire of destiny. She shall be remembered just like her grandfather Azmelqart and her grandmother Elishat” said Themis.
With these words Eirene bowed to Themis and headed back to the shore as the waves started to sparkle like a thousand broken diamonds under the sun reflecting endless colors. The winds kept echoing Themis’s words as Themis sank back into the sea. Septy was waiting on the shore for Eirene with towel and new clothes but as Eirene approached her, she noticed that Eirene’s clothes were dry. Eirene’s tiara now had a crescent added to her tiara and a couple of turritella and triton shells between her sapphires.
“Your tiara is more adorned princess Eirene. It has shells and a crescent. Was your offering accepted by Themis?” asked Septy.
“Septy, the sea goddess Themis has accepted my offering and blessed my union with Prince Metan. She said that our union shall produce the bearer of the star sapphire of destiny who shall be remembered just as King Azmelqart. We must hurry before sundown”. Said Eirene.
The three arrived at Yas by sundown and informed the king and queen that Themis had blessed the union. That evening the royals held a huge banquet where all the people of Tyre were invited to eat and dance. Metan sat by Eirene and spent the night talking and enjoying each other’s company. It was love at first sight. By the end of the evening King Azmelqart stood up and made an announcement: “Glorious free people of Tyre today we welcome Princess Eirene daughter of Shaher and Themis amongst us in our blessed city. The gods have accepted our offering in our bid to have the hand of Princess Eirene for Prince Metan, my heir and your future king. We invite you to participate in this glorious celebration to solidify our family and our city. Princess Eirene and Prince Metan shall wed in Melqart’s temple upon the birth of the first crescent”.
The people rejoiced to the news and paper lanterns were flown into the heavens that night from the king’s castle while paper boats lit with scented candles floated through the city’s canals and streams. Tyre was already blessed with plenty of fish all year round but for the goddess Themis to give her daughter to their prince that meant putting their city under her protection. The news reached Anath son of Ahab from Daria Az’s high priestess. Anath had been waiting for Azmelqart to die to challenge Metan in a joust to claim the throne according to Sidon’s laws as the rightful heir to the throne. But with Metan marrying to the family of the gods, he needed to have a god as well on his side. That day Anath rode to his mother’s temple in Dooma to meet her successor and ask for help with the gods.
Three nights later Anath arrived at Daena’s temple which had replaced Az’s temple and met Pari the head priestess. At first, she spoke to him behind the door in Aramaic telling him that they serve the goddess Ishtar and that they accept offerings only during the day. But Anath was persistent and convinced her to open the door to show her something. He unbuttoned his cape and showed her a medallion bearing Az’s golden coin with its horns painted in Zaffre blue.
Shocked by his revelation Pari pulled him into the temple and asked: “Who are you? Where did you get this coin? There are only five of these and all five recipients were burnt on the stake in Sidon. Speak up or I will kill you myself”.
“I am Anath son of Daria Az’s high priestess. My mother was the only priestess who wasn’t burnt on the stake because Melina took her place. I am seeking your help to read some scriptures on divine intervention. I am Sidon’s rightful king and I need the gods’ help to reclaim my right. I promise if you help me to restore the faith to Az and erect temples in his name. Help me please” said Anath.
“Your mother was one of Persia’s bravest soldiers and equal to a thousand men. She brought news to our army about every move every king in Phoenicia made. I shall help you but know this, as Daria’s son, you might be asked to offer yourself if Az is still angry about your mom’s refusal to be burnt on the stake in her name. Walk with me. There is a passage underneath that leads to Baalshmai’s temple from here. Then we will follow the stream until we reach Zahhak’s claw. Once there, you shall enter on your own and remain there for three nights”. said Pari.
“I thought there are books and rituals or offerings to receive such great knowledge. I am afraid of dark caves. How do I know you are not leading me to my death?” asked Anath sarcastically.
“If you are who you say you are, you know that Az only exalts those who accept his way and that is death. If you do not believe in our ways, leave before I offer you to Az myself” said Pari as she drew her dagger.
It was a long walk down the granite and flint steps beneath the temple. They followed the crooked path and crawled through the passage under Baalshmai’s Temple.
