Maryam sat with her back against the bole of an ancient olive tree and felt the warmth of the earth as a benison. She had stood, dry eyed, at the place of the skull until she was sure her husband was truly dead and then walked away. Walked until she could put one foot in front of the other no longer. She was very tired now.
Her swollen ankles throbbed, and the stranger in her belly moved so that a small hand or foot could briefly be seen pressing the loose linen of her robe. She felt a tear run down her face and wiped it away with her dusty fingers.
“Oh my love,” she said bitterly, “what of your promise now? Did you not vow to be mine for all our days?”
She thought she heard mocking laughter inside her head and recalled the smell of freshly worked wood in his father’s workshop on the day he told his parents he was going to marry her. His father had had smiled and nodded, but the woman who birthed him stared Maryam in the eyes.
“You won’t keep him, he’s not for the likes of you.”
And bitter Mary had been right. He was gone.
Gone, and if Maryam didn’t miss her guess they would be looking for her now. Her and her unborn child. The priests wouldn’t allow them to live to bear witness.
She touched her belly tenderly.
“I’m sorry little one. I’m sorry.”
Looking down the track she had followed from the place of crucifixion, she saw a cloud of dust in the bottom of the valley and knew the temple guard had found her trail. She shuddered with the understanding of the fate they had in store for her, and wondered if there was a way to kill herself before they found her and dragged her by back to the city by the hair.
But she had no way to end her agony.
Knowing herself beaten, Maryam looked towards the glory of the western sky in an attempt to store the beauty of the sunset to buttress her soul against what was to come. For a moment, she almost forgot her fear and sorrow in the splendour of the dying sun. Before the last streaks of orange dropped below the horizon she noticed a dark shape flying towards where she sat. It seemed unusual to her, being too big for any bird she had ever heard of and she stared as it came closer. Maryam caught her breath.
It was a great winged lizard and it flew purposefully towards her,
cupping its wings to land neatly on the grass before her. It dipped its head politely.
“Do I have the honour of addressing Maryam wife to Yesua of Nazareth?”
Maryam heaved herself to her feet and bowed.
“I am Maryam.”
The creature smiled reassuringly.
“My name is S’a’thur and I am a dragon. I am sent to offer you sanctuary.”
S’a’thur gestured with his snout towards the column of dust now labouring up the slope towards the olive grove where Maryam rested.
She sighed. “They won’t let us live, will they?”
“No lady. They will rip the child from your womb and kill you both.”
“And you offer an alternative.”
“Because it amuses us to save the wife and unborn child of a man who was not supposed to have a wife, leave alone a daughter.”
Maryam looked measuringly at the creature then shrugged.
“It could not be worse than the Sanhedrin.”
The dragon bent a knee and the heavily pregnant woman clambered awkwardly into the space between his iridescent wings.
As they took off, the fittest of the temple guardsmen breasted the rise to see only the light reflecting on dragon wings. The man fell to his knees.
“An angel,” he said reverently. “I see an angel.”
Maryam laughed sardonically as her draconic transport turned on a wingtip and headed west.
© jane jago 2017