Only fish, fools, and crocodiles swim in the river Nile. Well I have seen dogs dip in the blue swirly waters, but they count as fools. We cats, we are land loving creatures. Neither I nor my sister friend, Cleo, have the slightest desire to entrust our lives to a leaky boat.
Sober is the god of the Nile, and his head is a crocodile. That tells you all you need to know about the river. If you dip so much as a paw into its waters, Sober or one of his sacred crocs might bite hold of it!
I have seen boats glide down the shimmering band of blue, carrying all sorts of cargoes, barley flour, salt, spices, but mainly people, soldiers, slaves, merchants… I’ve seen a boat so overloaded with pilgrims, dancing, waving and partying, that it turned over and tipped them all into the water.
I’ve always thought: “No way will you ever catch a smart cat like me on board one of those floating death traps.”
So now, you ask me, how is it that I am hanging my head over the edge of one of those wooden boats and belching up into the Sacred Waters? And how come that Cleo, who shares my views on the perils of wetness is here with me?
If you heard my previous story, you will know that our master,Amon the Priest, was locked up in Jail. He was wrongly accused of stealing a gold statue of our glorious cat goddess, Lady Bastet. Lady Bastet herself told us that the high priest, Simon the Greek was the guilty party who had pilfered the statue and that his plan was to sell it to pirates. Simon is ahead of us. He has taken the statue up river to the city of Naucratis, up in the river delta where fingers of the Nile reach out into the sea and the lush crops grow all around where the waters flood.
We have to prove that Amon is innocent, or we are done for.Nobody else will look after us the way he does. Without his protection, we will be a couple of stray kitties hanging amongst thousands skinny, scraggy, fleabitten mogs. We’ll be scrounging through rubbish heaps and hanging around pilgrims me-owing for scraps. We’ll be lucky if we dine on one mouse a week!
So that’s why are suffering from travel sickness !
Finally! Lady Bastet be praised! We two kitties have made it safely onto dry land. Here we are at the port of Naucratis. You could hardly know that we are still in Egypt.The humans here are speaking a strange language. It is all Greek to me ! This is a Greek city and trading port inside Egypt. Our Pharaoh lets the Greeks live here because it’s profitable to sell them things. Oh my! What a busy place !
Meehow ! That cart nearly ran over my tail!
So many people ! This way and that they go, carrying things on and off the ships, selling things, arguing over things, fighting over things, or just hanging around.
We must make a dash for somewhere quiet before somebody treads on us. Let’s head for that doorway Cleo !
All day we sloped around the port. They trade all sorts here - cargoes of flour, large watermelons, fabrics, clothes, swords, helmets, trinkets, but we are yet to see any sacred statues.
We spoke to a ship’s cat from the island of Samos. He’s a rough looking fellow - half his ear was bitten off in a fight. He was helpful, but I didn’t like the way he eyed my gold earring. He told us that it is illegal to sell sacred statues.
“So,” said Cleo, “we might as well go home. They won’t be selling sacred statues round here.”
The sly old ship’s cat scratched his half-ear. “I don’t say it don’t go on,” he told us, “Lots of things go on here that aren’t supposed to.”
“You mean stuff that’s against the law?” asked Cleo.
“You said it, kitty-face, not me!” he meowed.
Now if you know anything about bad stuff, you’ll understand that a lot of it goes on at night.The humans don’t see well in the dark, and they think that their evil deeds won’t be spotted by people. As for us cats, our eyes can spot a mouse in the shadows, so we like the night, but we also get into fights in the dark. The dark is kind of thrilling to us, but also dangerous.
Cleo and I crouched and watched the ships. We swished our tails when we saw a ship’s rat scurrying down a gangplank, but we had to hold ourselves back from pouncing. It’s probably for the best. He was a tough rodent who would have fought back tooth and claw.
We were waiting to catch a bigger mouse. Our prize was none other than the gold statue of Lady Bastet.
All night we waited. We saw suspicious characters come and go. We heard music, laughter, and fights. A knife glinted in the moonlight, and a sailor had to hand over his gold coin to a couple of robbers. A ship’s captain shouted at his crew because they had eaten all food when he returned home from a night on the town.
We hid from a pack of wild dogs, and we chatted with the cats who creep around the docks where they unload the fish. We even spoke to the sea gulls.
But noone had any intel on Simon the Greek, the thief priest from our temple, nor of the statue of lady Bastet.
It was almost morning when we chatting with a greek cat called Zelina.
“Cheer up,” she meowed, “Apollo is rising above the city. That means the fishing boats will soon be back,”
“Who is Apollo?” Cleo asked.
“Why, everyone knows he is the Sun God who heralds the day.”
