The Prodigal (1955) Movie Script

In the times before Christianity,
only a few people believed in one God.
Most people believed in many gods.
It was mainly the believers in Jehovah
who stood against a multitude
of some 65,000 strange and different gods.
Of these, two of the most notorious
were Baal and Astarte,
the male and the female.
Gods of the flesh, not of the soul.
They were supposed to renew
the fertility of the earth every year.
In exchange,
they demanded of their believers
the sacrifice of money,
jewelry and human life.
Out of these times comes our story,
based upon the parable of the prodigal son
as told in Luke, Chapter 15.
This is the seaport of Joppa,
in the year 70 B.C.
- Who is he?
- A slave, a runaway slave.
Then he shouldn't be too expensive.
- What's his price?
- I have my orders. There is no price.
He must die.
- Why?
- Ask him why.
He's a mute. He has no tongue.
But you have a tongue. Use it.
For the last time, what's his price?
He cost my master 20 pieces of silver.
- Joram, my purse is empty.
- As always.
So as always,
I could make use of a little loan.
Twenty pieces of silver, according to him.
Our father did not tell us
to bring home any slaves.
True. But he's always told us,
- "He who loves his fellow man is of...' '
- "The true seed of Abraham.' '
You always have an answer.
Don't kneel there like a fool. You're free.
Take my advice.
Get as far away from here
as you can. Here.
You've managed to find trouble
in every town from Petra to here.
You've managed to frown in every town
from Petra to here.
The level of the well is high,
the field is parched.
Let the west field be watered now, today.
Father, this man is hurt.
We pulled a spear out of his shoulder.
Caleb, put him in the large chamber.
Be sure that his bed is warm.
And, Caleb, give him hot broth
when he opens his eyes.
- Who is he?
- A runaway slave.
He cost Micah 20 pieces of silver
and very nearly a spear through the heart.
But as you've so often told us...
"He who loves his fellow man
is of the true seed of Abraham.' '."
True words,
even if they do come back to taunt me.
How went the journey to Petra?
As for gold and silver, better than usual.
As for Micah learning anything
from the trip, he learned.
Nothing about business but all about
every wine between here and Petra.
Your family, Joram.
You keep them waiting.
Miriam! Deborah! David!
I ate half the sand of the desert
and brought the other half with me.
I need a wash.
Scrub well, Micah.
A man cannot be too clean
for his betrothal.
- Again?
- Again.
A wife.
Whom have you chosen?
The daughter
of our good neighbor, Tobiah.
- Ruth?
- While you were away I spoke to Tobiah.
Tomorrow morning we visit them
to draw up the betrothal contract.
Have I chosen well?
A sensible choice, Father.
I admire her, respect her,
more than any other.
But it's difficult to
find the proper words.
We've always understood each other,
whatever the words.
You mean to say you don't love her.
I did not see your mother
until the day of our betrothal.
And yet...
I know how lonely it's been
for you without her.
Not when you're with me, Micah.
You've Rachel's spirit and her love of
life. Come, get on with your washing.
- Then we'll say the evening prayer...
- And eat.
I'm hungry enough to devour
a whole fatted calf.
"According to the Law of Moses
and of lsrael,
"on this seventh day
of the month of Nisan,
"a holy betrothal is entered into between
Micah ben Eli and Ruth bat Tobiah,
"whereby he doth promise to please,
"to honor, to nourish and to care for her."
"The terms and conditions
of the marriage agreement"
"shall be as follows...' '."
Tobiah, all the terms and conditions
can be readily agreed upon.
However, much as I respect your feelings,
my good friend, I cannot overlook my own.
Do not think, Eli, that you can
win your way with soft words.
The boon I seek is that the first son
born of this unin
shall be named after my father.
No! After mine!
He will be my first grandson!
But by all the writings
of the learned doctors, I have precedence!
Asham, I've warned you
to stay in bed until tomorrow.
Give your wound a chance to heal.
You will do what I say when I say it.
How long have you been a mute, Asham?
And you've always been a slave?
Five moons... Five months!
You didn't wait long to try and escape.
No wonder. The whipping post.
How did you lose your freedom, Asham?
Sold into slavery to pay your debts?
Here, only make certain
you don't use these the way I would.
Ruth! Ruth!
Ruth, don't hide.
We've known each other for several years.
Now it's time
we became better acquainted.
Our fathers are taking a long time inside.
It's comforting to know
that it takes longer
to arrange a betrothal
than to buy a flock of sheep.
When I left, they were arguing
about the name of our first son.
By now they've probably named a dozen
of his brothers and sisters as well.
Is there a name for the feeling
we will share, Micah?
It'll be no effort to learn to love you.
I shall try to merit your love.
They'll probably decide
upon an early wedding.
Yes, a very early wedding.
Micah's first gift to Ruth.
It is sweet and good.
This afternoon I am going to Joppa
to invite the Grand Rabbi
to the signing of our betrothal contract.
- What can I bring you?
- There is nothing I need, Micah.
Not something you need.
Something foolish, feminine.
Something you've always wanted
but never let anyone guess.
- You won't laugh at me?
- Never.
Then, if it please you, Micah,
bring me a dove from Smyrna.
With wings as white
as the snows of Lebanon.
Yes, it would please me
to bring you such a gift, Ruth.
- Micah!
- I must go.
- Micah.
- Yes?
I am an able cook.
Worship graven images...
Why, there it is!
That's what the Grand Rabbi
told us about!
Now, Micah...
