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Hi everybody!  Well, we're kicking off this writeathon with a story prompted and sponsored by titianblue, who requested "they also serve who only stand and wait." It takes place in the greater Princess and Monster universe, following Mara's family from a Family of Fools.

To Serve and Protect

It had been a freak accident, the kind that happened sometimes in every household.  Mara, Mordekhai, and Miriam had finished their Shabbat supper, and as they’d headed through the kitchen, back towards their beds, the knife rack had suddenly fallen off the wall.  There was a terrific clatter and commotion, and unable to see where the knives had fallen, Mordekhai gashed open his foot.

Mara panicked, but Miriam took charge, rushing to apply pressure and a dishtowel to staunch the blood.

“Go!  Get a doctor!” She signed to Mara with her free hand.

Mara was already out the door.

Outside, the wind had early ice, but Mara scarcely felt it.  All the houses were shut and dark; most of her countrymen were probably already asleep, and the doctor she knew obsessively followed the letter of halakha, rather than the spirit.  The Egyptian Quarter was a little further away, but at least she wouldn’t have to argue with them over whether Mordekhai’s condition was serious enough to warrant working on Shabbat.

She hurried to the main square and market.  Mara had never been out at Shabbat before, and the streets were dark and deserted.  Nobody was out tonight.

Except for the men.  In the dark, she couldn’t make out their faces, only that they were bearded as though they were her countrymen.  But none of her countrymen would be outside their homes on Shabbat.  For a moment, she hesitated.  Then she squared her shoulders and continued moving, annoyed that she’d let anyone stop her.  As she passed, they spoke to her.

“Where are you going, girl?  Why are you alone on Shabbat?”

Mara did not owe them an explanation.  She sped up still more, almost running now.  She didn’t care if she looked afraid; she was afraid, for her father.

“Where’s your husband?  Where’s your father?”

Mara spun on them and snapped, “Where’s yours?”

The men paused, startled.

“Is this what you think appropriate on Shabbat?  Leaving your house to harangue women?  Shame on you!  Shame!”

And she whirled to continue her quick march to the Egyptian Quarter.

“Hey!  You can’t talk to us like that!  Who do you think you are?”

A rock whizzed by her head, and Mara took off running.  The men gave chase.

Even the familiar streets of her youth looked strange and frightening now, and it took a moment for Mara to realize she’d missed the turn for the Egyptian Quarter.  Where could she go?  What could she do?  This was all golem quarters, and golems slept on Shabbat—but Mara could not run forever, and she was no fighter.

There!  The law golem quarters!  Even in the dark, she recognized that boxy, staid building, with the word “To Serve” engraved above the door.  The door were open, like always.  Operating on a child’s instincts—law golems were safe, they were kind, they had taught her mother sign language—Mara darted inside.

Golem quarters were similar to stables, with stalls filled with hay and raised pallets to sleep on.  Most of the golems let them be, preferring to sleep standing up, like horses.

Mara threw herself into the nearest stall she could, nearly bumping into the golem standing within.  Even though she knew it couldn’t see or feel her, she almost apologized reflexively.  Crouching behind it, she crawled under its pallet, burrowed into the hay, and prayed.

Sleeping golems did not turn over or mumble in their sleep, or even breathe.  They were still and silent, clay statues, and all Mara could hear was her thundering pulse, and outside, the footsteps of the men chasing her.  She heard them stop outside the quarters, hesitate.  To most people, law golems were unsettling even while awake; asleep, they were downright eerie.

“Come out, little girl!  Are we not your countrymen?” They called.

Mara started to shiver.

Then she heard a new voice, male, with a Kenanite accent: “Hey!  What are you doing here?  Who were you chasing?”

“Back off, old man, this is none of your business!”

“Don’t you know it’s Shabbat?  Are you trying to save a life?  No?  Then get out!  I will handle this.  Out!”

Mara heard the men grumble but leave.  She stayed hidden, even when footsteps came into the building, crunching straw and hay.

The new voice said, “Madam?  They’re gone now.  Are you all right?”

Mara carefully peeked out.  It was dark as pitch, but silhouetted against the night sky, she saw a gnarled old man. “Who are you?”

He bowed. “My name is Amon.  I live in the Kenanite Quarter; I watch over the golems while they sleep.”

Mara crawled out from under the pallet, brushing straw from her clothes. “My mother is Miriam, who works for the female golems.  Please, there’s no time to lose, my father’s hurt—”

She saw his eyes light with recognition. “Miriam’s daughter!  Come, I know a good Kenanite doctor…”

Despite his apparent age, Amon proved quite spry, and within no time at all, they were back at Mara’s home with the doctor, who tended her father’s foot.  Thankfully, it turned out not to be too serious; a couple of stitches and a powder to ease the pain were all that was needed.  Panic had made it seem worse than it was.

Reassured as to her parents’ well being, Mara clutched Amon’s hand and thanked him.

“Please tell the golems I’m sorry I invaded their rooms,” she told him. “I knew they couldn’t help me, I just didn’t know what else to do…”

“Think nothing of it,” he said, patting her hand. “You didn’t harm anything.  When they wake up, I’ll tell them what happened, and they’ll be very pleased that they were able to serve and protect you, even while they slept.  It will be the easiest job they’ve ever done!”

Mara laughed, and Amon and the doctor left to return to the Kenanite quarter.  Then she went to rejoin her family and finally go to bed.

Date: 2014-09-04 07:30 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (menorah)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Oh, I like this! Too bad the ultraOrthodox men there are so overboard. When human life is in danger, all prohibitions are nullified except those against murder, adultery, and idolatry, none of which figured here.

Date: 2014-09-04 08:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
In just about any belief system, I figure there are people who will use it to bolster whatever course of action they already want to do, no matter how clearly the belief system expresses its concepts.

Date: 2014-09-04 08:15 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Yeah, alas. But Amon knows, and stops them with it. (:->)

Date: 2014-09-07 01:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] natalief.livejournal.com
I liked this a lot but am confused about the knife wound:

Mordekhai gashed open his foot.
who tended her father’s arm.

Which was it? Foot or arm?

Date: 2014-09-07 02:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lb-lee.livejournal.com
Oops. I changed it midway through editing. I will fix it now. It was foot. Sorry about that!

--Rogan

Date: 2014-09-08 08:47 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I'd never have thought of that phrase applying to golems but it's just perfect. Love it.

Titianblue
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