“How much longer do we have to go till Zahhak’s Claw?” asked Anath.
“Not long now. No more talking, or we will be buried from the echoes of our voices” said Pari angrily.
They kept crawling on their knees until they reached a funnel shaped outlet where a strong light beamed from. Anath could hear water gushing through rocks. He smiled thinking they must be near.
“We can stand up and walk now. I will reveal the passage for you. Follow me” said Pari
The two walked till the edge of a rock that was at the end of the mouth of the funnel.
Stunned by the end of their road, Anath, almost pushed Pari down the valley beneath the rock.
“Move to this side. I need to take your place to reveal the passage” said Pari
“What passage? It’s a dead end. All I see is a waterfall on the other side with a valley beneath our feet” said Anath angrily.
“Just move. I know what you don’t. Don’t you want to get help and reclaim your birthright?” said Pari
With that, Anath switched places with Pari carefully holding to the edges of the rocks behind him so as not to fall. Once the switch was complete, Pari took out her dagger from her belt and said to Anath: “Hold on tight and keep close to the rocks behind you. As I stick this dagger in the torch holder’s base, I will turn the knob and the bridge will rise. You have exactly three minutes to cross on Az’s claw to get behind the waterfall. You must kneel on the entrance and insert your medallion inside the slot right under your forehead. From there what happens next is up to you. Good luck” said Pari
With that, Anath shook his head indicating his readiness and Pari inserted her dagger in the torch holder’s base on the rock and turned the dagger. The whole rock strata began to quiver, and many smaller rocks began to topple from the top to the bottom and others on the bottom began to roll as a claw shaped bridge began to rise. Within seconds it joined where they both stood with the other side where the waterfall began. Anath ran across the bridge as it was still shaking and engaging and leaped to the edge behind the waterfall.
“Pari, I made it, thank you. Pari?” shouted Anath.
He came out from behind the waterfall to see Pari, but she had been gone and the bridge as well. He was shocked and was wondering how he would get back with the bridge gone. He stood there for a bit and went back behind the waterfall down the steep wet rocks and gravel. The place had a stench of moisture and decaying shrubs and the sound of the water was the only thing he could hear. He kept going until his left big toe got hinged under a smooth rock and he tripped. He tried to remove the small rock to release his foot when suddenly the gravel underneath him began to swirl and funneled him downwards muffling his screams. Finally, he landed on his knees facing three megalithic statues of a winged demon wrapped with a snake on its lower torso. All the statues had Zaffre blue halos overarching a golden diadem with a teal colored skull for a center piece. Anath was certain he was right where he should be and stepped closer to the dark marble steps in front of the statues and knelt before them. Immediately, one step collapsed revealing a slot where he inserted his medallion and pressed his forehead to indicating full submission.
Things moved quickly from then and the step beneath him collapsed sliding him through a shaft underground. He landed on his side and rolled in an attempt to stand up and look around. He found himself in a corridor lit by streams of fire burning the stench of ancient oil. He was about to step forward when a feminine voice in the distant darkness that lay ahead said: “Welcome seeker, you are in Az’s home. Have you come to answer my riddles?”
“Great goddess, I am Anath son of Daria your high priestess and rightful king of Sidon. I have come to restore the old ways of Az to its people” said Anath
“Silence! I should kill you for your mother’s disgrace but now that you are here, I shall have you fulfill your mother’s promise to serve me. Who is ruling my Sidon lands? Answer me mortal!” demanded Az
“Azmelqart son of Elishat and Ahab. They pray to Melqart and Tanit but now the people pray to Themis and Shaher because of Eirene their daughter” said Anath in a terrified voice.
“Bring him to me” shouted Az
And before Anath’s heartbeat could finish beating in his ears the serpents and fires in the cave surrounded Anath leading him to the darkness where Az lurked.
