Amid bliss, a past life is revealed; then Amon-hotep receives the cruelest blow of all
| Ch. 2,
Year 844, eighteenth day of the month of Epephi
“Your eyes are as blue as mine, dear ‘Huy’!” she teased.
Amon-hotep frowned. “How did you learn of my childhood nickname, Janakh?”
She smiled as she scooped some water over his belly. The pool behind the seer’s villa was especially intoxicating on summer evenings. “From Khaemwaset, beloved. He has told me much about you!”
“Ah, the friend of my youth, divulging my secrets! With such friends, I wonder how it is that I have lived so long?”
She pressed into his side, the warm water lazily sloshing across their naked bodies. “So you could find me again, my dear one.” Janakh whispered. “So you could find me...”
They lay in silence, their minds and souls entwined along with their bodies. Janakh’s gaze swept the glittering array offered by the night sky. “How many, my beloved?”
“Uncounted millions of stars, of those we can see. Of those beyond our capacity of sight, unknown.”
“Is it possible that each one could symbolize a lifetime we have shared?”
“Who can say? Every culture has its own mythology of the creation of the universe, but no one knows for certain when that occurred. The farther back into the past the mind travels, the more one realizes that there is no beginning. Perhaps everything has always existed, and the creation tales are only a convenience. Have you had any further insights into our past lives since you read my palm?”
She sighed. “I have been waiting for you to teach me the techniques of dream recall your master, Ineni, gave you, but you are busier than ever with the new pharaoh."
“Then I shall have to make the time, dear one.”
For a while, the seer remained motionless, luxuriating in his beloved’s warmth. Hardly a sound could be heard in their private enclave. His duties at the court, and the ever-pressing problems of statecraft, remained outside his property, forbidden to reach his consciousness. Amon-hotep secretly worried that the slavering demons would never die. At length, he stirred. “My shoulder hurts.”
“You write too much, ‘Huy’! Sometimes, I think you love your stylus more than you love me!” She growled her words as she absently caressed the seer’s left shoulder.
Amon-hotep relaxed visibly, and Janakh started. “Your left shoulder? But you write-“
“-with my right hand, and my right shoulder is in constant need of attention. Yet today, my left began to ache…” He turned to her and smiled. “And you instinctively knew which one to touch.” As he bent closer, he added, in the barest of whispers, “And your touch heals me, my beloved Janakh!”
“I love you, ‘Huy’, beloved of my heart!” Their kiss was deep and powerful, like the night, and tasted like their very first. They did not know where it ended, but that night, they felt they had walked the very streets of Zep-Tepi…
The sky was dark when they landed. Akhe-ma’ar leaped off the prow of the scout craft onto the shore, his booted feet plunging deep into the sand. Ahead lay a wall of broken, tumbling rock, blocking the way inland, and far to the east, lightning danced and crackled along a range of jagged mountain peaks. He looked up at the menacing sky from under the long snout of his shakti-bird mask, his keen sight perceiving what none other could, and turned. “Khomm-rôu! Bring the people ashore, now! The storm comes! Quickly!” Akhe-ma’ar’s rowers scrambled out from either side of the boat and began hauling it up the beach. One raised a banner, whipping it from side to side, and even above the rising wind, Akhe-ma’ar could hear the dull shout go up from the fleet bearing the remnants of his now-ruined city. His shakti -senses had never failed him. Unerringly, they had led the way from the doomed island-continent far out in the western sea, through weeks of storms, drifting, and near-starvation. There was a major confluence of the energy-lines of the gods in this land, he knew – Daanaie had seen them while they were still many leagues away. He grunted, helping the sailors secure the boat. His beloved was physically blind – his own father had rescued her from the priests who had been convinced that she was accursed, but the midwife had saved the veil that had covered her eyes at birth; because of this, Akhe-ma’ar’s father knew that the girl had been born a prophetess. She had been raised in Akhe-ma’ar’s family home, and the bond between them had been known to all from their earliest years together. On the day of their marriage, he had sworn a blood oath to protect her with his life. He knew that it had only been through the favor of the gods that he had been shown the doom that was to come, and so had been able to flee the island with her and many of his people before the massive volcanic eruptions and the resultant earthquakes had torn the island-continent to pieces. He picked a few of his men and sent them up the hill to search for shelter just as Khomm-rôu brought Daanaie to him. She shivered, the wind piercing her meager clothing. “Hold me, beloved.”
He did so, allowing her to relax in his strong arms. Akhe-ma’ar was a large, powerfully-built man, whose body dwarfed the frail, blind girl. It had been whispered that when she neared him, she could make herself invisible. She shivered again. “Tell the men to go north from where they are now. They will find a cave which will lead to a large underground cavern. There, we will make our first temple in this land – and our first ceremony.”
He held her at arm’s length. “And the energy lines – where are they? Where do they come together, beloved? Do you see this too?”
She smiled and laughed softly. “But of course, beloved! They come from many places, and converge deep within the ground under the very center of the cavern I have seen…”
Amon-hotep awoke, and shivered. / Was that a dream? / he wondered. / Remarkable! Perhaps one of the lives Janakh saw …..” Then he realized that his beloved still slept in the crook of his arm, and that dawn was mere moments away…..
Year 844, twenty-fifth day of the month of Epephi
“The brigands attacked just before dawn, lord, at the moment of the changing of the sentries.”
“And the result, Commander?”
“The outpost was overwhelmed in less than an hour. These jackals feasted on our breakfast, laughing over the corpses of our dead comrades!” The senior officer of the outpost, Nakht-min, spat on the floor, almost at Dudu’s feet. “Your pardon, lord, but many of those men had served my command for a very long time. We had known each other’s families, gotten drunk together, survived countless battles and skirmishes together, yet while I was spared, they were slaughtered. It sickens my soul that we had so few troops to guard the border!”