A caravan of infidels worshipping idols,
here in Joppa.
Look at the townspeople.
- They hate this sacrilege as much as I do.
- And l.
But it is a matter for the Elders
to handle, according to the laws.
The Elders!
They talk and talk and never do anything,
but this time...
- Joram, look! He who tried to spear me.
- The pagan ceremonial tent!
Micah. Micah!
I have been expecting you.
I arranged for you to see Rhakim
and meant you to follow him here.
- Who are you?
- My name is Nahreeb.
I know of you.
You and your unholy temple in Damascus
with its 500 women of the temple gardens.
- Five hundred priestesses.
- Priestesses.
Women who would do anything
for a silver coin.
Painted women
serving painted graven images.
Yesterday you took title
to a slave of mine for 20 pieces of silver.
I should like to buy Asham back
for 200 pieces of silver.
A thousand?
Two thousand?
You hunger for him as a pig for husks.
Everything has its price. Name yours.
Asham is my friend.
Would you sell a friend to death?
Her name is Samarra.
She will be High Priestess of Astarte
at Damascus.
The face of Astarte is veiled
so that every man may picture
beneath the veil the face
of the woman he most desires.
You, Micah,
what face are you picturing there?
Nahreeb, you said everything has its price.
Name hers.
She is not for a follower of Jehovah!
I mean to have her.
One way or another.
Asham tried to set Damascus against you,
and you let the Hebrew keep him!
We shall bring Asham to justice.
And we shall see this Hebrew again.
"As a pig for husks," he said to me.
Yes, we must make him thoroughly
and fittingly humble, this Micah.
Take yourself to bed. It's near daylight.
I shall be pleased when daylight comes.
Asham, I've drunk deep of every wine
from here to Petra,
and I've had my full share of women.
Yet I'm behaving like a beardless boy,
panting for the first forbidden fruit
that he sees.
A priestess who worships
a painted graven image.
But she's in my blood.
May the Lord give strength to His people.
May the Lord bless His people with peace.
You said grace, my son, but ate nothing.
What you are about to tell me,
I may already know.
Still, it is for you to speak
and for me to listen.
Father, I've tried to spare you and Ruth.
I cannot enter into the betrothal.
You are not the first man to balk
at the threshold of matrimony.
Nor the last.
Will it surprise you to learn that I, too,
felt panic at the thought
of my betrothal day?
This is not the same.
It is written
that every young man thinks his life
is the first new page
in the Book of Experience.
Father, you don't know.
Just what is it that I don't know?
That Micah has looked upon
the High Priestess of Astarte,
a woman who gives herself
in the worship of her pagan gods.
Is this true?
She is already on her way to Damascus.
He means to follow her.
Micah, I have allowed you
to take your own way
but not in this, I say to you...
She's the most beautiful woman
I've ever seen.
I will not let you defile yourself!
You know what I feel in my heart for you.
I would give anything if I could obey you.
I've labored hard
to put her out of my blood.
I must go to Damascus!
Give me my portion, the one-third
due to me as the younger of two sons.
Micah, I have brought you up
by the Ten Commandments,
by the teachings of Moses,
by the ways of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You have been taught the difference
between right and wrong,
between good and evil,
between love and lust.
If you still choose to turn your back
on your sacred heritage,
then I turn my back on you!
As for your portion,
your portion is what I feel for you!
- Father!
- "Father"?
You are no longer my son!
I have prayed for forgiveness
for striking you in anger.
- I am not worth your grieving.
- You're my son, Micah.
A son is always worthy of a parent's love.
Even when he seeks a far country.
I brought you gold enough
for half your portion.
The other half will be here
whenever you need it.
One thing more I have brought you.
My blessing.
Your blessing? Knowing my purpose.
Micah, you've chosen to go
far afield from righteousness.
Yet I invoke on you
the blessing of the Lord our God.
That thou mayest yet find in thyself
the strength to turn away from evil,
which is ever a temptress
of surpassing beauty.
This ring, which our family
has always handed down
from eldest son to eldest son.
Let it always remind you of here.
I am late for the fields.
Micah, there is one thing
more you must do.
Farewell, my son. I love you.
And I love you, my father.
How beautiful can she be?
Then you know?
A woman always knows
more than her man thinks.
Then you must know
how I have wanted not to do this to you!
And you must know how you are well rid
of a man who would do such a thing.
You've always had many suitors, Ruth.
Many more deserving than l.
But when you return, and you will,
you'll expect to find me waiting here
with open arms.
- And you'll be wrong.
- Ruth!
Go, Micah.
The map of the great worid we live in.
And now you see why they say
all roads lead to Damascus.
And here's the road we took.
Alexandria, Joppa, Damascus.
We came by sea to here,
and that's where we met the caravan.
And here, where the land was so green
and where you ate too many figs,
and then the desert.
I am weary of lessons, lessons.
Why must I know of roads
and maps, Samarra?
I do not care where I've been,
I only care where I am.
It is true, Yasmin.
All that matters is where you are
and who you are
and who you will some day be.
When I am High Priestess of Astarte,
and you are no longer beautiful,
what will you be?
I shall still find ways
of serving my goddess.
But come. I will teach you something
that you will find a little more useful
than maps and roads.
And now I will show you
the greatest secret of all.
How to make your eyes look deep
and dark and mysterious.
- Why so solemn, Yasmin?
- I do not know.
Know what?
I wonder if I really want
to be High Priestess.
You do.
Now watch, this shadow, just a touch.