“I have waited for years to walk among men and leave my cave. For thousands of years I have relied on incompetent creatures like Daria but now I shall have my way and destroy your ungrateful kind. Your greed for power and hate shall give your body the strength it needs to host my essence. I shall have you and your kind serve me to sit on your precious thrones” chuckled Az
Everything went blank for Anath who felt something strike him from behind his neck suffocating the air from his lungs. It was over before he could even use his arms to release his neck from whatever was strangling him. Az had her serpentine tail wrap him and injected her venom. She ate him by inserting her tongue in his throat and drained him inside out leaving only his skin. Within minutes she assumed the form of a human with the fairest skin and the darkest long locks ever. She used his amulet to conceal her serpentine form and walked on two legs outside the cave till the edge of the waterfall and sent her echoing calls to Pari who was entranced to put her dagger through the torch again for the bridge to rise. Pari bowed to Az knowing that she was the goddess and showed homage to her goddess, but the goddess held her head and drained her essence just as she did with Anath. With each victim Az drained, she acquired their knowledge of the current events, contacts, and places they’ve been to.
The goddess knew that to destroy the people she must live amongst them and be one of them to destroy them from within. She was the goddess of death, lust, and conspiracy who was full of hate for the humankind. She knew that she needed to find a way to get invited to the royal wedding and destroy Azmelqart’s union with the gods. So, the next morning she echoed to more priests who followed Zahhak and her to assemble a caravan of gifts to head to Yas’ island and bestow gifts upon the young prince and his bride.
The grey crows showed up at Azmelqart’s terrace in his limestone tower and cawed. It had been years since Ahab’s death and the Morrighan crow’s war on them since they were last seen. Azmelqart was terrified and told Alisia something wasn’t right, but she assured him that the gods won’t let anything happen to Tyre because Eirene is one of the gods’ own. The wedding began at Melqart’s temple and each priest of every faith came forth with gifts for the bride and groom. Then it came the turn of Az who now was a young priestess of Zahhak’s temple coming from Mesopotamia to congratulate the royals on their wedding.
“My king and queen, prince and princess; we the people of Mesopotamia wish to extend our heartiest wishes of fertility and long reign for you. I kindly request you accept our humble offering of white musk mixed with violet blossoms to bring good energy and prosperity to the young bride” said Az as she bowed offering her bottle to Eirene.
“Thank you, priestess. Which order do you represent and what do we call you?” asked Azmelqart.
“I am Melina your humble servant from Ishtar’s temple in Zakoura, Mesopotamia. We also bring you cradles for the babies, silks, and carpets, and of course multiple outfits for the young bride and groom” said Az.
The people were astonished from the length of the priestess’ caravan that consisted of thirty camels loaded with the finest gifts. The priests of other temples were of course humbled and ashamed as their gifts’ caravans along with the city merchants didn’t have that much to offer. Naturally, Az was given a seat at the banquet next to Eirene.
The people danced all night and the banquets were open to the poor and the public on the honor of the young royals. It was customary that the groom is made to dance with all the maidens in the city to mark the end of his bachelorhood while Eirene watched her young groom laugh. Az who was very observant leaned to Eirene: “Do not worry princess, you are the fairest amongst them all. All you must do is bear him an heir and you shall secure his loyalty. Kings are men after all and men love their children” said Az cunningly.
“Thank you, Melina. I have my worries because this is not a love marriage but rather an obligation to spread peace and justice to protect the people from war and hunger. I hope that I conceive before next spring” said Eirene.
That night everyone went home past midnight and the newly weds had their honeymoon in the palm gardens cottage. Eirene who was a simple girl, sprayed on some of Az’s perfume before the prince went into her chambers. Both royals bonded and the royal court declared the marriage consummated the next morning. It wasn’t a weeklong before Azmelqart was beginning to fall ill and the great botanist Iyad was called to tend to him. The king knew his time was nearing and asked his counselors for an urgent meeting to declare his heir. In the afternoon of the same day, Azmelqart gathered the people to celebrate Metan’s coronation as the rightful king of Sidon and Tyre. The king continued to deteriorate over the next days until he was finally laid to rest in the royal burial grounds beneath Melqart’s temple. Alisia followed him after a year soon after it was declared that Eirene was found pregnant with the first royal baby. Struck by grief from the loss of both of his parents, the king grew distant and buried himself with court matters or prayers at Melqart’s temple. Eirene continued to spray Az’s perfume in hope that he comes back to her.