“Oh, you mean Ra,” I said. These Greeks have got their gods all mixed up, but with a little comparing you can work out who they are talking about. And then, just as an afterthought, I said : “What do you Greeks call your cat goddess?”
“Well as it happens,” said Zelina, “We Greeks are lacking a cat goddess. Cats are unknown on mount Olympus.”
“Really?”said Cleo. “That’s so uncivilised. Shocking!”
“You are surely right, “ said Zelina, “ But fortunately change is afoot. Our ship’s captain has his eye on a beautiful statue of the Egyptian Cat Goddess. He plans to take her back to Greece. I can’t wait to see the look on the stupid dogs’ faces when they see our master bow down to a cat goddess before he fries a fat juicy fish for her breakfast, which we shipshape cats shall share in, of course.”
“Of course,” we agreed. “But deerest Zelina, do tell us, where is this cat goddess you mention?”
She pointed with her paw down a long avenue. We thanked Zelina and scampered straight off, “Hey, aren’t you waiting for the fishing boats?” she called after us.
But we were in a hurry.
“Where are we going?” Asked Cleo, as we ran.
“To Simon the Greek and the statue,” I meowed.
“But where is he?”
“Down this road somewhere.”
On, on we went, down the avenue. It was mostly deserted. A few traders were setting up their stalls by the side of the road, ready to sell baked bananas and fried sheep eyes to the early risers.
But where would Simon the Greek be hanging out?
By now we were slowing down. We had pounded the road so hard that our paws were smarting.
Which of these many buildings was Simon the Greek staying in? We had forgotten to ask.
Thankfully, the goddess sent us a clue: something we were sure to notice : the smell of grilled sardines.
Then we saw that one of the buildings was a small temple, more of a shrine you might say. The feet of its twin gate posts were cats’ paws. This had to be the place. This had to be a shrine dedicated to our Lady Bastet.
We crept inside the courtyard, and sure enough, there we found him : Simon the Greek was cooking his breakfast.
The aroma was delicious. Normally we would have purred and rubbed ourselves around his legs until he either gave us a few titbits of fish or more likely told us to scram before he had us skinned, grilled, or sold us as kebabs
But this was no time to think of our stomachs. This was our one and only chance to save our master Amon and many future dinners given to us on plates.
Cleo hid behind the bronze gong. I placed myself behind the statue of Bastet. It was only a small stone statue mind you - not a patch on the gold and jewel encrusted statue stolen from our temple.
“Simon,” I hissed, using a little magic to sound like the voice of the goddess.
“Simon,” repeated Cleo, like a ghostly echo.
That got his attention. He is high priest to the cat goddess and he understands our cat language, as well a Greek and Egyptian. But he could not see us. He glanced over at the altar. It seems he believed that the goddess was addressing him.
“How did you think you could escape?” I went on. “Did you think that you could fool me, Lady Bastet. My blue eyes see through the dark. I am a witness to your thieving.”
“SSSSSSSSS!” Hissed Cleo supportively, out of sight.
How I wished that I could see his expression, to judge if he was falling for our trick ! But I had to remain hidden. I stayed silent for a few moments to let my words sink in. Then, gratifyingly, I heard him start to pray:
“Oh Glorious lady of the Cat Whiskers, you of the golden paws, the lapis blue eyes, the pointed nose, the rough tongue, and the elegant legs that move stealthily through the night. Here I am, Simon the Greek, your high priest, your humble servant. Your wish is my command.”
This was fantastic. I’ve always wanted a man to speak to me like that. If only I had been born a goddess, and could command this type of respect all the time.
“Listen up!” I said, “You’ve been a bad, bad boy. You’ve stolen my statue. I’m not pleased. Take it back immediately to the temple at Bakst. Don’t you dare sell it to greek pirates. Make sure the police know that it is returned to its rightful place, and that they let Amon the Priest out of jail, for he is entirely innocent. And while you are about it, give a special reward to his two cats, because they have remained faithful to him, and to me, all through these trials and tribulations.”
Simon the Greek bowed so deeply that I could hear his forehead hitting against the stone paw of the statue. That was gratifying. Still bowing he backed away from the alter, thanking the goddess for great mercy, and vowing to return the stolen effigy.
He was soon out of that shrine, and I’m glad to say he forgot to eat his breakfast, a task which we completed for him, soon enough.
I think you may rest assured that by next time I speak to you, all will be back to normal, and we shall be living once again with our master, Amon the Priest, newly restored from Jail, and we can look forward to lots of nice rewards.
Maya (10) and Liam (5) have been listening for over
four years and can’t imagine bedtime without it. Thank you Maya and Liam for supporting us on Patreon !