For every million women,
there is only one high priestess.
When I was your age I was frightened, too.
You were?
- It is time.
- So early?
Now, you watch while Elissa prepares me.
I've never known so useful a body slave.
The mirror, Yasmin.
A million pieces of gold, too much.
Too much for me to lend you or anyone.
Lending money is your trade.
It's made you the richest man
in Damascus.
The people know
the Governor is your puppet.
You pull the strings.
You are a tyrant, Nahreeb.
The people hate a tyrant.
If they kill you, who will repay me
my money? Who?
They'll not kill me.
Not even that new High Priestess that
I hear so much about can save you now.
It wants one of two things.
Either a war or a calamity.
A calamity or a war.
I am creating the calamity.
How so? How so?
The crops are short this year.
The crops are always short.
The people are always hungry.
That is no calamity in Damascus.
The crops will be shorter than ever, and
the desert tribes will burn and pillage.
The desert tribes are peaceful.
How do you know they'll pillage?
- I've already prepared it.
- You?
With your gold added to mine,
I will buy up what is left of the harvest.
The people will pay whatever price I ask.
Hungry as they may be now,
they will grow hungrier.
Much, much hungrier.
Too hungry to worry about tyrants
or revolt or to do anything
except pray to Baal and Astarte
to keep them alive.
The people starving.
Oh, that's sound wisdom.
Good economics.
If you succeed, you'll be
the richest man east of Alexandria!
I will succeed in all things!
But if you fail, your life won't be worth
the tail of a locust!
And in that case,
farewell to my million pieces of gold.
It requires thought, my friend. Thought.
My one vanity lies in being a perfect host.
Therefore, I desire that you have
a perfect companion.
I searched many lands before I found
a golden-haired high priestess.
Yes, Bosra,
you'll find that the people
will grow hungrier,
much, much hungrier.
Thief! Thief! Thief!
Alms! Alms! I beg of you! Alms!
For pity's sake.
Alms! Please! Alms!
So these are the citizens
of proud Damascus!
Master, what do you seek?
A roof for your head?
Food for your belly?
The exquisite pleasures of Damascus?
Carmish knows the best.
Let Carmish serve you.
You're a stranger in Damascus.
I can tell by your beard.
And what each stranger hungers
to see first is the Tinted Wall.
Only a stone's throw, the Tinted Wall.
Let Carmish take you.
For, as Carmish is known to say,
"Grab hold of the day,
who knows if the night will ever come!"
- Lead the way, Carmish.
- And a merry way it will be.
Master, Carmish sees all, knows all,
withholds nothing.
The mute, rid yourself of him.
He's a troublemaker.
- Troublemaker?
- Yes, an evil one.
He belonged to the High Priest,
but not long ago in Joppa, some...
- Master, you are not...
- From Joppa.
- Why?
- Nothing. Very interesting seaport, Joppa.
Yes, but here, the Tinted Wall,
covered with offers.
You can buy anything.
Satisfy any need, any desire.
Write your offer in gold or as low
as 10 pieces of silver.
Master, do you wish a housekeeper,
a cook, a dancing companion?
Do you like women tall, short,
fat, slim, shy, talkative?
Speak, and trust my judgment,
for though my ribs are sharp
and my tongue is parched for wine,
I am a man of learning.
I can even do your writing for you.
Would you consider Aida,
who cooks so beautifully
you forget she looks like a crow?
Or Murdeh, who can stitch anything,
including your heart?
Or Kafah, with lips as soft as her song?
For me, only one name
shall ever be written on the Tinted Wall.
- Which name, Master?
- Samarra.
He's new in Damascus.
He does not know our custom,
our faith. Alms!
Alms from the noble-hearted stranger.
Master, the Tinted Wall is not
for the name of Samarra,
High Priestess of Astarte.
That would be sacrilege!
You've a quick head, Carmish.
Speak so of Samarra,
you won't have any head at all.
You're an infidel, but I like you.
I like you too much to see you thrown
into the pits as feed for the vultures.
Forget Samarra.
Whatever she may seem to you,
to her people she's Astarte in the flesh,
and a golden Astarte at that.
She lives within the temple walls,
guarded by 1,000 damask blades.
No infidel is ever permitted
into her sacred presence,
or for that matter,
into the temple gardens.
I've heard of the gardens.
- And of the havens in the gardens.
- Where dwell the attendant priestesses,
the most voluptuous maidens
east of Alexandria.
To stroll through the temple gardens
is a sensation no mortal man
can ever forget.
And to linger there...
But, Master,
even outside the temple walls,
Damascus has pleasures,
diversions, wine shops unsurpassed.
Let me find you an intriguing way
to forget Samarra.
No, Carmish,
I've come too far to take less.
I will enter the temple,
and I will see Samarra.
If ever you need Carmish, you'll find me
at the wall opposite the baker's shop.
The riffraff, getting rid of them
cost me at least 18 pieces of silver.
Twice eighteen pieces of silver.
Master, I will not even
have to use a razor.
Your beard will melt off.
I have my own mixture.
I use rosin, pitch, ivy gum, she-goats'
gall, bats' blood and powdered viper.
Just trim it.
But, master,
beards are for outlanders, infidels.
No citizen of Damascus wears a beard.
I do and shall!
It is the custom of my people!
Every maiden in the city will see only you.
- But if I may suggest...
- The beard remains!
The price is high.
My funds are not unlimited.
Oh, believe me,
land is the best investment.
Most foreigners are fools.