Dudu stood and came over to the commander, a robust man who towered over him. “My heart grieves with yours, my friend, for the loss of so many good sons of Kemet! But I grieve also for what Kemet herself seems to be losing here.”
“Why, lord? Why does Pharaoh restrict our men from chasing these brigands and destroying them? Surely he is not afraid of reprisals! I know what our troops can do, and if we do not act, these attacks will grow more and more fierce! The brigands will attract many allies to themselves, gathering their strength, as others see that we do not respond, and interpret this as weakness and cowardice on our part! And we will lose more brave ‘sons of Kemet’, but for what? For what, lord Dudu?”
Dudu ignored Nakht-min’s outburst, for in truth, he heartily agreed with the commander. He knew how angry the man was, having ridden alone from the borderlands of Upper Retjenu (Palestine and Syria) all the way to Thebes to report the situation, when he could have stayed in the field with his men, and sent a series of couriers instead. In fact, Nakht-min had done just that several times in the past year, only to be rewarded with silence from his capital, and had taken it upon himself to secure a personal audience with his king to address the situation. To be routed to the Court Chamberlain could not have enhanced his disposition. “Forgive me for asking this, my friend, but how is it you were spared?”
Nakht-min stared down at the Court Chamberlain. “By the whimsy of the gods, I suspect. The brigands had undoubtedly watched our movements for many days, to secure the best time to strike. But what they did not know was that Intef, my deputy commander, is in the habit of sending out patrols into the hills at irregular intervals, often at night. One of these patrols was still away from the sentry station when the attack commenced. Upon their return, their advance scouts saw that the outpost had been taken, and reported this to Intef. He gathered his men, silently placing them in the most strategic position possible, then launched a surprise attack, setting upon these brutes with a fury. Only then, were we able to free ourselves.”
Dudu nodded and turned to the window and stared at the view of the western shore of the Nile. “No, Commander, the gods do not act with whimsy, but with purpose. They spared you so you could make your report to me.”
“And you will report to Pharaoh on my behalf, lord?” The chill in Nakht-min’s words was felt in Dudu’s bones.
“We will indeed, Commander!” called a voice from beyond the chamber. “We will make known to Pharaoh everything you have told us.”
“Lord Amon-hotep!” Nakht-min exclaimed, as the Seer entered the chamber. “I thank the gods you are well!”
“And I thank them too, old friend, for sparing your life. Commanders with your experience are in short supply – we cannot afford to lose you!” As Nakht-min made obeisance, Amon-hotep continued. “Stay in Thebes tonight, Commander. Eat well, and rest, then return to your men tomorrow. We will do our best, I assure you, to persuade Pharaoh to send more troops with you.”
“As you command, lord, but if I were able, I would leave immediately.”
“No doubt you would, Commander!” The Seer grunted. “Dudu! Have your servants take good care of Commander Nakht-min, and see that he rests! Where is Ay?”
“He is coming, lord, to interview Nakht-min himself.”
“Good. He and I will then confront Pharaoh.”
“And let us pray, lord,” interjected the commander, “that this time, he listens!”
“Let us pray, instead, old friend, that Pharaoh will say yes!” But Amon-hotep’s face was an impenetrable mask, for he did not wish Nakht-min to see what he already knew – that Pharaoh Akhenaten would refuse yet again to send more troops to Upper Retjenu (Palestine and Syria) …
Year 844, first day of the month of Mesori
The sun soared through the azure sky over the great shrine to Hat-Hor (Hathor) at Inerty (Gebelein) but Janakh no longer noticed. The Seer had brought her to the isolated temple, a day’s journey up the Nile from Thebes, as she had expressed a desire to learn more of the ancient deities of her adopted country. Janakh had been particularly curious about Hat-Hor, (Hathor) after learning that the goddess represented an energy residing directly across the sky from that of the Seer’s patron deity, Anpu (Anubis). The priests of the temple, knowing Amon-hotep from his days as a youthful student in the “per Ankh” - the “House of Life” - were only too happy to allow the pair unrestricted access to the entire complex, and had retired for the day. Once they were in the courtyard, Janakh had instantly become aware the powerful energy of the place, and had begun to dance.
“Oh, ‘Huy’, this is magnificent!” Janakh exulted as she spun herself around in the courtyard of the temple, laughing like a little girl. “There is nothing like this in all of Mitanni!”
Amon-hotep smiled and seated himself on a small stone bench next to a granite sphinx and affectionately caressed its head. Janakh’s youthful exuberance had rubbed off on him, and he felt decades younger. She was dancing gaily now. “How wonderful that you can so easily feel the energy currents here!” he called out to her.
She continued her graceful spinning, her sheer linen gown flowing freely behind her. She closed her eyes, letting the moment envelop her. /But of course I can, my beloved! You know I can!/
The Seer felt the ether slowly dissolve in front of him. Instinctively, he knew what Janakh was feeling. /You are in that other lifetime, beloved/
/No….and yes, dear ‘Huy’! I can dance on the energy waves, but I am somewhat confused!/
/I feel….lithe and ponderous at the same time!/
Amon-hotep started. /Can you see?/
In his mind, her gay laugh floated down on his inner ear. /Yes, beloved! But not very well! The snout of this bird-mask is most disconcerting!/
/So!/ he reflected. /The teaching is true! We do not always incarnate in the same gender!/
Janakh slowed and allowed herself to sink to her knees. The warm sand felt wonderful against her kneecaps and shins, and she bent forward, almost kissing the ground, the reflected heat bathing her face as she faced the main entrance to the sanctuary, guarded by twin pylons of smooth, painted limestone. /We have always been aware of that in Mitanni, my beloved. How curious that you were not certain of it!/
/It has been said that before the time of the Deluge, the Great Mysteries were taught in one unified temple system throughout the world. Much was lost in that world-wide catastrophe, and no one area is now able to claim complete knowledge. Mankind’s history ever since has been a quest to rebuild that system/ He smiled. /Not even the mysteries of Kemet contain all the original teachings. That is why we encourage every student to seek further on his own/
She pondered his words as she came over to him. “I fear that your pharaoh believes he has found such teachings, beloved.”
