Late King: Go-Nak
Priest/ Magician: Hufer
Minister/ Vizir: Ammon
They called me ‘God’s words’. I am not sure if it was true. Like everyone else I never knew my creator. I met many souls who swore upon me. Thank God for I’m made of papyrus1 and not of flesh and bones, else I would have died a thousand deaths.
I belonged to the late king, Go-Nak who was kind and merciful. He moved on to the afterlife2, a few days ago. Hufer, the priest and the magic healer, was held as the accused. I always believed he was the loyal one. Go-Nak had left behind his only son, Ra-Men-Tme, as his successor.
The new pharaoh3 walked in the court, with a slave holding his silk robe’s tail. I could smell the stench of alcohol. The pharaoh had been drinking again. He stumbled and the room echoed with his laughter. The courtiers didn’t know what to do. His Hemet Nesw Weret4, Aneksi, however, pressed her lips together to stifle her smile. She whispered to her lady-in-waiting, “Here we go again, Khamen. This is going to take time. Please get me something to eat.”
Khamen whispered back, “Your Highness!” Queen flicked the cloth on her right arm graciously, which seemed like a secret gesture that only lady-in-waiting could understand. Khamen nodded to acknowledge that she understood queen’s signal.
As the pharaoh indolently reclined on the throne, vizir Ammon, requested, “Before we start the trial, I want to inform your highness that the Embalmers have embalmed the great king’s body and put it inside a sarcophagus5. We have around 70 days to build the pyramid before the body dries. Shall we increase the tax for the same?” The pharaoh nodded and signalled the slave for another drink. Ra-Men-Tme didn’t seem to mind that his father was dead, he didn’t rejoice either that he was the pharaoh now.
The pharaoh moved his left hand up and down. Seeing the signal, Ammon nodded and clapped to get the prisoner presented in front of the pharaoh. The court had a mixed feeling to see the chained priest. Like most of the Egyptian priests, Hufer was a magic healer too. He was considered as the second most important person after the king. He had earned the respect that even the queen envied.
I was brought in front of Hufer. As he extended his right hand and touched me, the room was filled with the clanking of the chains. The minister ordered, “Your dominant hand’. Without asking any questions, the priest obliged and put his left hand over me.
The pharaoh nodded and the priest solemnly swore: “As God Ra-Men-Tme lives for me, I speak in truth!”
Ammon started, “The priest, Hufer is here before us. He is not only a priest but a magician as well. He killed the king, our God; he broke the law. The most heinous crime in Egypt, which is punishable by nothing less than death”.
Hufer spoke out of his turn, “As the great king has bestowed his life upon me, it is preposterous that I am accused of poisoning my king. I take the oath on Kemi6“.
Ammon shushed him, “Don’t speak, unless you are spoken to, or asked to speak. You stand as an accused, not as a priest. Did you not poison the late king?”
“I did not. I am a magic healer, but I lost my magic.” The priest replied.
“Ah! How did you lose your power?”
“I came in contact with a menstruating woman.”
“What does it have to do with the king’s death?”
“I did not poison the king. He was wounded in the battle. I made a magic potion and helped the king drink it. The king died that very instant. The froth was coming out of his mouth. I tied an amulet around his arm. I prayed to God. I tried casting spells, but I kept forgetting the words. I could not do anything else to save him as I had lost my magic healing powers.”
“And how did you lose your magical power?” The vizir asked.
The priest didn’t speak. The vizir yelled, ”Answer me!”.
The priest finally answered, “The night before the king’s death, I.. I slept with a menstruating woman.”
The court was filled with loud unintelligible chattering.
“You risked the king’s life by sleeping with a woman. Are you aware that before the rite, the magic healer is not supposed to sleep with anyone?” He questioned.
“In my defence, I didn’t know that the king would get wounded.” The priest replied.
“But you were aware that the war was on. There was always a chance that you would be summoned for any emergencies.” The minister argued.
“The war had finished a night before the fateful night. Our king was victorious. We all were celebrating. An assassin in disguise of a messenger attacked the king that night.” Hufer explained.
“You should have known. Have your prophecies not come true before, Hufer?”
“I could not see the future anymore. Ever since I indulged with her… I didn’t know…” The priest’s voice trailed off.