They throw their gold away.
But buy this villa,
and your fortunes will multiply every year
with every harvest.
That is the richest soil that...
That face. I knew I knew it.
- Why, my friend?
- Oh, nothing, nothing at all.
You find in me a man
of discretion and tolerance.
Besides, I'm sure you weren't responsible
for what befell our High Priest at Joppa.
May the very name of Joppa be accursed.
But I was responsible.
A truly noble attitude.
I... l respect you for it,
but... It's courageous,
but take care, Micah.
This Asham is a born troublemaker.
Why, even when he was a free man,
he was always stirring up the slaves,
persuading them that
they worked too hard and ate too little.
Bosra, I've decided to buy the villa.
- You shall have your price.
- In gold?
In gold from Joppa, which I am certain
will never be accursed in Damascus.
A ready wit. I like you, young man.
- But if I may give you a word of advice...
- I know, the beard!
Now about the contract for the villa,
it's inside, already drawn.
Prepared for sign and seal. Wait here.
So everyone knows you
as a troublemaker.
Sometimes, Asham,
a man must make a little trouble.
- Do you come to serve Baal and Astarte?
- To serve and to sacrifice.
Enter, then, and purify yourself.
The wrath of Baal and Astarte
be upon you!
This holy place is not
for a bearded infidel!
You infidel!
Who else would exchange
a piece of silver for a broken head?
Word of this
should reach the temple soon.
Micah of Joppa?
What word do you bring
from the High Priestess?
You are to come to the temple.
I was told no infidel
was ever allowed into that temple.
No infidel ever wrote the name
of the High Priestess on the Tinted Wall.
Such boldness cannot go unrewarded.
We mustn't keep her waiting, Asham.
Wait here, Asham!
May the gods of love forgive one
who has never given herself to love.
- An infidel climbing those steps!
- Patience, Rhakim.
I am told that in Joppa you said,
"Everything has its price.' '".
Your High Priest said that.
I said I meant to have you,
one way or another.
Very interesting.
The way may be difficult
but not impossible.
It depends.
It depends upon what?
- On the price that is paid.
- Of course.
And what is the price?
It varies with the man,
with his wealth, with his wants.
The price paid to Astarte
by a Prince of Phoenicia
was that lamp of 100 lights.
It came from Kashmir.
And that jeweled cat of jade came
from a warrior of Cathay.
The bravest!
Have you ever seen
a prouder golden cockerel?
It was Astarte's price,
paid by the Grand Caliph of Baghdad.
A small man, but very strong.
It must comfort you to
have all these gifts.
Or rather, it must comfort Astarte
that she has all these gifts.
So it should. Everything is for my goddess.
The richest man in Damascus sent this.
And on the scroll he sent with it
were four words, grateful words.
But you, Micah,
should be the most grateful of all.
For your gift will be the most precious
and perfect of pearis.
The pearl King Solomon gave to Sheba.
Astarte shall wear this at her throat.
But your gift, she will wear in her crown.
To you, Samarra, I would give anything.
But to a hollow, bronze idol, nothing!
Why? Because your God forbids it?
Because you fear the wrath of this
Jehovah who cannot be seen or touched?
Because I believe in Him
and in what He commanded.
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
"Thou shalt not bow down to them,
nor serve them.' '."
You will buy the pearl
that Solomon gave to Sheba.
And it will be for my goddess.
Astarte will be grateful.
And you will be grateful, too.
Your one piece of silver.
The price I offered for you
on the Tinted Wall.
You will return with more
than a mere piece of silver
and with less faith in your God
and more in mine.
May your every moment be peaceful
till next we meet.
My son, attend unto my wisdom,
and bow thine ear to my understanding
that thou mayest regard discretion
and that thy lips may keep knowledge.
For the lips of a strange woman
drop as an honeycomb,
and her mouth is smoother than oil,
but her feet go down to death.
Hear me now therefore, O ye children,
and depart not from the words
of my mouth.
Remove thy way far from her,
and come not nigh the door of her house.
Master, you didn't even observe
my two new dancers.
And I swear to you by any god, new or old,
that of all the beauties
I've brought to make you smile...
Carmish, the difference between
two women and ten women
is only a difference in numbers.
You could bring me 100 women,
and it would still be the same thing.
A hundred.
Master, even for a man like you...
And may life always be as simple for you.
You knew it all the time, Asham.
You knew the burning inside me
couldn't be burned out.
What am I to do?
Back to Joppa?
A voice inside me always murmurs,
"Back to Joppa.' '".
Perhaps, Asham, it's time.
Green. Yellow.
The reading of the numbers.
Fifteen of the blue,
seven red, four of the green.
Renounce seven, restore four.
Result, twelve.
Twelve being made up of the numbers
one and two becomes a three.
Announce it.
The sacred pheasant
proclaims it a day of the Three.
- A favorable number, three?
- Most favorable, Bosra.
No better day for marrying,
the breeding of cattle
or the offering up of blood sacrifices.
Favorable for plans concerning Micah?
A Hebrew who, so the people say,
went so far as to call you a... What?
A pig!
- What of Micah?
- He's returning to Joppa.
When? As soon as he is able
to sell his estate.
His asking price, a mere half its value.
Console yourself.
You'll have his estate before long,
somewhat scorched by the desert tribes,
but you will pay nothing for it.
What do you intend to do with him?
Take away his gold?
That alone would not be enough.
Some men, Bosra,
are not humbled by poverty.
True, true, true.