“If indeed he has, why would you fear, Janakh?”
“Because my heart tells me that he only thinks he has. He deludes himself into believing that he, and he alone, can return your country – indeed, the entire world – to its former greatness. But he will not. Much evil will come of this, Amon-hotep!”
He took her hand, and she sat next to him. “I know your fear, my Janakh. I have sensed such things long before you came here. But I also have been told that we must wait, for there are forces in motion that must play themselves out. I suspect that Pharaoh Akhenaten has a terribly important role to play that none of us can yet see.”
She smiled at him. “Are you playing word-games with me again, ‘Huy’”?
“No, beloved. Of course not!”
She laughed and lightly slapped his arm. “The tone in your voice says otherwise, dear ‘Huy’! Do not lie to me!”
“I have never done so, Janakh, and I never will.”
“Promise me, beloved? Throughout all of eternity?”
The seer nodded, and responded in a solemn voice. “I so swear, beloved. Never will I speak falsely to you.”
Then the priestess of Mitanni kissed the seer of Kemet with an ardor that surprised even her. “And I, most beloved, will always speak to you with a heart filled with love and truth! This I swear to my beloved Amon-hotep!”
And, suddenly compelled by a force she did not comprehend, Janakh stood and glided to the center of the temple’s courtyard. To the seer’s amazement, Janakh undid the fastenings of her gown and let it slide away from her as she resumed her dancing along the energy waves of the temple. Her hairpiece soon followed, seemingly of its own accord, and she whirled and flowed among the sands before the ancient temple, naked to the heavens, and to the gods, her luxurious auburn tresses streaming behind her as once had her gown.
But to the senses of the seer, the physical form that was Janakh of Mitanni was soon overshadowed by another – at first, a larger version of Janakh herself; then, to Amon-hotep’s inner eye, the vaporous form shifted and became one that the Blind Seer did not believe he would ever experience. He stood, took a step towards Janakh’s increasingly faster-spinning form, and fell heavily to his knees – his head thrown back, and his arms held outward in front of him, his hands open to the sky. “She is here, beloved! She is here!”
Janakh stopped immediately. “Who, beloved? WHO is here?”
“She whom the energies of this temple invokes! It is the Great One, Hat-Hor, (Hathor) who has responded to your call!”
She closed her eyes, feeling within herself. “How did I do that, Amon-hotep?”
“Your dancing has set the energy currents of this temple complex into motion, beloved! When a temple is dedicated to one of the Neteru, the rituals of the attending priests are designed to awaken the dormant energy patterns that reside there, to cleanse and purify the area so that the patron spirit of the temple can manifest. Your joy and zest have accomplished the same thing, thus activating this temple, and the Great One, Hat-Hor, has heard your summons!”
Janakh immediately fell to her knees in devout reverence, for she understood that to be visited in such a manner was an immense honor, and a true gift of the gods. In a hushed voice, she asked, “What does she wish of me?”
Awestruck at the scene unfolding before his inner vision, the Seer breathed, “She wishes to adopt you, beloved! Welcome the Great One, and receive the blessings and protection only a Neter can provide!”
Hat-hor had now become fully visible to Amon-hotep’s inner eye. A ghost-like, yet startlingly solid image, she rose above and behind Janakh, in all her pristine glory. A magnificent beauty, naked save for her many menat-necklaces of precious gems, and a headdress comprised of a golden sphere bracketed by two cow’s horns, Hat-hor’s eyes blazed with a mixture of naked power and the purest love as she gazed down upon the Mitannian. And this both surprised and delighted Amon-hotep, for never in his long life, nor in his meticulous study of the ancient temple records, had he ever heard of one of the Great Neters bestowing their favors on someone not born of Kemet. And the Seer bent his forehead to the white sand of the courtyard in reverence and deep gratitude.
Janakh felt her heart beating as never before, but not in fear, for truly she was experiencing an exaltation such as she had never known. Her vision and thought process felt scoured and purged, and her aura flared outwards and upwards as a magnificent radiation. And she knew it was mingling with the aura of the Neter.
Or was Hat-hor’s aura mingling with hers? She sensed the onrushing energies descending into her being, as a glorious spiritual fire cleansed her to the depths of her soul. In the middle of her mind the phrase, “Beloved daughter!” reverberated over and over again. And with a great rush of wind, the image of Hat-hor funneled into Janakh and vanished, leaving the Mitannian priestess breathless and crying with joy…
…and the Blind Seer prostrate on the sand, murmuring prayers of thankfulness to the Great Golden Neter…
Amon-hotep was only momentarily surprised when he saw Janakh rise, and stride towards the right side of the pylon entrance. For he knew that around the corner, in the south wall, was an entrance to a crypt beneath the main sanctuary. She was waiting for him at the entrance. “She wishes me to enter the crypt, beloved,” Janakh murmured, “though I do not know why.”