The days progressed and Eirene gave birth to a beautiful baby girl whom she named as Elissar as in pledged to god. Metan was not pleased with her being a girl for he wanted a boy. He secretly blamed the queen for giving birth to a girl and stopped visiting her chambers. Eirene was sad but she instilled in Elissar love, kindness, and wisdom. During this period, Metan was seeing a lot of priests in Melqart’s temple for comfort and counsel as the attacks of the Persians was increasing on the nearby Phoenician territories in Arwad and Ugarit. The unified Phoenician army managed to defeat their forces, but they were exhausted from the winter and the continuous battles. Known as a heavy drunkard, the king found consolation in the company of dancers and bards after each battle he rode to instead of spending his time with his wife. The people were also angry because they suffered heavier taxes to pay for the ammunitions of the army. He also had every able man and young boys as young as fifteen join the army to defend Arwad and Ugarit.
One night, the king was too drunk and lonesome, a young dancer called Lamia sang to the prince and danced so well that he asked she be brought to his chambers. The young dancer was called Lamia and was a well-known acrobat from Ugarit known for her beauty and wit. The king had his way with her then paid her and sent her away. That night, the prince cast his seed in Az and she now bore him a son. The wars continued till twenty years later leaving Tyre and Sidon stricken with poverty, crime, and riots. Many people were sent to jail for defying Metan’s authority. And as more and more people were put to jail, the priests of Melqart began reminiscing the days of Azmelqart and Alisia. They began to conspire against Metan and called for a meeting in Ashmoon’s Temple.
At the temple, the merchants of Sidon and Tyre spoke of the losses they’ve had to incur due to Metan’s high taxes and tyrant soldiers who raided their shops and took whatever they wanted. The priests complained that even the offerings and donations that were given to their temples were taken by Metan’s soldiers. The people were angry and demanded that the King be overthrown and tried at Melqart’s temple for tyranny and betrayal of Melqart’s teachings on justice. Amidst the screaming merchants and priests, a wise old priest banged on the table with a large leather book and shouted: “Silence. We are in war. We can’t fight enemies if we are fighting amongst ourselves. Our king might have made a mistake but removing him with no replacement is not an option. We can’t rely on any of the cities’ counselors because they are more corrupt. And therefore, I have consulted our old books on Melqart’s ways. As you know Metan has no male heir that can sit on the throne but Elissar daughter of Eirene is his progeny from the gods Themis and Shaher. She is no ordinary mortal. This is why I believe she is the rightful queen and she alone can remove Metan. She is eighteen years of age now. All those in favor, raise your hands”.
And just before the merchants and priests could raise their hands to vote. Melina stepped forward and shouted: “Wait, you said that Metan has no heir and Elissar can sit but what if I tell you Metan has a son from another woman. How sure are you Elissar’s mother is who she says she is? I think you need to put the rightful person in the rightful seat. We all want another Azmelqart and Elissar is no Azmelqart. She is a woman”.
“How dare you accuse our king of adultery woman! You are a priestess. You should respect your oath and speak only the truth!” said the old priest.
“I have proof old man. You all know Lamia of Ugarit whom the prince was seeing regularly after every battle. He gave her his seal so she can cash her dues and have all her needs met. She has Metan’s son. He is a spitting image of Metan. Bagmellion show yourself my child” shouted Melina.
Everyone in the temple gasped as Bagmellion stood in front of the crowd. The resemblance was impeccable. He had the same height, hair, and eye color. He had the same dimples and even body built. The merchants and priests got divided and began to argue amongst themselves. The priests decided to support Elissar meanwhile the merchants decided to support Bagmellion. The priests believed in the prophecy that a god’s descendent shall save their city and carry their heritage across the seas. By the end of the day the merchants rode back with Bagmellion to Arwad to have him meet Kayan the commander in chief who was loved by the people. They convinced Kayan that Metan was no longer fit to run Tyre and Sidon and thereby unfit to command the eastern wing of Phoenician forces if they were to stop the Persian march upon the Phoenician lands. Kayan was a reasonable man who knew of Metan’s troubles but wasn’t keen on dethroning an ally amidst a war. He agreed to offer Bagmellion protection in exchange for the merchants’ support of his forces with supplies at a reasonable price.