You mean to make him a slave.
A beast of burden
building your new granaries.
What could be more fitting
for the man who took away my slave?
I can't think of a more fitting revenge.
I can.
I'll break him.
I'll break his body
and what he calls his soul.
The trumpets shall blare.
The crowds shall gather.
And Micah, son of Eli,
an illustrious Hebrew,
shall stand on the north steps
before my people and renounce his faith.
Baal and Astarte will be most grateful.
What do you find amusing?
Oh, nothing, nothing, nothing, l...
Forgive me, l...
You really believe in all these things?
Sacred pheasants, auguries, idols...
I started in life with nothing,
and see where I have risen.
Will yet rise.
Laugh once more at my gods, Bosra,
and I'll slit your tongue!
The Egyptian girl!
Ten pieces of gold for each one
wagered on the Egyptian.
Fortune's wheel! Watch it turn!
Watch it stop!
The wheel turns and turns and turns.
Now the winner! The Phoenician girl!
Quickly! Quickly, collect your winnings.
Place your wagers on the next...
Place your wagers! Place your wagers!
Little Yasmin!
Come, I command you to stand by me.
- I sorely need a change of fortune.
- Gladly, Your Excellency.
Well, why are we waiting? Come on.
Activity! I like...
Oh, my turn.
Do you need this for the game,
Your Excellency?
If that dropped from my garment, I'd...
l would be cheating.
The Governor of Damascus never cheats.
The wind from Fortune's wheel
blew it this way. I saw it.
- I swear it by Baal and Astarte.
- What a high priestess she'll make!
- You've not looked at your buried card.
- No, I have not.
The Persians who invented this game
have a saying.
"He who meets fortune at cards
meets misfortune at love.' '."
Remember that, little one.
But Asham!
Asham has no fortune,
neither at cards nor at love.
A pity!
The child should be in bed.
Take her away, Elissa.
Come, Yasmin.
Your Excellency,
I propose a wager with Nahreeb.
My night's winnings against Elissa!
On the turn of a card! One card each.
His winnings are enough
for dozens of slaves!
Joppa should send us
more such bearded fools!
Nahreeb, do you accept the wager,
or do I have to command it?
- I accept, of course.
- Good.
I make an appeal
to His Excellency's sense of sport.
The girl is trembling.
She is the stake.
Let her be the one to draw the cards.
Asham, she is yours.
Bring her back to the villa.
Damascus has dealt generously with you.
Even your slave has a slave.
Micah! Micah, come, come, come!
Stay with me.
Or if you'd rather leave this place,
so would l.
We'll leave at once.
Anything you want to do
and anywhere you want to go.
You deserve happier company, Uba.
Unhappy the day
that brings me what I deserve.
Departing so soon?
- When will you find a buyer for my estate?
- Oh, soon, soon.
The prospects are bright, bright as noon.
Your banquet lacks that brightness.
After your fabulous fortune at cards,
young man?
You still feel the lack of a something
or someone?
- That's it, a somebody.
- You said she would be here.
She is.
You're not enjoying the banquet?
From here it looked entertaining.
Not from where I looked.
I'm surprised.
The women in the wheel
are the pick of the market.
Did you not notice how superb
were the haunches of the Grecian woman?
And how the lips of the Egyptian parted
when she looked at any man?
I saw all that, but I did not see you.
What do you wish to say, Micah?
That the worid isn't wide enough,
long enough,
to let me escape the memory
of your touch.
L, too, have thought of you.
Of your handsomeness,
arrogance and unholiness.
Yes, Micah,
I have thought much about you
when I've been alone and when I haven't.
The pearl?
I told you once. My faith forbids it.
Does your faith not forbid you me?
I say again, to you I'd give anything.
To a hollow bronze idol, nothing!
Look at me
and know that whatever
you give my goddess
is nothing compared to what
you will receive in return.
Oh, Micah, they tell of a man,
a man among men,
who would not rest until he learned
which of the human arts was the greatest.
Was it the intricate tapestry
of the weaver,
the haunting melody of the musician,
the pulsing rhythm of the dancer?
This man found an art as delicate,
rapturous and sublime
as all of these put together.
He found it in the sanctuary of Astarte.
The art of...
The feel of your mouth upon mine.
She is returning to the temple.
But console yourself, young man,
console yourself.
The pearl remains.
Shall we discuss price?
Love potions! The best in all Damascus!
Powdered amber, mandrake root
and the dust of the moon!
Young man, you buy my love potion
and your wench will walk beside you.
But wait,
you asked too much for too little.
Delicious bird, plump and firm
and every mouthful, oh, a juicy delight!
One copper for a fat goose?
Robber, pirate, swindler, thief!
You can't...
Two pieces of silver! Much better!
Try, try, try again.
Remember, famine stalks the land.
The hungry grow hungrier every hour.
Two pieces of gold!
Oh, may you live 100 years
and die as fat as the sacrifices
in the temple!
Thank you. Help! Grab him!
Throw him in the dungeon,
the thief! You...
Try here.
Make way for Daja and his radiant bride!
Make way!
Make way for the bride and groom.
Make way.
The happy bride. The happy groom.
The blessings of Baal!
The blessings of Astarte!
The happy bride! The happy groom!
Make way! Make way!
Asham, you are to leave at once
for my father's home in Joppa.
You are to take this to my father.
And return with what he gives you
as soon as you can.
Have your legs become
as useless as your tongue?
Asham, l... l shouldn't have said that.
May you return safely and soon.