“Then let us go in, beloved.” The plain wooden door, usually locked, drifted open at his touch. Before them, a set of limestone steps descended deep under the temple. To their right, a lit torch was set in an alabaster bracket. “Hhmmm. The priests do not leave lit torches for others to find. Surely this is the work of the Great One!” So saying, he grasped the torch and, taking Janakh’s hand, slowly descended the time-worn limestone stairway.
No sound came to their ears save that of their own footfalls. After some thirty steps, they came to a landing, and were obliged to turn right. Amon-hotep nodded. “We are under the main axis of the temple, Janakh. This passage should take us directly under the Holy of Holies.”
“It will, beloved.” Janakh smiled. “The energy of this place is strongest here, and moves along the temple’s axis. Even in complete darkness – even if this place were a labyrinth – we could find our way by following the flow of the energy!”
“This way!” Akhe-ma’ar cried. “Follow my torch!”
Behind him, Khomm-rôu struggled to maintain the pace. When Akhe-ma’ar entered into a vision quest with Daanaie, few men could keep up with him. “How much further?”
Akhe-ma’ar’s shakti -senses thrust themselves forward, seeking the end of the passage. “I cannot see it, Khomm-rôu, but if my beloved says it is there, we will soon behold its wonders! Make haste!”
Khomm-rôu did so, and almost lost his footing in the treacherous underground passage. The downward slope was not especially steep, but was covered with loose debris that made every footfall frightfully dangerous. And Khomm-rôu could barely see in the dark beyond the torches he and Akhe-ma’ar carried. Only Daanaie could perceive the faint sapphire glow around her husband’s head that was the manifestation of his shakti -energy.
And without warning, as they rounded a bend, the massive cavern opened before them. Numerous openings high in the walls allowed in the daylight, the beams diffused in the dusty air. They stood on a precipice, opposite a great waterfall that thundered and roared as its torrents plunged over the rocks, the massive streams of water disappearing into the billowing spray and mist far below them. Off to their right, a broad plateau with a shallow depression in its center beckoned to them. Daanaie could not conceal her delight. “It is here , my beloved husband! THIS is the confluence of the energies! You have found it!”
Akhe-ma’ar grunted. “I have found nothing, my beloved. You have shown us the path.” He pointed to the plateau. “And the gods have blessed us with a natural firepit around which we will make ceremony, and offer prayers for our new home.”
They came to the crypt-sanctuary of the Great Golden Neter. Although the passage was more than fifty feet in length, Janakh had traversed it with her eyes closed and her hands pressed together in front of her in an attitude of prayer, a slight smile enveloping her face. Amon-hotep placed the meager torch into a wall-bracket, then sank to his knees in front of Hat-hor’s image. Janakh knelt beside him for a brief moment, then prostrated herself before the statue. They remained in silent prayer for some time.
For Janakh, the passage of time melted into nothingness, and the faint sounds of a lute accompanied by rattling sistra floated through her spirit-self. All was perfect bliss – the essence of the Golden Neter mingled with and interpenetrated her own, and she murmured as the power of the Neter cleansed her, and made her whole. At length, she reluctantly returned to waking consciousness, to feel the hand of the Seer caressing her shoulder. She grasped it and smiled up at him. “My beloved,” she whispered. “How can I possibly thank you for bringing me to this place?
“By not trying, my dear one!” he replied. “But doing as the Great One wishes would bring great joy to my soul! What is her desire of you?”
In response, Janakh rose and turned to her left. “There is something there, beloved. Bring the torch.”
Amon-hotep did so, and the leaping flame revealed a small hollow carved into the rock wall. Had they not been looking directly at it, they would never have seen it. Sitting in the niche were two of Hat-hor’s most revered symbols: a polished mirror with a bronze handle, and a golden sistrum. These flanked a statuette of the Neter, a virtual miniature of the image before which they had prostrated themselves. “The Great Golden One offers her image to me, beloved!” Janakh breathed. “How have I merited such an honor?”
The answer flashed through the seer’s mind, and was so simple and clear, he inwardly chided himself for not thinking of it before. “One of Hat-hor’s great attributes is her connection to the healing arts – through the powers of music and dreams. Indeed, through these two, her third symbol is offered – the mirror – for when one is healed through her, one may look in her mirror and behold the True Self!”
She smiled up at him then, her eyes shining with gratitude and adoration. She immediately thought of how she had touched his shoulder in the pool behind his villa. “It is because I have healed you, is it not, beloved? I have the power to comfort you, to make you whole!”
He nodded. “And you are my great gift from the gods, my dear one. May it always be so!”
She held the statuette of Hat-hor with the greatest reverence. “Then I shall adopt HER as my ‘mistress’, Amon-hotep! My mistress, and my patroness, that I may ever be your healing balm!”
They kissed, softly, and tenderly, then – with one last look at the crypt of the great golden Neter, they turned and departed, coming back into the light of day. When they had climbed the staircase and exited the temple, the wooden door which had drifted opened at Amon-hotep’s touch, fell shut with a distinct metallic sound. They smiled and, hand in hand, they walked into the courtyard, where Janakh retrieved her gown and hairpiece, then left the temple complex.
Year 844, first epagomenal day (Hesiri)
Khaemwaset strode into the underground chapel, taking great pains to be as silent as possible. The king might be meditating and-
“You bring news, my brother?”
“Yes, lord. The overseer of the quarry has informed me that the boundary stelae for Akhet-Aten will be here tomorrow.”
Akhenaten smiled. “The quarry-workers have labored well on behalf of my father. Have Sobek-sekaf give each of his men an extra ration of beer and fish. They have merited it!”
“Then you will proceed with the dedication as planned?”
“Yes – five days hence, on the first day of the month of Thoth, I will set my father’s plans in motion! Glory be to Aten!”
Khaemwaset bowed low and murmured, “Glory be to Aten!”