News of Bagmellion’s quest for the throne reached Metan who was enraged and felt betrayed. He was determined to cleanse his name and keep the throne for Elissar as he had promised his father Azmelqart. He sent word to Kayan to arrange a meeting with Bagmellion to discuss matters. Eirene was afraid for Metan and so she decided to take matters into her hand. She removed her tiara and dismantled her sapphires. She stitched the green sapphire which she had soldered into a locket to Metan’s cape. Then sent the yellow sapphire on a ring to Kayan as a token of support for his decision. She gave Nesrine the high priestess of Themis’ temple the pink sapphire as a reward for her loyalty and entrusted her to give the orange sapphire to Touran the head merchant of Arwad as a token of wisdom. She kept her tiara’s crescent in a locket and forged a diadem of Palmerian gold with the white sapphire for Elissar. She told Elissar that she must wear her diadem throughout her life for it shall guide her spiritually through her journey and her reign. She told her that she who wears the crown must bear it and that one day she shall find the star sapphire of destiny.
Eirene begged Metan not to meet Bagmellion because she sensed dark forces around this man’s aura and that it didn’t matter if he gave in to his request because the man was not from this world. Metan didn’t listen to Eirene and told her to go back to the world she came from for this was a fight among mortals for the world they built and live in. His words cut through her soul and for the first time in years she shed tears. Her tears caused waves around Yas to grow wild and bash the castle. She slowly withered as more of her mortal body began to evolve into a watery consistency. Elissar was scared for her mother as her father embarked on his journey to Arwad and called for Nesrine for guidance. Nesrine was clear that Eirene’s days in the mortal world were numbered. Soon Eirene will depart part would return to Themis and part will join Shaher. Stricken with fear and dismay, the people in Tyre realized that the king had angered the gods by breaking the heart of Eirene. They began to assemble in legions to follow Metan’s legion and crush him Arwad. By noon, Eirene asked Elissar to take her to the sea to speak to her mother Themis. Elissar cried knowing that these would be her last moments with her mother.
“Be brave my child. Your destiny awaits you. Your name shall be written in the stars as the ambassador of this nation to the world and pioneer of navigators. You shall have a kingdom with cities that shall spread throughout the old world. My time has come to an end but yours is about to begin. Take me home. Lay me to rest where my soul will finally find peace. Remember your heart is the heart of this nation. Your heart shall bring forth the star sapphire of destiny. Remember bravery isn’t the absence of fear. I shall watch over you in the coming days always” said Eirene.
Elissar sobbed as she and the guards carried Eirene out of her palanquin and set her on the shore for the waves to carry. Themis rose from the sea with open arms engulfing Eirene whose body became one with the sea leaving it sparkly like a thousand diamonds sawn into dust under a scorching sun. Thousands of rainbows lit the heavens as Eirene’s crescent shone beaming her spirit to Shaher across the sky. It rained tears of pearls that evening as the sea combed Tyre’s shores with treasures and broken shells. From a distance the bells tolled in the temples declaring mourning for the fallen queen. They now had to wait for their king’s return or face a war between their future queen and the king’s bastard son.
And as Elissar was heading to the castle a young man introduced himself as Pridon a knight of the Themis order. Before Elissar good drive him away in her grief, Pridon told her that it was Eirene’s wish that he become her protector and showed her the blue sapphire of meditation beneath his bangs resting on his diadem. Immediately, Elissar invited him into the castle and asked for his counsel. He suggested that she acquaint herself with the castle’s secret passages and pack light in the night because Metan did not stand a chance to fight Bagmellion. He told her how Lamia was in fact Az’s mortal incarnation and mother of Bagmellion. “My queen, you can not fight such evil. Bagmellion will bring the Persians the Phoenician lands on a silver platter. The Phoenicians have forgotten the Morrighan Crow’s ways and succumbed to corruption and power. Now blood must again cleanse blood” said Pridon in a warning tone.