- But you are not giving me full measure!
- The supply is down, the price is up.
You're holding up the line.
- Do you want the grain or not?
- Yes.
Look at them.
They stand in the rain
and they don't even grumble.
When the people stop grumbling,
grow too silent, too sullen,
that is the time to take care,
a time to divert them,
a time to make them grateful.
Grateful, master?
Now that the rains have come, the earth
will soon be ready for the planting.
And my starving people
will be most grateful to me
if I call upon my gods
to give them a rich harvest,
and so I shall, most spectacularly.
Citizens of Damascus,
know that your hunger
has not gone unnoticed
by His Godliness, the High Priest.
Know that on the evening of the third day,
a supreme high sacrifice will be held
so that Baal and Astarte
may end this famine!
Finally, know that
the High Priestess, Samarra,
will beseech the gods of fertility
in your behalf!
The golden Samarra herself
and a high sacrifice besides.
And the fertility rites.
Master, there is nothing like it
on the square face of the earth.
One of the guards
at the temple gate is my friend.
For 100 pieces of silver,
I could get you past the gate, except...
Master, how can you hesitate?
You who crossed the endless deserts,
the snow-capped mountains,
for this goddess of a woman.
Ask yourself, are you a man or a beard?
Father! Father! He won't eat!
David just sits here and won't eat!
- David!
- No, no, Father, don't.
- You'll spoil the boy.
- Of course.
One day you'll learn
that grandchildren are for spoiling.
- Now, young one...
- I won't eat.
I hate chicken. I keep seeing the feathers.
But suppose we had a roasted lamb,
would you still keep seeing the wool?
- That's very different.
- Why?
I like roasted lamb.
An honest answer
from an honest little head.
But this is no day for an empty stomach.
This is Succoth,
the Feast of the Tabernacles,
a holiday of gladness, of giving thanks.
Here, in the little house we build
with branches and flowers and leaves,
open to the soft wind and the stars
that wink and blink.
Tell me, young one,
do you know why
we build this little house?
Because 1,200 years ago,
when our people were delivered
from slavery in the land of Egypt,
they were wanderers in the wilderness.
They could only build little houses
like this of branches and flowers
that grew wild and...
May it be.
- Be who, Grandfather?
- Be Micah!
It is Asham.
Micah, is he well?
The scroll. What news?
Micah asks me to send him
all that is left of his portion.
The remainder of his portion! For what?
To squander on his temple harlot?
A portion you earned for him
during your lifetime?
No. Don't send it to him.
The gold is his
according to the laws of our people.
See that Asham is fed,
then bring him to me.
- But Father, he has no further claim.
- Now, Joram.
Make Micah know
that he has no further claim on me.
From this day forward,
I know not his name.
From this day forward,
he is dead in my heart.
O gods of fertility,
male and female of all creation,
let our sacrifice this night
soften your hearts,
yea, even as the rains you have sent
have softened the rich, good earth.
Abandon us not, I beseech you,
to the marauding tribes
who would destroy
what is left of our sustenance!
Let the light of your eternal fire dispel
the darkness which has come upon us!
She's what every blind man sees!
Why wait for Asham's return from Joppa?
Go to Bosra,
borrow the money for the pearl!
You can pay Bosra back
when Asham brings you your gold.
You have lived for this moment
without sin or blemish.
Go now to live forever
in the Four Halls of the Heavens!
The most valuable pearl in the worid.
Well worth borrowing the money for.
The terms of your loan.
Read it over line by line carefully.
The usual terms and the usual penalty
in the remote event my money
is not returned by the prescribed time.
I make it a practice to urge my clients
to read the document carefully.
Including the small writing.
The very small writing.
Let me sign and be done with it.
Such an impatient young man.
Always before men have come to me
in my temple.
Never before have I been alone
with a man outside the temple walls.
Are you a rich man, Micah?
As rich as a prince or a caliph?
In this moment
no man in the worid is richer than l.
Micah, what is wrong?
How well I know you by this time.
- Tell me what it is.
- Nothing.
You thought I was sleeping,
but I was watching you.
Do you still say there's nothing wrong?
Samarra, I thought that once I knew you,
you would be a wonderful moment
and no more.
I thought I'd no longer want you.
And now?
Now I want you more than ever.
I cannot share you with these other men
that you welcome so lightly, so easily.
I want you for myself, as your husband.
- I can never belong to any one man.
- Why not?
Because I'm High Priestess of Astarte.
For this I was trained ever since
I was half Yasmin's age.
I belong to all men.
Samarra, how can I make you understand?
But it is you who must understand.
You who must see with your own eyes
what it is like
to be the High Priestess of Astarte.
I've already seen!
You have seen me.
Now you must see me with my people.
Let me take you to the temple,
and I will show you.
And now, Micah, you will see.
Who is there?
Your Micah expected you days ago.
He was fearful something
had happened to his gold.
I was fearful something
had happened to you.
All are asleep but Micah.
He's away with Samarra.
He's not worth your devotion.
Forgive me!
Asham, let me say all the things
that your heart has said to me
with 1,000 tongues.
And let me say the things
my heart wants to answer.
But no.
What are words
between Asham and his Elissa?
The gold is in a pair of leather
saddlebags. And be quick with it!
The infidel, Micah,
is on his way back to his villa.
He will return any moment.
- We've done this before.
- Wait! Do not kill the mute!
The High Priest has other plans for him.
Away! Away!
It's all there. In the small writing.