Year 844, fifth epagomenal day (Nebti), morning
Thebes, Administrative District
“My lord, the lady Janakh wishes to see you.”
The Seer looked up from his writing-table. “The Lady Janakh? Here?” He hurriedly scribbled his name and tutelary to the document, then handed it to the anxious courier, who took it and immediately disappeared. “I was not aware she was coming.” He scowled. /Something must be amiss. She would never come to this place unannounced!/
A moment later, Janakh was ushered into the Seer’s writing chamber. Amon-hotep dismissed the servant, and the pair embraced. “Janakh, you are trembling. Why?”
“My dear ‘Huy’! This has never happened to me before! I-!”
He firmly seated her in his own chair and brought a cup of wine. “Drink this, Ja-“
She looked up at him, and his expression told her he was not in a mood to be trifled with. She took the cup and drank sparingly, but when she had calmed, she drank deep and finished it. “Thank you, my dear one. I am sorry to disturb you so but-“. She paused. “It has been a very long time since I have had such a disturbing dream.”
Instantly, the Seer brought another chair and sat across from her. Taking both her hands in his, he closed his eyes and concentrated. “Tell me.”
She took a breath. “There were great rumblings in the mountains of the west. The sky darkened, there was the sound of thunder, and no light was to be seen in all of Kemet. Then…then the rains came – furious rains, my beloved! The waters flooded everything! And when I believed my mind about to burst from the horror, I felt the sound of earthquakes – running the length and breadth of the land! The Nile – your beloved river – leapt from its course, laying waste to all in its murderous path! What people were left alive cried out to their king, but there was no answer!”
“Why did Pharaoh not respond, Janakh?”
“I saw the Great Throne, Amon-hotep. It was deserted!”
“Where was this throne located?”
“I do not know! I just knew that it was the king’s seat, and that it was empty! And then….”
The seer tensed, sensing what was to come. “Tell me, beloved. Do not hold it back!”
“I saw Pharaoh Akhenaten, and his mother, Tiy. They…they were holding a child, a son…..and it was THEIRS!” And Janakh began to weep. “Your king will have his royal prince by his own mother, Amon-hotep! And because of it, Kemet will be bereft of its king, and its very life! And it is my fault! I have brought your doom upon you all!”
He squeezed her hands gently, but firmly. “Why do you believe so, Janakh?”
She hesitated, hating herself for having come at all. She saw herself stabbing her beloved, betraying him. “When Akhenaten was not yet king, I spoke with Tiy about my temple teachings in Mitanni. As you know, it was she who had invited me here to teach. She wished to know of all our Mysteries, Amon-hotep, yet I felt compelled to speak of only one.”
She nodded. “Yes. She was initially opposed to the very concept, for it goes against what you call ‘ma’at’, the proper order of things.”
“Which is why her mother-in-law never spoke of it. After Mutemwiya came here, she fully embraced Kemet’s teachings, and barely spoke of her Mittanian heritage. No wonder Tiy was so eager to speak with you.”
“But I felt pressure on me, Amon-hotep, to push her into it! Why, I have never been able to fathom, but I implored her to seriously consider the practice! And soon after I left her, I had a horrible vision of her and her son entering her bedchamber!”
Amon-hotep released her hands and stood. Taking his staff, he began to pace. For many moments, there was silence. “You say you were pressured by unseen forces?”
“Yes, and this confused me even further! For I was an avid disciple of xvaetvadatha in Mitanni, but from the moment I met you, any personal desire to engage in it – even to teach it! – left me! Yet, I was driven to insist that Tiy engage in a practice which I no longer believed in! Why?”
“I cannot answer that, beloved. I only know that Akhenaten is on the throne for a very important reason, and has indeed survived when in his youth he could very well have been killed. Yet what this purpose is still eludes me.”
Janakh forced a smile. “And that not-knowing troubles you immensely.”
The Seer grunted. “More than anyone knows, Janakh.” He came to her and caressed her shoulders from behind. “You have carried this guilt for too many years, beloved. What you have done is the will of the Eternal – you must not be stressed by this any longer.”
She reached up and clasped his hands. “Beloved, that night, when I returned to my chambers, I lay down, shaking with fear and anxiety. I barely slept. And yet, when I awoke, I felt refreshed, and pleased that I had accomplished something of great importance. From that moment until today, I have not given the matter any further thought. Yet now I realize that I must have buried my fear so deep that I was no longer aware of it.”
“And the pressure of your guilt built up so much that it finally needed an outlet. Thus, your nightmare.” He kissed the top of her head and allowed all the healing energy he could muster to flow through his hands into hers. “Forgive yourself, beloved. You hearkened to the will of the Eternal. It was meant to be. Let it go – be free of it, and it will trouble you no more.”
She began to cry again. “Promise me, beloved?”
“Have I not said that I would never speak falsely to you?”
She leaned back, her upturned face inches from his. This time, he kissed her forehead. Though relaxed, Janakh still gripped his hands……
“I would prefer you stay at my villa, beloved, and rest. If you have not yet eaten, I suggest you do.”
Janakh smiled. “If you think it best, beloved. Must you go?”
He sighed. The slavering demons had caught up with him yet again. “I fear this business of statecraft will keep me its prisoner forever. Even after the training of my successor.”
“Who could succeed you, dear ‘Huy’?” she teased.
“Pharaoh wishes Ay to take my part as Chancellor, as I am getting……old…” He spoke the word as though it had a particular distaste.
“Ay? The ‘Stern and Correct One’?” She had used the nickname many times behind Ay’s back. “Doesn’t Akhenaten know that Ay is troubled by what he is doing? Would not Khaemwaset be a better choice?”