Upon his counsel, Elissar prepared for the journey and waited in the castle. Meanwhile Metan by then had reached Arwad and was met by Bagmellion’s forces. He fought well and managed to cause Bagmellion’s forces significant losses but had to retreat to a marshland that was muddy and lower than Bagmellion’s archery. He tried to send for support from Kayan, but he as well was fighting for his life in Ugarit. The Persians had arrived by boat in large numbers and used Greek fire on the troops who couldn’t put out the fire. In the end, Kayan was slaughtered and crucified to a pine tree and left for crows to feast on. By the next sundown Bagmellion had acquired the yellow sapphire that directed him to the green sapphire in Metan’s cape. He instructed his troops to surround Metan and slice away his cape. Once the cape fell to the ground, Metan’s protection was over and he became weak. Bagmellion offed his head and planted it on a spear collecting the green sapphire.
News reached Tyre of the Phoenician army’s massacre with the fall of Arwad and Ugarit. They were horrified to know of Kayan’s death and Metan’s as well. Bagmellion sent a grey crow to the priests and merchants of Tyre claiming his sovereignty on Sidon and Tyre. He ordered that all Eirenean Sapphires be handed to him or he shall have the head of Elissar and her throne. Nesrine who was aware of Bagmellion’s malicious nature, devised a plan to buy time. She told them that Elissar was key to the tiara of Eirene and only Elissar can summon the star sapphire that can command all the remaining sapphires. She advised them to hand over the sapphires gradually until the queen is safe and out of Tyre. She said that the path to peace comes at the price of war and Touran must declare his allegiance to Bagmellion as king and give him his orange sapphire. Once the queen leaves Yas, she -Nesrine- will declare her allegiance to Bagmellion and hand over her pink sapphire. The priests and merchants were afraid for their lives knowing who Bagmellion was and the armies that served him. They quickly agreed to Nesrine’s plan but before they could exit their meeting, queen Elissar joined them. The crowd gasped in fear and wondered why she was wandering outside the castle with only one knight – Pridon.
“My brave people I am here today to show you my support. No one must die for a king or a throne. We are facing a nation of conquerors and tyrants ruled by a beast not a mortal. Let us feed their greed. Tonight we shall make preparations for a banquet and serve these men the best of our mead then let them know that our city is full of treasures cast on the sea in bags. They will be drunk and follow the glitter of the gold and jewels. While they chase the gold, we will be on our ships sailing far away from this greed-stricken land. Let Bagmellion rule stones and empty houses. Those of you who choose to remain in the land shall bear years of slavery and shame. I have assembled the treasures of both Sidon and Tyre in loosely tied sacks and cast them on the shore tied by a thin line. Who from you is willing to join me on an adventure to find glory and rewrite a history of a dignified nation that refuses to die?” said the queen.
All the priests and the merchants agreed to Elissar’s counsel but also decided to apply Nesrine’s suggestion to make Bagmellion believe their scheme. Bagmellion arrived at Yas’ castle gates welcomed as a king with bands marching and throwing petals of roses on him. As his horse entered the gates of the city a young boy approached him and offered a tiara of olive leaves to the arrogant prince. Bagmellion laughed and asked the boy to come closer. He slit the boy’s throat and said: “I come here as a conqueror and you offer me an olive leaves’ tiara? I do not come to give you peace. I have come to destroy you insignificant mortals. You shall live and worship me with fear for your corruption summoned me here. The reign of the Morrighan Crow is over. It is Az’s time. I am Bagmellion Az in Phoenicia, weakling!”
The remaining priests pushed the gates open as a group of women pulled away the boy’s corpse and swept the blood. Not a sound was made as the drums continued to drum. Bagmellion entered with his men and slaughtered as many as he could all the way until he reached the banquet’s hall. He stood on Azmelqart’s throne and shouted: “I am Bagmellion the almighty and most powerful. You want the gods; here I am a god amongst you. I am not a weakling seeking unity with nothings like you. I order and you obey. You live to serve me not question my ways. Tonight, my men shall have mead and be merry. Tomorrow I marry your Elissar and bring my progeny to rule your filthy lands with terror for centuries to come. Drink and eat my beasts. We have plenty to reap”.