"The loan to be repaid
with gold or with body.' '
"Read it," I said to Micah, "Read it.' '
But he was so impatient.
And how could he know
that his gold would be stolen?
His villa burned, worthless?
This ring, it's all he had left.
Who would've dreamed
that he'd have to be sold as a slave?
Sad. Sad.
You will sell him for shipment
to Carthage?
To a Phoenician slave galley?
- I will buy Micah.
- No!
No, Samarra?
Why not?
Because I know
what you do to your slaves.
Why this concern for an infidel?
How you must hate him!
I wonder, is it only because
of this God he worships?
Remember, Nahreeb,
you may be the High Priest,
but I am the High Priestess.
You remember that.
We must teach this Micah that
the only true gods are Baal and Astarte.
A touch of paint, Samarra. You're pale!
Why did you sell him to Nahreeb?
Because I am too old
for many things, Samarra,
but I am too young to die.
Are you?
- This is unhurt.
- This one has a broken leg.
Take him to the pits.
How long will it take a vulture
to pick his bones clean?
I say to the count of 20. A wager?
Another wager. Out of the way.
These people of Damascus. Look at them.
Like oxen!
Why don't they speak out?
Rise up against Nahreeb?
Because they've forgotten
what it is to be free.
Always before
I have come to thee to serve.
Now I come to thee to seek.
Hear me, O Astarte.
It was he who brought
unto you your pearl.
- Help him, for the sake of thy servant...
- Samarra.
Were you praying for...
They said I should never
say his name, ever.
- Yes. I was praying for Micah.
- That's sacrilege.
The last time it happened
to a high priestess, they buried her alive.
She screamed most the whole night.
And all the people came
and listened and looked.
She screamed and screamed.
And then there wasn't a sound.
I know of the punishment.
But nothing like that
ever happened in Alexandria.
It did in Damascus.
To my mother.
Yes, I know.
But have no fear.
It will never happen again.
I hope not.
Samarra, you seem faint.
I'll go to my quarters and rest.
Why not walk out into the city?
The damask roses are in bloom
near the granaries.
The air is rich and heavy with scent.
And while you are there,
you might see Micah.
And if you should see him,
you might offer him his freedom.
If he will stand before my people
on the north steps and renounce his God.
Even if I were to go to Micah,
he would never renounce his God.
He is a stiff-necked infidel.
Have you ever seen Rhakim
whip a stiff-necked infidel?
For the marketplace in Joppa!
For Samarra!
For you and Samarra!
And now for the final test. Poor man.
I'm sure he's dead.
Let me.
Dead as an Egyptian mummy.
I'll call the jailers.
He's ready for the vultures.
Ready as he'll ever be.
No! Not yet.
Another moment.
Did he die young or old?
Out all of you! All but the infidel!
Quick with it!
Don't touch him!
Elissa told me how much he meant to you.
Almost as much as you mean to me.
Nahreeb spoke to me.
He said he would set you free.
He sent me to say that to you.
He promised to set me free
in exchange for what?
What does he want?
What does he want?
That you stand before the people
and renounce your God.
A matter of words, Micah.
You say your God is false,
you need not mean it!
I proclaim to the people of Damascus
that my God is a false god,
- and I would be free?
- Yes.
Free of filth and chains and here
and all that goes with here.
Would you renounce your gods, Samarra?
I could never renounce Baal and Astarte.
They would have to renounce me.
But they could renounce you?
You believe this with your whole being?
I do.
Well, I believe with my whole being, too.
I believe that my God could no more
renounce me than I could renounce Him
because something of my God
is in everyone who breathes.
Perhaps, perhaps not.
But if you could pretend to renounce,
it would be the two of us.
Micah and Samarra. It could be.
It could never be.
It's been beaten into me,
the hate I have for your Baal and Astarte.
I hate what they've done to your people
and to you.
I knew you would never do
as Nahreeb wished.
I knew it in my heart.
The usual punishment for loving
an infidel is to be buried alive.
Astarte picked
a crueler punishment for me.
"Hear, O lsrael. The Lord is our God.
The Lord is one."
"Blessed be his name, whose glorious
kingdom is for ever and ever."
"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God
with all thy heart and with all thy soul
"and with all thy might.
"And these words,
which I command thee this day,
"shall be upon thine heart,
"and thou shalt teach them diligently
unto thy children,"
"and shalt talk of them
when thou sittest in thine house,"
"and when thou walkest by the way,
and when thou liest down,"
"and when thou risest up.' '."
Thou shalt remind them of this.
Let him have my portion, too.
Your God has spared his life, Micah.
But for what?
- We will make our way out of here.
- I said that, too, long years ago.
What were you willing to do
to make your way out?
What did you do?
You, Micah. What will you do?
Yes, I will do anything.
And everything.
The people will forgive a tyrant anything
but the pangs of hunger.
This time Nahreeb has gone too far.
This is the right moment, Ramadi.
- But am I the right man?
- Yes.
There. Now you can pass unnoticed
on the streets of Damascus.
And very handsomely done,
if I say so myself.
This time it's for something worthwhile.
- It's time now for the drug.
- Magic. Pure magic.
You... You won't feel a thing in
your finger. Well, it'll be numb.
But the rest of you,
well, you'll be able to feel all over.
The names, places I gave you, Micah.
You remember them all?
Zubeir, the potter, Nisbin, the carpenter,
the anvil shop at the end of the street
called Straight,
- Salkhad, the fieldworker.
- This'll hurt.