“Undoubtedly. By Ay is also the dowager queen’s brother. Such connections are important, and I don’t think Pharaoh is going to overthrow everything.” He paused. “Yet……”
She stepped to him and kissed him lightly. “Perhaps you should go then, beloved,” she whispered. “You would not want to keep such an important man waiting!”
“Certainly not!” He rejoined. “But I go knowing that you are well again. I am pleased, at least, for that.”
“Thanks to you, my beloved,” she breathed. “May Anpu guide you!”
Year 844, fifth epagomenal day, afternoon:
Amon-hotep’s villa near Thebes
“She is in the gardens, my lord Ambassador. Shall I tell her you are here?”
Hermont smiled at the servant, Meryete. “No, thank you. I will go to her myself.” As the man bowed and exited, Hermont gathered himself and entered the gardens. The news from Mitanni was distressing - he wondered how she would react. “Janakh?” he called.
“Hermont!” came a voice from behind a grove of juniper trees. “How delightful you have come!” A moment later, a radiant Janakh appeared. But as she took his hands, she knew that something was terribly wrong. “What is it, dear friend? What news?”
“My Lady, I have the sad duty to inform you that the Great Sage, Ardama, has left this world. All Mitanni mourns for him.”
She stopped, and gripped his shoulders. “No...oh, no! Ardama?” She squeezed her eyelids shut, hoping to ward off the tears. “Why must this happen now? I should be in Mitanni, seeing to the temple in-“
“I know. And so does our King. That is why he has ordered your return.”
She stared. “Ordered?”
“Yes – ordered! Remember, you never relinquished your duties as Ardama’s deputy. And one of them is to-“
“Preside at the High Priest’s funeral,” she finished.
He nodded. “And thus, your summons.”
She froze, combating the onrushing flood of emotions. A summons from the Tushratta could not be refused, for any reason. And it meant that she had to depart immediately, with no time even for-
“I have arranged to have a barge made available to take you to Mennof-Ra (Memphis) , and have directed the household servants to pack your belongings. You have little time.”
She felt a knifeblade slide through her. “Amen-hotep! I must tell him th-“
“I will inform him of your departure, Janakh. I’m sure he will understand that you must go home.”
Though she allowed herself to accompany the ambassador, her heavy heart repeated over and over that Mitanni was no longer her home…
“Lady, it is past time. All your things have been taken to the barge! The captain grows fidgety with the delay!”
Janakh looked up. “I know, Paku, “but I am not ready to depart. Thank you for coming to bid me farewell!”
The scribe ventured into the guest chamber. “But of course, Lady! You are one of the Great Ones of our country! Remember me to our gods upon your return!” He sobered. “I wish the Ambassador would let me accompany you downriver, but he wants me here to help Amon-hotep complete the transfer of his administrative offices to Akhet-Aten.”
She smiled sadly, aching to see her beloved again. “You must follow Hermont’s instructions, of course.”
“So why must you tarry?”
“Because of this statue.” She held it up for him to see. “I have not yet decided what I should do with the image of Hat-hor.”
“Your pardon, Lady, but if it were up to me, I would leave it here. Amon-hotep once said to me: ‘Different gods rule over Kemet!’ Do not take it! It belongs to this land!”
Janakh rose and stared at the young scribe. Of course! Why had she not seen it? “Paku! Holy Varuna has indeed blessed you with much wisdom! Thank you!”
The young scribe blinked. “I do not understand, lady.”
“Through you, Varuna has solved my dilemma! Go, quickly now! Tell the captain I shall be but a moment. I must find some papyrus!” At the scribe’s quizzical glance, she added, “I must write something, Paku. Go!”
As the scribe dashed off to report to the captain, Janakh gazed at the shining statue of her patroness. /The captain must make an unscheduled stop for me. Only then, will I be able to leave Kemet!/
Year 844, fifth epagomenal day, evening:
Amon-hotep’s villa near Thebes
“Tiy is WHAT?” Amon-hotep’s voice thundered. “At HER age?”
Thoth’s countenance was positively grim. “That is the message I was told to transmit to you. The dowager queen is indeed with child.”
The Seer paused, dreading what he had to ask. “And the father is-?”
“Pharaoh.” Thoth’s answer was flat and devoid of emotion, but Amon-hotep felt its power almost suffocate him. He steadied himself on his staff. “I know, Thoth. The Lady Janakh came to me this morning, and related a nightmare in which she saw Tiy and Akhenaten holding a son – THEIR son.” He inhaled. “I fear this is the beginning of Kemet’s end!”
“You should not fear such, Amon-hotep,” Hermont countered. “This may yet prove beneficial for Kemet.”
“I know my people, Ambassador! They will not accept it! Why are you in favor of it? You told me you disapprove of this practice of xvaetvadatha!”
“Only for myself, Amon-hotep. It is not my path. But my people have derived great joy from it, and I cannot be blind to that. I cannot oppose for all what my countrymen believe has been sanctioned by the gods themselves!”
“Different gods preside over my country, Hermont! And they did not sanction xvaetvadatha for Kemet!”
“But you approve of brother/sister marriages, do you not?”
“Only for legal access to the throne, even if offspring are produced! But never a marriage of a parent and child!”
Thoth broke the awkward silence which followed. “Perhaps I should see to the kitchen, and ensure that the preparations for the evening meal are underway.”
The Seer nodded. “Thank you.” As Thoth exited, he turned back to Hermont. “Ambassador, have you seen Janakh? I expected her to be here upon my return, but no one seems to know where she has gone.”
“I am sorry, Amon-hotep. Perhaps I should have spoken sooner. She is not here.”
“That is obvious, Hermont. But where is she?”