The music played and the wine poured as the blood of the innocent filled the floors. They partied as Bagmellion grew weary of the court’s entertainment and shouted: “Bring me the weaklings’ so-called goddess-queen Elissar. Let me see my so called half sister whom you all favor. Let me show you how ungodly she is with the tip of my blade”.
“Sire, sire, Elissar is escaping on a ship. We have the high priestess Nesrine bearer of the pink sapphire” said the breathless soldier.
“Bring Themis’ tramp to me. Let me show you how well Themis protects her servants.” said Bagmellion. The guards threw Nesrine at Bagmellion’s feet who raised her head and pierced her throat with his sword pulling her head off her shoulders. Her blood gushed on the floor and the pink sapphire rolled out of her palm on the floor to swim in her blood.
“Here, take it. I do not want it. You can kill me as well. I do not wish to live a slave for a beast like you”. Said Touran.
The guards pushed Touran to Bagmellion who stabbed Touran in the mouth with his sword that pierced his skull to the other side and took the orange sapphire from him.
Bagmellion chuckled: “Fools! A worthless sacrifice! I now have four of the six sapphires. All I need are the remaining two and I know who has them. I shall kill your queen and wear her sapphires in my crown to my coronation. After her!”
The soldiers scrambled over the blood and bodies of the people, priestess, and merchant outside the gates hoping to catch Elissar. Nesrine and Touran’s sacrifice bought her enough time to gain wind in her sails as the shore swell with waves. On her signal, the sailors pulled the string and unleashed the thread tying the loose sacks of gold to pour their treasures on the shore and in the water. The soldiers were dazzled by the riches and began to collect the treasures.
“No, no, fools. After her. She has much more on the ship. Stop her!” shouted Bagmellion.
But the soldiers who were too greedy got busy collecting the treasures as Elissar’s ship sailed farther into the sea. Themis rose from the sea and cast Elissar’s ship far away into the open waters causing the waves to rise and crush the soldiers beneath it. Bagmellion barely managed to escape.
The people on the ship were relieved that they were far from Bagmellion and his men. The ship set course to Africa and after half a month they were in the Aegean Sea. They anchored for a few days to get supplies and kidnapped eighty virgins from Cyprus to make wives for Elissar’s men. The women were terrified but Elissar reassured them that they shall be treated fairly and be honored as the mothers of a rising nation of heroes. She dressed each in red silken tunic and gave each a diadem with a phoenix in its center. Bagmellion was right, Elissar had much more treasures stowed in her ship than she had left for the soldiers at Tyre’s shores.
A month later, they landed in Tunisia and met with the Birbir chieftain and asked to purchase a land. The king had heard of Elissar’s fallen kingdom and treasures. He offered to sell her a land as big as the biggest ox she could find. Elissar’s men were angry but she didn’t argue and agreed to the Birbir Chieftain’s decision. She ordered her men to find the biggest ox slaughter it and skin it. Later with the help of the women they cut the ox’s hide into thin rope like strands and tied it making a very long tape and surrounded a heavily forested area close to the shore. That day, Elissar showed the king her chosen spot and he was amazed by her ruse. He offered to double the area she purchased and signed a treaty with her offering her protection if she allowed him to trade on her ships with the nearby territories. Elissar topped his offer by offering to teach his people how to write letters and negotiate with the Greeks. Years went by and Elissar called her newfound kingdom Qarrathadshat i.e. the new city that was known to the Greeks as Carthage the trade center of the Mediterranean. With her newfound allegiance, Carthage traded with the Angles in the British Isles selling them pottery, red murex silks, and literacy sessions in exchange for metal and swords. Her wealth and wisdom allowed her to build cities across north Africa, the Arabian Peninsula on the Indian Ocean all named as Tyre, Sidon, Arwad, and Byblos in memory of the Phoenician cities in the land of the cedars.
