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The Abduction of Pamina: Part 2

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The Queen called three of her more trusted ladies to her; they followed her silently, clad in dark armor and grasping gleaming spears. The Queen had a dagger hidden in her robe, but in her hand she carried only a simple wooden flute. She called upon her power to wrap them in night and darkness, which cloaked their entrance into the Temple of Isis and Osiris. Once inside, they went quickly and silently through the halls. The Queen sent her attendants to search through the Temple, and in the end it was one of her them who found Pamina.

“She is not alone,” Diastera murmured. “One of the priests is guarding her. Should I--?” She raised her spear with a questioning look.

“No,” the Queen said. “Bring me to her.”

She sang as they went, a soft murmuring melody, and they passed among the priests of the Temple without being seen.

Diastera led her to a small garden behind one of the Temple buildings. It was a pleasant place, cooled by shady trees and adorned with brightly colored flowers, but the Queen cared nothing for its beauty-- only for the sight of the child who knelt on the grass, playing with pebbles under the watchful eye of a priest.

The Queen gestured for Orfna to stand watch by the gate, and then she strode forward. “Pamina!”

“Mama!” Pamina dropped her playthings and would have gone to her.

The priest rose and interposed himself.  “Who are you, woman,” he asked with dignity, “and what do you seek in the Temple of Wisdom?”

“I seek my daughter,” she returned, her tone razor-sharp. “Will you keep her from me?”

“I must obey my duty and my pledged word. Sarastro has ordered me to watch over this child.”

The Queen lifted the flute to her lips and played. Would he not have pity on a grieving mother, asked the melody? Could he not feel her sorrow?

The priest’s certainty wavered as the music’s power took hold. While he hesitated, Siguna swooped in and snatched up Pamina. Pamina laughed, thinking it a game. She knew all her mother’s attendants well and trusted them; she would let Siguna carry her without protesting. The Queen lowered the flute. If the priest persisted, there was always the dagger. But the priest’s shoulders drooped; he sank onto a stone bench, overcome by melancholy. The Queen gave a sharp smile and gestured for them to go.

Either the priest must have recovered enough to give the alarm, or Sarastro had ways of knowing when the sanctuary of his Temple had been violated. There were groups of priests out searching; she continued to sing her song of sleep and silence, but it grew more difficult as they encountered priests in greater numbers. And before they could reach the Temple doors, Sarastro was present. He strode forward, the Disc of the Sun blazing upon his breast, and the shield of her illusion vanished like mist.

“Stop,” he said in his deep voice. “You have no authority here in this Temple. Release the child. Her father wished her to be educated by us.”

“I am her mother, and I wish my child to stay with me! That is my daughter’s wish as well.”

Sarastro’s brown furrowed. “She is still very young. She does not know what she wants.”

“Pamina, my child. Do you want these priests to take you away and keep you where you will never be allowed to see me? Or do you want me to take you home?”

Pamina’s lip quivered. “I want Mama,” she said. “I want to go home.”

“She has expressed her wishes quite clearly.”

“She is a child,” Sarastro said with a hint of regret, “and must be guided by others. It is my duty to keep the promise I made to her father, who was also my friend.”

The Queen once more raised the flute to her lips. She played her grief and fury at the loss of her child; she played Pamina’s fear and distress at being parted from her mother. Sarastro could hear that the flute only played what was true.

The priests around him bowed their heads; even Sarastro seemed troubled. “The child is still young,” he said at last. “Let her remain with you for now. There is time enough, when she is older—”

But now the Queen had her daughter with her, held safely in Siguna’s arms, and she feared nothing. “My daughter will never return here. And there will be eternal enmity between my people and yours, between Day and Night!” She swept out, followed by her ladies. Sarastro did not attempt  to stop her.