Hermont turned away to stare out a window, and found himself staring at the very spot where he had conversed with Janakh that afternoon. “Earlier today, my office received an official communication from Tushratta. The sage, Ardama, is dead. Janakh was his deputy, and was subject to recall by our king. Tushratta has exercised his authority in the matter.”
The Seer was taken aback. “She left without seeing me? Without leaving any word for me? Hermont, how could she do this?”
The Ambassador laid a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “A summons from our king is to be obeyed instantly, and without question. I assure you, she was as concerned for you as you are for her. Fear not. I am certain she will communicate with you before too long.”
The Seer grunted. “I hope, my friend, that you are right. Yet I fear I will not sleep well tonight.”
Year 844, first day of the month of Thoth
The Seer knew from the moment he awoke that the day was not destined to go well. First, the news about Tiy, and then the near-crushing blow that was Janakh’s departure. Thoth had pleaded with him to eat, but Amon-hotep had been in no mood for physical sustenance. Even now, several hours later, he continued to ignore the pangs from his stomach, ever-increasing in its demands. The early-morning voyage downriver had done nothing to enhance his mood.
He stood mute, assessing the crowd that had gathered for the king’s dedication of the northern boundary stele of Akhet-Aten. Not all were happy with their new pharaoh, he realized, harboring deep misgivings about what he was really up to. But, as always, the people accepted the situation, feeling it was their duty to obey the lord that the gods had set over them, and who was their representative on earth. Paku had once asked him, “What gods rule over Kemet?” He recalled his answer with grim amusement: “Men, Paku – always and forever, men!” He had spoken whimsically on that day, yet now he was beginning to wonder if he had indeed spoken correctly.
As the king droned on, relating “Aten’s Great Plan” for the revitalization of Kemet, the Seer decided to sit down. The event had been planned to coincide with the sun’s highest point in the heavens, making an already hot day almost unbearable, even under a canopy. It was much too uncomfortable to continue standing and pretend to listen, as though he endorsed the king’s words. Thoth helped ease him onto one of the small limestone benches set aside for dignitaries and high officials. Amon-hotep grasped Thoth’s hand in gratitude, and allowed himself to relax.
Or rather, he tried to. Off to his left, Ay’s scowl was extremely loud. The Seer grunted to himself that one of the more mischievous of the gods must have permanently etched it into the new Chancellor’s face. As Dudu came up and whispered to Ay, something he said – words which Amon-hotep could not hear – caused the Seer’s mind to detach from his body and look away to the south…towards his beloved Thebes the Gleaming…..
The Temple of Amon at Karnak, Thebes
“What is it, Perib-set? What agitates you so?”
The Chief Priest of the Sed-Festival bowed low to the High Priest of Amon. “My Lord Aanen. Khaemwaset, servant of Pharaoh, is here with his retinue. He wishes to have words with you!”
“Khaemwaset? I had thought he would be at the new capital for the Ceremony of the Boundary Stele! Why is he here to see me?”
Perib-set’s eyes grew. “He comes not without a contingent of the army, my lord! There is trouble in this, I am sure!”
At the sound of footsteps, Aanen turned. The temple was mostly deserted in the early morning, and Aanen and Perib-set stood in the shadows of the massive columns of the Hypostyle Hall, just before the entrance to the temple proper. “Who comes into the sanctum of the Neter?” Aanen called.
“It is I, Khaemwaset, lord Aanen! It is good to see you again! I am pleased to find you well!”
As Khaemwaset came up to them, Aanen saw that he was flanked by two burly soldiers carrying bronze axes. “What is the meaning of this intrusion?” the High Priest cried. “You know that weapons are forbidden in the temple!”
Khaemwaset nodded. “I know, Aanen. But many things have changed, and more changes are decreed for today. These soldiers were assigned to me – I did not ask for them. Please believe this. Pharaoh has charged me with a specific duty, and I ask your help to ensure that everything will proceed without difficulty.”
Perib-set covered his face with his hands and sank to his knees, fearing the rumors had come true. Aanen, by contrast, slammed his ceremonial staff to against the granite floor. “You seek to close Amon’s temple, Khaemwaset? Blasphemer! How can you think to do this?”
Khaemwaset stepped forward, away from the immediate protection offered by his soldiers. “Because the king commands it, Aanen,” he whispered. “He commands it in the name of Holy Aten. I pray you, submit, and relinquish your staff of office. Let it be done in peace.”
Aanen’s face twisted in rage. He knew that the two soldiers in his sanctum meant that many more were stationed outside, securing the temple precincts, and would wreak havoc on all within if commanded to do so. His body shaking visibly from his barely-contained anger, Aanen removed his diadem, and made to hand both staff and diadem to Khaemwaset. But before Khaemwaset could grasp them, Aanen let them slide through his fingers and fall to the floor with a clatter that echoed throughout the building. “This, Khaemwaset, THIS is what you can take back to your ‘king’!” He spat, striking the diadem at his feet. “I HAVE no king! KEMET has no king!”
The City of Akhet-Aten
The Seer started, jolted by the fury in Aanen’s voice. He breathed to regain his composure, dimly aware of Thoth’s right hand hovering above the nape of his neck, assisting him, and returned his consciousness to the king’s presentation.
“Stelae such as this shall be placed at the other three cardinal points of the borders of this city,” Akhenaten continued, “making this place a holy habitat, ‘The Horizon of the Aten’. These grounds were sacred in the time of Zep-Tepi, and will be made so again, because the king will never leave these precincts. Ever.”
