Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hot and Cold (04/09/09)
TITLE: Springs and Baths
By Jack Taylor
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Nympha planted herself at the cross-roads and shaded her deep chocolate eyes with the weathered hand of one who spent hours digging in the earth. The noon day sun was intense. Archippus was late.
Despite the appearance of her hands Nympha’s clothing marked her as of noble birth. The major trade route to Rome ran west and was a familiar path to her chariot. The same road heading east toward Cilicia and then Babylon had been the road where the good news had travelled on the stumbling tongue of a tentmaking teacher.
Creases at the corners of the Laodicean’s eyes betrayed her thirty-five years. Wrinkles across her forehead showed the deep thought those years had involved. The thrifty business woman shifted from one foot to the other and frowned as she glanced a dust cloud in the distance. A caravan from Europe coming south through Byzantium was not what she wanted right now.
While unlimited opportunities for trade mushroomed in this city of the Lycus Valley the engineers still hadn’t perfected the aquaducts that brought the precious water to the citizens who lived here. The founders had only one thing in mind and that was the hard currencies of a dozen empires.
Nympha chided herself about the vanity of wealth. Archippus had taken a wagon load of her prized glossy black wool and her fame was growing in the new markets where the wealthy merchants bid each other up to get their share. Archippus had really done her a favor.
He should have been working his lessons for his trials in the school of medicine where he studied. He was a master in pharmacy and knew the secrets of the eye salve that was making this place a center for physicians the world over. The mass of pilgrims coming for healing only served to enrich her creative businesses.
Archippus had travelled often to Colossae and Ephesus to study with the tentmaking teacher and often stated how he preferred the books of Scripture to the books of the physicians. She encouraged him to lead the group of merchants and slaves and freemen who gathered for teaching in her courtyard at dawn on the first day of the week. These were passionate and compassionate people who made her town better. She herself had once known the zeal of following the new teachings. Now , the pressure of business and the aquaducts tugged at her attention and affection.
Looking back over her shoulder into town Nympha strained to see if her husband Lucas had wandered out of his currency exchange center. Money lending had added to the family fortune and the city was self-sufficient. She felt of a certainty that there was nowhere on earth where the citizens per capita were wealthier than here. And yet there was that water.
Regardless of what they paid those engineers the residents had to rely on cold water being carried in the eighteen miles from the ice cold springs of Colossae to the east. By the time it got here it was luke warm. The same problem happened with the sulphur hot springs of Hierapolis to the north. Those springs could have provided a great addition to the healing rooms by providing soothing baths. But no, this too was luke-warm by the time the carts pulled in.
And so Nympha had hired the engineers to build the aquaducts from both places. Her frustration reached its pinnacle yesterday when she had travelled the two miles to where the two funnels of the aquaduct had been linked up to run side by side toward her town. She had eagerly placed her clay pitcher under the stream that was marked from Colossae and had drunk deeply to feel the coolness. Instead she had wretched violently as if poisoned.
The engineers huddled in fear around her form as she vomited and sputtered the bitter liquid from her mouth. A workman offered his wineskin but she waved him away and glared at the group of bare chested slaves anxiously watching.
That issue had been resolved finally when an engineer had discovered that a minor earthquake had caused a breach in the wall between the two funnels and the sulphurous hot spring water had mixed with the cool spring water. A poisonous tepid stream was the result.
The breach could be repaired but something more would have to be done to deal with the lukewarmness. She needed the wisdom that Archippus could bring. What was taking him so long?
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