A deep breath helps the bravest.
Abu, the stonemason,
Lirhan, the snow-man,
Dura, the perfumer,
Chaim, the water carrier...
Which of you killed the infidel?
The truth or it'll go
hard on the lot of you.
- The plague.
- The plague?
- How do you know?
- How do we know?
Well, first he complained of the fever
and then the next thing,
well, what else but the plague
strikes like lightning?
The plague.
You, barber-surgeon, the test for the dead.
But, my good man, the evil humors
of the plague spread at the merest touch.
Me touch him?
Have you never read Hippocrates?
The test, quick!
Remove his chains
and have him taken to the pits.
Why do you wait?
Who will be the next
to pay their respects?
Your Majesty.
The silly rooster has
taught us a sad truth.
That it is easier to walk into
the lion's den than out again.
One more, Samarra, one more,
and then I'll go to bed.
- You will?
- Hand on my heart.
Good news, my High Priestess, the best.
Your news must be happy indeed.
Never before have I seen you smile.
What is it?
The unholy infidel, Micah ben Eli, is dead.
He died of the plague,
was thrown into the vulture pits.
Never again will he trouble you.
Never again.
- I come from Ramadi the Steward.
- From the dungeon?
The pits?
- Ramadi says make ready.
- When? When will it be?
The night...
The night of the full of the moon.
Tell Salkhad
and Harun and Nisbin...
They will all be told, friend.
Carmish? What's he doing here?
He's the slimiest gutter rat
in the whole of Damascus.
- He sold his soul the day he was born.
- Yes.
And that I am.
But what rat would stay on a sinking ship?
Nahreeb is sinking.
He's gone too far.
Every beggar in Damascus knows it.
Every beggar in Damascus is with you.
Micah, it is gold from Carmish
that is keeping us alive.
Of course, if you lose,
in the full of the moon,
I'm back on the other side.
Full of the moon!
And we can't even get our chains off
so as we can fight.
And I want to hit somebody.
Oh, how I want to hit somebody!
I saw him. In the line at the granary.
Your Micah!
- What?
- I saw him in the line at the granary,
your Micah.
It was someone who looked like Micah.
No, the granary of the west.
He was standing outside.
- Hand on my heart.
- But he's dead.
Do you hear? Dead.
You know that.
I said hand on my heart.
I saw his face as plain as the full moon.
And no one but Micah
could look that much like Micah.
Oh, Yasmin!
I've got my weapon. Where's yours?
Pepper. Just a little.
Yasmin said you were here.
It seemed too wonderful to believe.
You were dead, so I was dead.
- You are alive, now I may be.
- Samarra...
I know just how we might be gone
from here.
I've made the journey so many times
in my thoughts.
My gods will find
a worthier high priestess.
- Come.
- I stay.
But you must
take yourself away from here.
- Why?
- Leave now.
- Why, Micah?
- Do as I say for your own sake!
Why are you here?
- What have you to do with them?
- I am one of them.
- What do you mean to do?
- We mean to wreck your gods.
We mean to and we will.
Now, go before you're hurt.
Micah, I have offered you your freedom.
Your life.
But as you would destroy me
for your faith,
so I would destroy you for mine.
Come on.
All of it, anything,
don't let them through!
Nahreeb is dead.
Let him hang by the Tinted Wall
for all to see.
To the Tinted Wall!
Samarra! Samarra!
They saw him hanging on the Tinted Wall
with their own eyes.
They'll never lay
their murderous hands on me.
I have a galley waiting for us.
We'll sail to Byblos.
No. I stay here.
I told him that his life wouldn't be worth
the tail of a locust.
- And I'm telling you.
- My people would not harm me.
When they see me,
they will stop this madness.
You're not frightened at all?
A high priestess cries the day she is born,
never again in her lifetime.
You must go with Bosra now.
You must promise me, Yasmin,
never a tear.
Oh, no, Samarra.
- Only the high priestess may wear this.
- Guard it for me until next we meet.
May the gods in the Four Halls
grant that we meet soon.
Oh, Yasmin, remember,
you were chosen to be High Priestess.
Be worthy.
Whether or not we meet soon,
I will be with you always.
Hand on my heart.
I loved you so.
Come on!
Come on!
She must die now or we fail.
There is home, Asham.
I would rather be a servant
in my father's house
than a king in Damascus.
My son.
My Micah.
Father, I have sinned.
No need to talk of that now, my son.
I've sinned against heaven
and in your sight.
I'm not worthy to be called your son.
Caleb. Run!
Run and tell our family, our friends
and our neighbors.
And send to Joppa for musicians
who can make joyous music.
For this, my son, was lost, and is found.
And Caleb, the fatted calf,
bring the fatted calf.
For this night
we shall eat and make merry!
She would not come.
But what if she did come?
If she did come, I would tell her
that what cannot be forgotten
can sometimes be forgiven.
What you have to say
is better spoken aloud than kept within.
Say it.
Say it I will.
Lo, these many years I've served you
and have done everything
that you've asked me to do,
but there's been no rejoicing,
no feasting for family or friend.
You've never given me so much as a kid
that I might make merry with my friends.
But for him who wasted your living,
just threw away his portion,
for him you kill the fatted calf.
Son, you are ever with me,
and all that I have is yours.
It was meet that we should make merry
and be glad
for this, your brother,
was dead and is alive again.
And was lost and is found.
Ask yourself, Joram,
"Have I not judged my brother
too harshly?"
My sons, my rock,
my future.