Dear readers, tonight with us is a man from the ancient world. He is here to tell us about his life, from Thracian roots, a childhood in Rhodes, and a slavery in Egypt — as well as about temples, gods, and dark magic.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
As best I remember, I grew up in a prosperous family on the island of Rhodes, site of the glorious Colossus of Helios. I say ‘as best I remember’, because my memories are fractured, and I am subject to spells of madness.
That is most unfortunate. How did this happen to you?
I fear I have only myself to blame.
My father was a merchant of Rhodes, but my mother hailed from Thrace, the land of witches. When I was a babe, I watched her with her handmaids performing magical rites. Later, when I was older, I would sneak from my bed on nights of the full moon and climb to the roof of the house, where I could spy on her ceremonies. It seems I learned more than was good for me.
How do you mean?
In the last memories I have of Rhodes, I was 19. Spring had come, the Festival of Dionysus. It was my favorite time of year; I played the lyre and was passionate about drama and song.
But that Dionysia was different. I used the witchcraft I had secretly learned from my mother to conjure the god, to help me win a singing contest. I also used his inspiration to compose satiric songs, to humiliate certain rivals—young men who had bullied me on many occasions. My strategy worked too well. The bullies were driven from the feast hall in shame. But the next morning they cornered me on the street and beat me nearly to death, smashing my head on the pavement.
What happened after that is unclear—painful fragments of memory. Eventually, I found myself in a slave yard in Egypt.
Where do you live now?
Now I am a scribe at the Temple of Ptah, in Memphis on the Nile. I translate documents from Egyptian to Greek, as required by King Ptolemy of Alexandria. I am also used as a seer by my master, the High Priest Harnouphis.
That is a sad tale indeed. What do you hope for now?
I believe I am gifted with magical talent, a legacy from my mother. I wish to learn the divine arts, so I can heal my mind, and eventually win my freedom.
I have asked Harnouphis if I might be initiated and study the Egyptian Mysteries. But he makes only vague promises. I sense that he wishes to keep my talents strictly for his own use.
If that is the case, what can you do?
I am not sure.
The last time Harnouphis placed me in trance, he used me to guide him in a vision to some world beyond this one. We walked a maze, to a secret chamber occupied by Ptah the Great Artisan God. Harnouphis ordered me to wait at the threshold, while he entered.
But, hoping to gain knowledge or power, I disobeyed him and rushed inside. (I am rash and reckless by nature, it seems.) I was overwhelmed, shattered by the sound and brilliance of the god’s presence. I lay unconscious for two days.
So, rebelling against your master did you no good.
Indeed not. But I will not give up.
I wander the temple grounds at night sometimes, too restless to sleep. Late one night, I met an old man at the bathing pool outside the House of Life. That is the scriptorium where magical texts are stored and candidates gain initiation. He said he was a doorkeeper there. He told me that if I was intent on initiation that I must keep trying, that the doors of the sacred knowledge do not always open the first time one knocks.
Are there no pleasures or satisfactions in your life?
Yes. The work is interesting sometimes, and the vision-work I do for Harnouphis, that is most intriguing—the parts of it I can remember.
What about friends or lovers?
Katep is my friend, the supervisor of scribes in my section. He is a kind and jovial man. And there is Itaji.
She is a dancer, a lovely girl. Harnouphis pays her to sleep with me. But she is also a friend. She has brought me statuettes of Isis and Hathor and taught me their prayers.
So then, your life is not totally unpleasant?
It is comfortable enough. Sometimes I feel like a sacred beast: well-fed, well-tended, and used for other men’s rituals.
It is intolerable!
Because you are a slave?
That, yes. But worse, I feel my Greek self fading away. I must know if I truly am that Korax of Rhodes I remember! I must find a way to escape this accursed captivity and return to the Greek world!
And you hope that learning the sacred arts will lead to this end?
Yes. I… I will tell you a secret. When I first arrived in this place, and my memories started to return, the Goddess Isis came to me in a vision. She made it clear that I had used divine power for cruel and selfish ends, and that I must expiate that crime. Then she asked me a question, one I cling to as my purpose and my hope: “Are you willing to serve the gods?”
Jack Massa has studied writing and other forms of magic for many years. He has published fantasy, science fiction, poetry, and oodles of technical nonfiction. Jack’s current projects include The Abby Renshaw Adventures (YA paranormal fantasy),The Glimnodd Cycle (epic fantasy featuring ice boats, witches, and pirates) and the Conjurer of Rhodes series (historical fantasy set in the ancient world). Jack lives in Florida, USA, with his magical wife and a pet orange tree named Grover.
You can find Korax on the pages of The Mazes of Magic.
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