Sacred Mother, Glory of the Hittites, Great Wife of Lord Suhis, hear my words. I have not been able to write my thoughts to you since leaving Carchemish since my letters will be read by father before they can be placed on your altar. I will entrust this letter to Inara, for I know her well enough now that she will do me this favour. We have become close as I never imagined, but perhaps I should start at the beginning.
I left Carchemish on the orders of father. He had arranged that I should be wed to the son of the Prince of Byblos and that once in the royal court I should send any information on the state of Byblos back to him through letters to Bathsheba. I was rather surprised when I arrived in Byblos that my future husband had been killed by an unknown assassin. Father had an ally already in the court, Bedeq, a weasel of a man who had often spoken in Carchemish of how much better things would be if he was in charge of Byblos. Only his own father and Ribaddan, my husband-to-be, stood in his way. I wondered if perhaps father really wanted me to marry Bedeq and place him on the throne here. In any case it did not matter since Bedeq was killed shortly after and I spent some time consoling Prince Tjeker-Baal who had lost two sons to violence. He is a just and noble man and I rather pity him since father most assuredly desires to have Byblos become part of our lands.
Since I could not marry Ribaddan and the Prince did not want me to return to Carchemish, he placed me in charge of the Temple of Inara. I had the greatest of fortune that Inara accepted me, as did the people of her Temple. I have been kept busy with the daily offerings and preparing for the festivals. Each morning the servants bring us food from the temple stores and I must break my fast with Inara in her sacred chamber. After we have eaten it is time for Inara to be cleansed. Water is brought in and I personally wash every part of her. Then she is dressed in marvellous clothes, especially made for the Goddess since she stands over six cubits tall. Once dressed I recite the sacred words of dawn and leave the sanctuary.
It is only then that I can start the administration work which takes up most of my waking life. The Temple of Inara is no longer the largest in Byblos, but we have much land and many businesses. As the final judge of Temple business it is up to me to stop any disputes amongst the Temple workers from reaching the Prince. I have been successful in this so far, a fact which I put down to inheriting your wisdom. I would have thought that serving the Goddess would have made the workers a little more reverent, but they still complain and argue amongst themselves over the smallest amount of money. Just a few days ago there was nearly a riot on one of our boats when someone tried to steal some incense required for the upcoming festival.
Preparation for the festival is taking a lot of work. I have had to talk to many people here since the Walking of the Gods differs from the festivals in Carchemish. Also I have to remember to call Inara by her local name – Astarte, Lady of Byblos – which I may never get used to. I know the route we will take when Inara leaves the Temple and travels around the city, and I have commissioned skilled carpenters to restore the somewhat shabby barge that the Lady of Byblos has been forced to travel in over the last few years. I think next year I will buy a new barge for her if our finances allow. During the festival the Gods and Goddesses of the city will meet at the shore and we will allow the Gods to talk. The people of the city also come to the shore and drink and feast as the Gods make sure the sea does not rise up to destroy us.
Many Princes from other cities come to the festivals and father is keen that I speak to them all and learn as much as I can. That is why he has sent me fine gifts that I will pass on in the hopes of impressing these rulers. I do hope he doesn’t want me to marry one of them instead since I have only just begun to realise how much I love working here for Inara. I must still obey father however and I will make sure I am at my most resplendent when I talk to the Princes at the shore. My dress arrived from Alashiya and makes me look like a Goddess. I will wear the make up of Inara, and I have myrrh to chew so that I will smell like the dawn of time.
I have no more time now – I must begin the nightly rites. I will place this parchment with the offerings to Inara and trust that she tells you all of what I have said. I miss you so much and it warms my heart in the cold nights that I know you still watch over me. I am always your loving daughter, Hatisha.