“It’s a palace!” said Clare.
Not unlike an old Peel tower at home, the unusual roundish building with its pale cream walls had been donated to the group of young idealists by a peer of the realm known for his altruism. It had stood empty on the Italian hillside for many years, and came with a parcel of land, part of which had been planted with vines, maple and fruiting pear trees. Alec, Clare, Elmer and Carmen had arrived, weary but enthused, with map, almanac and camera to explore the area and start to plan the Mediterranean commune that would be their panacea for the stresses of modern life.
There was ample space here for the small events arena they needed, good grazing for the little herd of alpaca, and in a sunny level hollow a small mere for carp. They might even grow their own cereal crops.
The four friends discussed a possible name for their budding community.
‘We could rename it Carmel; that’s Hebrew for ‘God’s Vineyard’, which is ‘Vigna di Dio’ in the local parlance,’said Carmen.
‘Show-off!’ said Alec.
‘But it’s so full of of calm and peace,’ said Carmen,’ and it is on a hill.’
‘I don’t care’ Alec replied,’ it’s nearly your own name! We need something that symbolises a completely fresh start ... who was that Pharaoh chappie who built a whole city from scratch? ‘
’ The one who wrote the poem to the Sun?’
‘That’s the one ... didn’t he call his new capital Amarna? Couldn’t we use that for a name?’
‘ Capital idea! ‘ said Elmer, and the others groaned.
But in fact they agreed, so Amarna it was. Unlike that ancient Pharaoh they had no mighty pool of workers to bend to their will, so all four friends, with considerable élan, donned their panama hats and under the blazing sun got stuck into the work of transforming the run-down property into the acme of new-age elegance. Here they would bring like-minded people to learn the arcane truths they had studied together in Nepal; they could even invite the Dalai Lama. The lamp of wisdom would be lit, Prana deeply inhaled, and every meal shared in spiritual fellowship.
It was Clare who first sounded a note of alarm.
The rooms were brighter and cleaner; people were coming, the animals settling in, the land beginning to crop. She had fought through detritus in the attic to what - behind a panel - had once been a library. She emerged clutching a mouldy book.
‘That Pharaoh. That city. It’s all in here! I think we need to read this.’
They learned how beautiful Amarna had been, how glorious and revolutionary its art, how radical its vision of the Divine. They learned how the old priests had been angered, how the country had been weakened by its other-worldly king. They learned how this menace was brought down and erased from the records ... how lovely Amarna was razed and crumbled to dust.
They read it just before the earthquake.
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