Ishmael stared down at his small cup of tea.
It had just been stirred and as the tea spun, and began to come to stillness, he thought:
“What will I see before I die?”
He downed the hallucinogenic mixture and his life began to flash before his eyes.
He saw himself in the robes of a Setite Acolyte at the temple of Khemi. He loved his years as a student and was successful.
“But it was never enough for me, I always I wanted more, and still I want more! Even as I wait here in this tavern for my undoing, I want more!! What a wretch I am!” he thought.
“But aren’t we all?” he asked out loud as he scoffed and siped more tea; grinning as if to say: “everyone in the world knows that all people are scoundrels”. No one saw the grin.
As the drug began to fully set in Ishmael perceived the small Khemi tavern as beginning to swirl and gyrate. The flickering candlelight added to the sensory confusion and Ishmael experienced himself giving way to the altered reality that can only be seen by those who dare taste the lotus flower.
There then, was Ishmael the Wise in the miasma of the lotus and what he saw was the flashing before him of his years in the temple guard. His birth provided him an easy commission and equally easy duty, but he worked long hours, honing his skills as a military leader, a diplomat, and a fanatically devout Setite priest.
“If I had only just been satisfied with what I had,” he thought as his emotions began to surface in response to the lotus and his fleeting memories.
“It won’t be long now before they come. Perhaps another tea will calm me?” His hands began to shake and with sweat pouring down his face he could hear the loud pounding of his own heart. It was a menacing sound that he was sure everyone else in the small tavern could hear!
“One indiscretion and now I will be executed! What madness! I am mad. The crown has twenty concubines– no one talks about it! No one is executed!”. He rambled in his mind and began to think in colorful waves of paranoid, fleeting pictures. “Why is my heart pounding so hard? Can others hear the sound of my heart?!” He stood up quickly and his chair crashed to the floor.
Startled tavern patrons looked up and saw the troubled cleric shaking, sweating and mumbling to himself. It was not a sight the tavern regulars had seen before from a man so well respected as Ishmael, Captain of the Setite temple guards.
And the sight did not match the tale that Sasur-amen, a patron that evening and a regular who often sat at a table covered with paper and writing materials, brought into his own memory as he spotted Ishmael and gave away his senses to the lotus flower.
Sasur-amen was the librarian of the order of the Sacred Crocodile at that time and knew many hidden stories of the exploits of men such as Ishmael the Wise.
So as his memory took shape, Sasur-amen wrote:
These are the tales of Ishmael the Wise, former citizen, scholar, priest and soldier of Khemi. His exploits were many and his downfall tragic. I am the chronicler of the exploits of those bound to the order of The Sacred Crocodile of Set Militant. I write this now to catalog the deeds of the one we call “The Wise”.
It was a hot, dirty summer when Ishmael was sent to the desert to complete his final trial. There he camped upon a barren waste as prescribed by his mentor Ua-khons, who served in the Order for 49 years before he was slain in battle.
During his trial, Ishmael was visited by many wild beasts. He slew them one by one and used their flesh for food and their skins for armor. Strong as he was, he thrived during his trial and determined to himself to win greater favor with the Temple at Khemi by bringing home a grand trophy of his strength and devotion to Set.
Therefore on the 28th day of his trial, Ishmael the Wise embarked on a 2-mile journey to the cavern where he had spotted two adult tigers and four small tiger cubs.
“Now I will capture one of these cub tigers for Ua-khons and all will see that I am strong and that Set is my strength!” said Ishmael as he laid himself down upon the ridge over the cavern and looked to where the tigers prowled beside their cubs.
Long did the young warrior-priest look down into the cavern and watch the pacing beasts until at last the female left the den to hunt. But the male tiger was a great beast of enormous strength and Ishmael the Wise knew that his task would not be easy.
Ishmael stood and began to creep down the side of the cavern towards the spot where the tiger cubs were playing. Their father was pacing 10 and 20 feet away from them, keeping a close and watchful eye.
“Perhaps the cub can be stolen while the great beast is turned away?” thought Ishmael as he snuck up closer and closer to the cubs. It was at that moment he heard the deafening roar of the tiger which startled and shook him.
Never before had Ishmael faced such a great beast under such circumstances. The great tiger pounced quickly and knocked him to the ground. It was now on top of him, ripping into his flesh with its mighty claws and trying to bite his face as the warrior-priest held open the mouth of the great beast with his bare hands.
In a desperate move to survive Ishmael managed to use his legs to push the tiger up and off of him. With this, it tumbled away for a brief moment– just enough time to draw the short sword that he had been given by the Order for his trial!
The tiger pounced again but this time the dumb animal impaled itself on the short sword. Ishmael, called the Wise, had quickly and cleverly positioned the blade so that it would penetrate the heart of the beast. The blade did its work and the beast collapsed on Ishmael, who had to push the carcass off his face in order to breath.
Knowing then that Set had provided him a victory and liberation from certain death, Ishmael the Wise established an altar upon the spot where the great tiger had died.
Sasur-amen wrote these words as armed men from the central temple came into the tavern, bound Ishmael, and took him away.