A perfectly preserved 900-year-old sword has been discovered on the sea bed off the coast of Israel…
Moses and Aaron reached the top of the hill and gazed in wonder at Canaan, spread out before them.
It was all that had been promised – a fertile, green, sun-warmed land of softly rolling hills and gently murmuring streams. It truly was a land of milk and honey – well, a flat-pack version, in that they could see cows and hear bees, so actual milk and honey would require some further assembly. It was perfect, apart from one thing.
The Red Sea was between them and it.
“I was not expecting that,” said Moses.
Aaron looked back over his shoulder. Behind him were the Israelites, wearily taking this pause as a chance to sit and rest. Behind them, though, and for the first time, he could see a distant cloud of dust.
The Egyptians were gaining on them.
Aaron nudged his brother . “We have to move,” he said.
“Move where?” asked Moses, spreading his hands in despair.
The sea parted, leaving a passageway between two huge walls of water.
Aaron looked in astonishment at Moses, who quickly dropped his hands. “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.
They stared into the passage. Fish gasped on the sea-bed. Crabs scuttled sideways, claws poking at the walls. A monk seal sat confused in mid-air for a second, Wile E Coyote-like, before dropping to the wet sand with a loud squelchy splat.
But these sights were ignored by the brothers, who were gazing instead at the figure standing in the centre of the corridor.
It was a woman – a beautiful woman, in a long, flowing white dress, water streaming from her long, flowing blonde hair. Her hand held a long sword and her eyes held a look of absolute fury.
“Who are you?” said Aaron.
“I am the Lady of the Lake,” replied the woman icily.
Moses looked at the huge sea. “Lake?” he said.
The Lady shrugged. “It’s just my name,” she said. “It doesn’t mean I’m from here, like Denzel Washington’s name doesn’t mean he’s from Washington.”
“I don’t know who that is, and I don’t know where that is,” said Moses.
The Lady sighed. “That’s the problem with being immortal, and moving back and forward through time,” she said. “I’m never sure who knows what. Anyway, never mind that now,” she went on, waving one arm along the passage. “What’s the story with this?”
Moses went to spread his hands, then thought better of it. “I needed a way across,” he said simply.
“And you’ve never heard of boats?” snapped the Lady. She pointed to the reeds growing by the bank. “You could have quickly made some from these,” she said.
“What, like a Moses basket?” said Moses. “I never thought of that.”
“Or,” continued the Lady, “you could have let me help you, which is why I came here in the first place.”
“And how were you planning to do that?” asked Moses.
The Lady held aloft the sword. “I was going to give you this,” she said. “To vanquish your enemies.”
Moses looked behind him. The cloud of dust was nearer now. He could see the Egyptians. There were lots of them.
“What, on my own?” he asked.
“Of course not,” said the Lady. “The sword makes you King. Your people then follow you into battle.”
Moses and Aaron looked at the bedraggled group sitting on the hillside. They had been awakened at night and urged by the brothers to flee their homes immediately, so they carried few possessions. A few of the older ones had walking-staffs. A small child was clutching a Noah action doll. The lack of weaponry was of biblical proportions.
“I can’t see that going well,” said Aaron.
“No, it works,” said the lady. “I’ve done it, or at least will do it, with a guy in England.”
“And how does he get on?” asked Moses, intrigued.
“Well,” admitted the Lady, “he gets killed in battle.” She saw the look on their faces and quickly went on, “but he’s called the Once and Future King,” she said. “He’ll be back one day.”
“A second coming?” said Moses. “It doesn’t sound very likely.”
“Look,” said Aaron, “as I see it we have two options here. We could take a sword from a mermaid dressed in white -”
“Clothèd,” said the Lady.
“What?” said Aaron.
“I am clothèd, in white samite,” said the Lady. “It’s got two syllables.”
“Whatever,” said Aaron. “Anyway, we could try that option, where Moses takes this sword and heads off to get his head off, or we could use Plan, er, the second letter in Hebrew,”
“And that Plan is?” asked the Lady.
“We could all just run along the passageway through the water.”
They could now hear the yells of the Egyptians approaching. The Israelites had all stood and were looking imploringly at Moses, who looked at the Lady.
“Sorry, Miss,” he said, “but we’re out of here.”
The Lady of the Lake looked on sullenly as the brothers hastened their people into the narrow corridor, the terrified Israelites gazing to either side at fish gazing back at them from the world’s first aquarium. She watched until they reached the far shore, then slowly brought her hands together.
The waters closed. The Egyptians came to an emergency sliding stop on the stones at the sea edge, though a few were thrown over their camels’ heads and into the foaming waves.
The Lady of the Lake breathed in, gratefully filling her lungs with water. Then her arm broke the surface, the sword held by its hilt. She brandished it three times, then hurled it as far as she could out into the sea.
“I am pissèd off,” she said, “with two syllables.”