News of her success reached Bagmellion who was wallowing in poverty because plague had stricken the land. He new that Foroohar the Birbir King wasn’t happy that Carthage was ruled by Elissar only and sought to share the glory not just the revenues. Bagmellion wrote to Foroohar and arranged a meeting in Tabraq and told Foroohar that Elissar’s secret is her possession of the star sapphire, the stone of destiny and only he who marries her can unlock it and rule the world. Foroohar asked Bagmellion how to obtain the sapphire. Bagmellion, told him that he must help him kill Pridon the bearer of the blue sapphire and only he can kill the young man because he is Themis’ soldier. He told Foroohar that he wanted to kill Pridon in revenge for killing his father Ahab in service to Azmelqart Elissar’s grandfather. Foroohar was a tribesman who believed in revenge and saw Elissar as traitor but wanted her star sapphire more than anything.
Now it was customary in Tunisia to celebrate full moon by holding banquets in the open ocean on boats to Shaher the moon God. As a Birbir King, Foroohar invited Elissar to the banquet as his guest of honor in celebration of their ten years of fruitful allegiance. Both Carthagian and Birbir peoples were in good terms and welcomed this move hoping that this would be the day both kingdoms would unite in marriage. The Birbir king was set to take the stone of destiny by marriage or by blood under the full moon.
And as the two peoples gathered on the boats to witness the two royals celebrate, Foroohar asked to make a toast: “Elissar of Tyre and Queen of Carthage, my people and I are very grateful that you have joined us on this holy day. We know your mother Eirene was Shaher’s daughter and you carry his holy blood in your veins. It is my people’s humble request that you honor us by joining our peoples and become the queen of the Birbir as well.”
Silence fell upon the people waiting for Elissar to reply. The wind was still as Elissar pulled a young girl close to her. Her name was Kyra and she was the prettiest creature the Birbir and Carthageans hand seen.
“Your excellence, King Foroohar, I follow my mother’s footsteps who married a humble mortal. I have given my heart to my protector Pridon and this is my heir Kyra, our love child. I am honored and humbled with your request. What we have is peace and prosperity. My people have families with your people and your people have families with my people. We are one in heart and solidarity” said Elissar.
The Birbirs were insulted and began shouting angrily as the Carthageans were shocked to know that their queen had had a child outside of holy matrimony. But before anyone could speak, Bagmellion had sent an arrow towards Pridon. Elissar saw it coming and stood between the arrow and Pridon. Bagmellion was maddened by his failure and took aim at Kyra but Elissar again shielded Kyra with her body. That day the queen took two arrows in her heart. Immediately, two cracks formed in Elissar’s white sapphire that was situated in her tiara and began to beam with light. She fell into the arms of Pridon who wept with Kyra wondering why she would take an arrow for him when he should be the one protecting her.
Elissar wiped Pridon’s tears and said: “It is my destiny to fight greed with love and tyranny with peace. Take care of my heart Pridon, Kyra” She gestured to Pridon to put the star sapphire adorned tiara on Kyra’s head and told her to repeat after her: “Sapphires blue of the ocean green of prosperity, yellow of friendship, orange of wisdom, pink of love, and white of spirituality; I command thee to give me light to smite darkness for the phoenix to rise from the fire and banish Az”.
With her tears rolling down her cheeks, Kyra wore her tiara and repeated after her mother. Her tiara beamed bright light burning Bagmellion into ash with every sapphire that aligned itself on the tiara. The people watched in wonder as Pridon turned into a blue fire and Elissar into a golden phoenix that was wrapped in the blue fire. The blue phoenix rose to the full moon in the sky and lit the heavens burning all of Bagmellion’s lurking troops that were in nearby boats and on the shore.
The people carried Kyra on their shoulders and declared her queen of the Birbirs and Carthageans and ordered that Foroohar be banished to Tabraq until the end of his days.
In the end, Eirene’s words came true, Elissar’s heart released the star sapphire’s stone of destiny powers and till now she is known as the founder of Qarrathadshat and the reason why there is a Tripoli in Lebanon and another in Libya; a Sidon and Tyre in Lebanon and another in Oman. In the end peace will always conquer greed when the people become the change to change the way things work to work for the people.
Author’s Notes: Elissar is the embodiment of peace and sacrifice in the name of love for people and country. She is the phoenix that summarizes the Lebanese Republic in modern times in a time when leaders are worshiped for influence and money via oppression.
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