“You indulged with someone, regularly?” The minister asked in disbelief.
Finally, the king spoke, “Hufer, my father trusted you. Always. And I have trusted you all my life too. You have saved my father’s life on so many occasions. As Ra loves me, as my father Go-Nak favors me, I vouch for your loyalty. Please assure me of your fidelity towards the late king.”
“As pharaoh Ra-Men-Tme endures and his years are endowed with life, I acted in uprightness of heart for king Go-Nak every day. I lived to serve him, and I live to serve you.” The priest pleaded.
“This doesn’t prove your innocence. Who was the woman?” The vizir hissed.
The priest did not utter her name. Saying her name would be another blasphemy. For a second his eyes darted towards the queen. Nobody noticed it but I knew that look. I knew that the priest was not lying. However, the inexperienced king couldn’t see. He didn’t have his fathers’ eyes. I anticipated the words that were about to come from his mouth.
“Tell the name of the woman. That’s your only chance. Late king’s body was blue. He was definitely poisoned.” The pharaoh urged.
“He died in my arms. I gave him medicine. There was no poison. I just lost my magic powers and could not save him. I be damned. But I cannot speak her name. Forgive me, your majesty.” The priest broke down.
The vizir spoke to the pharaoh, “He won’t tell the name of the mysterious woman because there was no woman. He is clearly guilty.”
“May God Ra and my father Go-Nak guide me to see the truth!” The pharaoh closed his eyes for a few seconds. When he opened his eyes, he declared, “Goddess Ma’at6 has spoken. I had the vision. The priest gave the medicine laced with poison to the king. It amounts to treason. Crime against the king, God, and the state. Hence, no mercy. I order the priest to be impaled7!”
The priest shrieked and fainted. The soldiers took his unconscious body away. The vizir tried to curb his happiness, but he could not hide from me. How did the king die? I was immersed in my thoughts when the queen’s lady-in-waiting returned to the court. The pharaoh got up from his throne and went to the queen.
Pharaoh observed, “There is blood on the floor”. Hearing the words, the effervescence from the queen’s face evaporated.
“I know nothing”, The queen cried.
“Of course, you don’t. But she does.” Pharaoh pointed his finger towards Khamen. “She is the mysterious woman who slept with the priest. While the priest was asleep, she laced the pestle with the poison, which she carried in her necklace. The unsuspecting priest prepared the medicine with the same pestle, without any knowledge of poison.” The pharaoh pulled out the necklace from the Khamen’s neck. The necklace had a pair of Siamese snakes with their tongues protruding. The pharaoh tapped the right head of the snake and a drop of a blue poison fell on the floor. It joined the blood drop and released a cloud of green fumes.
“Khamen? Did you?” The new information was too much for vizir, after all, Khamen was his wife.
Khamen replied with tearful eyes, “I did it for you. I wanted to see you as the pharaoh. I could have done anything to be a queen.” She didn’t realize but by saying those words, she not only confessed her crime against the dead king but also exposed her future plans of killing the pharaoh and the queen. The queen had tears in her eyes, the person she considered as her friend was the one who not only killed the king but also plotted the new pharaoh’s and queen’s murder.
Vizir spoke, “You traitor! You!” He pulled out the sword from a soldier’s scabbard and stabbed Khamen with it.
As the vizir dropped on his knees, pharaoh sat on his throne and announced, “I’m Ra-Men-Tme, the son of Go-Nak. As the new pharaoh of Thebes, I pledsge there will not be any injustice in my kingdom. Free the priest, get him to the court with the utmost respect.” The second minister nodded at a soldier who rushed to free the priest.
The pharaoh continued, “The late king will get the royal burial he deserves. But not an extravagant pyramid at the cost of poor peasants. A royal tomb will be made to prepare for his highness’ afterlife journey. No extra taxes to build another grand tomb.”
As the pharaoh spoke those words, the court filled with applause. Nobody had seen such justice being delivered in such a short time. He was his father’s son after all. I rested in my place as I knew that Egypt was in safe hands.
*The story was first published on artoonsinn.com
Afterlife- life after deaths
Hemet Nesw Weret- Great Queen (first queen)
Kemi- black soil (Egypt)
Impaled- a method of execution and torture. It is the penetration of a human by an object such as a stake or a pole.
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