Flash Fiction Thursday: Thief in the Temple

Ruins of the Temple at Delphi, google search image.

Thief in the Temple

As Artemis’ moon hung big and round and orange in the sky, and Zandra hid behind the towering stone columns and glanced over her shoulders, down the steps of the temple at Delphi.  In the darkness, the streets were empty.  She clasped her hands close to her breast and felt the pounding of her heart.  It was so terrifying and different, it could hardly be her own.  She felt the eyes of Athena on her, and was unprepared for her wrath.  The Oracle was corrupt, and she took the sacrifices and indulges the people brought to her to give false prophecies.  Only a fortnight ago the Oracle had assured her brother’s survival, but now he was dead, in the skirmishes in the countryside.  Adelphous’ story was not the first of the Oracle’s treacheries; he was one of many casualties of her clouded eye.

And so, taking back the gold pieces that they had given the Oracle to barter with the Goddess… it wasn’t thievery.  She could steal nothing from the goddess if it had not been presented to her.  Without Adelphous to mind the household in their father’s continued absense and to help with the grain harvest, they could scarce afford food to survive.  Her mother had already dismissed what servants they could  afford, and now, the family was desperate.  So Zandra had said nothing and disappeared with the cover of night.  She would not tell her mother, her sister.  She would not shame her family.  She would not be caught.

Zandra took her sandals in one hand and took the hem of her white linen dress in the other.  From her many visits, she knew the layout of the temple well.  At night, the Oracle disappeared to a separate room, where she attended to herself, for nobody could see her face.  The priestesses would be retired throughout the temple.  In the moonlight, she could barely make out the shapes of them as the rested on the stone floor.

One step at a time, she walked between the soundly sleeping priestesses.  The altar was at the farthest end of the temple, and she need only to be slow and soft in her footsteps.  There was no sound but her own footsteps, and the breathing of the priestesses.  Sometimes she could feel their breath on her feet as she moved.  The altar stood in front of her now, piled with treasures.  She let the hem of her dress fall to the ground and reached out her free hand to grasp some coins by the edge.

“Awaken!  Awaken!”  a female voice rang like thunder to the sleeping priestesses.  Zandra froze, but even as her mind was paused with fear, her feet knew to flee, and between the rousing devotees of Athena, she ran.

“Awaken!” the voice continued to appeal.  “The Oracle!  Athena has taken the Oracle!”

Zandra did not stay to hear the details.  She ran as quickly as her feet would carry her and did not stop until the Temple at Delphi, now lit with candles, was less than the height of her hand.  In the escape, she had dropped both of her sandals, but it hardly mattered.  She would do without.

Goddess protect them all, the Oracle was dead.


Author’s Note:
I’ve been sitting on this idea and will definitely come back to Zandra and Adelphous in a more refined short story, preferably not written while watching Pirates of the Caribbean:  At World’s End.  I don’t think that I could comfortably write a full-length historical fiction novel, but sometimes it’s nice to work with it in short stories.  Gotta use my degree for something, after all.  Was inspired to write something ancient-Greek since I saw My Life in Ruins and Cassandra Jade’s recent post inspired this specific story.
Much love,


6 Responses to “Flash Fiction Thursday: Thief in the Temple”

  1. 1 Mckenzie August 12, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    This is really interesting. I’m not too knowledgable when it comes to Greek mythology, but I really like what you’ve written!

  2. 3 deepwellbridge August 14, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Nicely written. I really like the descriptions it really places me there in your story. What is it that the temple of Athena use for sacrifices, money and grain? So your degree is in Greek history or mythology?

    I’ve been working on a sci fi short set on Mars that uses a large amount of Greek mythos, a sort of return to the gods set a time 500 years from now. I may be asking you questions in the future:)

    • 4 slytherclawchica August 15, 2010 at 11:53 am

      I’m assuming treasures are potty, grain, and coins. Stuff like that. I am a European History major, but I took one class about a year ago Ancient Greek History and I was trying to draw information that I remembered from that class.

      However, I obsess over the Greek Pantheon, so I know this and that about the mythology. This was set more in the history, though, so I didn’t get to show off my knowledge. ^^

      • 5 deepwellbridge August 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm

        Typos can be so funny sometimes. Potty treasures seem like such a wait for it… waist of time:)

        Greek history is so fascinating. We have a lot to thank them for. Without them democracy wouldn’t even exist. Studying their gods is also quite fascinating if not highly gruesome.

        This may be a dumb question but I’ve always wondered, did any of their temples practice human sacrifice?

      • 6 slytherclawchica August 16, 2010 at 12:28 am

        *facepalm* Oops!

        And… not as far as I know. But the battlefield was definitely bloody enough and many times battles would be fought for purpose (.A.) but in the name of Athena or Apollo. There is definite mention of human sacrifice in Oedipus Rex, but I don’t know if that’s a reality or fiction. … I think it was Oedipus. Definitely one of the plays I read in my course.

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something to think about

"You know, I don't know if you'll understand this or not, but sometimes, even when I'm feeling very low, I'll see some little thing that will somehow renew my faith. Something like that leaf, for instance - clinging to its tree despite wind and storm. You know, that makes me think that courage and tenacity are about the greatest values a man can have. Suddenly my old confidence is back and I know things aren't half as bad as I make them out to be. Suddenly I know that with the strength of his convictions a man can move mountains, and I can proceed with full confidence in the basic goodness of my fellow man. I know that now. I know it." ~ End of Act I in the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

competing for the house cup

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