“Surely, you do not plan to stay permanently in Akhet-Aten, my lord?” asked Dudu. “Must not Pharaoh tend to his people, the land, sacrifice in-“
“I will remain here,” the king replied. “And I will not sacrifice, but rather offer prayers and incense, and make sacred ceremony, in the Aten temple I will build in this city. Others shall make ceremonies in my name throughout the rest of Kemet, but I – like the Elder God – shall not move from my foundations. I shall remain sheltered, and protected from all outside influences; thus shall my works remain pure and undefiled, and therefore sacred.”
“Precisely as is taught in the Inner Temple,” Thoth murmured.
“Which is where such teaching should remain!” grumbled Amon-hotep. “Is he to reveal everything to the uninitiated?”
“But isn’t that precisely what Hatshepsut did with Solomon?”
“Yes, but only after he had opened his heart to her, and she read what was there! But THIS one!” the Seer gestured towards the king. “THIS one is reckless! Already, he goes too far!”
“But you have also taught me that you have come to believe that the Eternal wants Pharaoh to continue on the throne! Why, if what he is doing is so wrong?”
“I am as confused as you are, my disciple. I do not know the resolution to this quandary!”
Thoth grasped the Seer’s shoulder, as much to silence his outburst as because Ay had stepped forward. “How many Aten temples do you plan to have built, my lord? And what of the others?”
Akhenaten returned Ay’s cold glare with one of his own. “Everywhere, incense, prayers and offerings shall be made to my father, Aten,” he declared. “Everyone shall do this – Aten alone shall be worshipped. No one will be permitted to offer sacrifice to any other deity.” The king’s words rose in power, effectively silencing Ay’s in his throat. “As we speak, my GrandMaster – Khaemwaset – has delivered my decrees to Aanen, in the Amon temple in Thebes. That temple is to be dismantled, and its holdings confiscated. Soon, all of Amon’s temples – wherever they may be – shall follow.” At the collective gasp from the assemblage, Akhenaten’s voice culminated in a great crescendo: “In all of Kemet, there is no deity save my father – ATEN!”
The Temple of Amon at Karnak, Thebes
“GrandMaster, I await your instructions.” Khaemwaset turned to the higher-ranked soldier behind him. “You will escort the high priest of this temple to the courtyard, and wait for me there. I will speak with Perib-set in private.”
“At your command, GrandMaster.” The soldier gestured to Aanen, who glared at him, then swept past him, away from Khaemwaset. As the soldiers fell into step on either side of the priest, Khaemwaset called after them. “And remember - he is not to be harmed! Be certain of it!” For a brief moment, Aanen considered turning back, but he did not wish Khaemwaset to see any trace of gratitude in his demeanor. After all, was not Khaemwaset the agent of a usurping heretic? Aanen stared straight ahead as he and the soldiers exited the Hypostyle Hall and entered the courtyard beyond.
Khaemwaset turned. “Perib-set. Be not afraid. I shall not harm you. But I have a task for you to do.”
The Chief Priest of the Sed-Festival knelt before Khaemwaset, his eyes averted. “What is your will, lord?” he whispered, fearing the worst.
“You are to gather the priests of this temple, and bring them to the courtyard. This temple is to be dismantled, and all its goods delivered to the king in Akhet-Aten.”
Perib-seb began to weep. “You cannot ask me to do this, Khaemwaset! I was practically raised in this temple - my duties here have been my life! If the rituals are disrupted, Amon will no longer protect us! We will become weak, and confused, and not know our place! What will become of us?”
Khaemwaset paused, recalling his own upbringing in the temple complex at Heliopolis. Perib-seb’s fear was palpable, and he had no desire to makes matters worse for the man. He lowered his voice and laid a reassuring hand on Perib-set’s shoulder, and spoke as gently as he could. “Fear not, my friend. All are brothers in my father, the Aten. He will give us all abundant life, and new hope. You will see.” At the look on Perib-set’s upturned face, he continued. “You will see, my brother. But first, we must deactivate the workings of this temple, in the proper fashion. I wish to speak first to the Kheri-Hebs of the Inner Temple. They will organize the work gangs that will chisel out the Ma’at Kheru (words of power) on the walls of this temple, so that the prayers and incantations to Amon may never be spoken again. We will concern ourselves with the rest at another time.”
Perib-set’s face, about to break into an expression of joy, quickly blanched in horror. His greatest nightmare had come true, after all. He was doomed, and so was all of his beloved Kemet.
The City of Akhet-Aten
Amon-hotep felt Perib-set’s anguish clutch at his heart, as though gasping out the last dregs of his life. But while he felt for the man, his mind was racing elsewhere. /Janakh! My beloved! Why did you leave me?/ The miserable day wore on, but the Seer did not know when it ended. And he found that he did not at all care…
A Barge on the Nile
Janakh stood at the rail, gazing mournfully at the hills on the western shore. Night had fallen – the gibbous moon was beginning to present itself to view - but she found no pleasure in her surroundings. Her mind could almost hear the sounds of hammers striking chisels somewhere – a faint, hollow sound that further deepened her sadness. A sound not of builder’s tools, but those of wanton destruction. Yet while she briefly thought of the nightmare she had related to Amon-hotep, she realized that what she had heard was the sound of her heart as it splintered and shattered into millions and millions of pieces…
And Janakh wept…
Year 841, first day of the month of Thoth
“Is that all my lord requires of me?”
“Yes, Meryete. There is nothing more to do. Leave me. I wish to be alone for the balance of the day.”
Amon-hotep’s servant bowed and, with palms upraised, backed out of the room. The Seer groaned. Would that he could be alone forever! For in truth, he felt utterly alone, even though many still came to call on him, seeking his counsel and wisdom. He leaned on the balcony of his new residence, overlooking the docks of Akhet-Aten. Far simpler and less roomy than his old villa near Thebes the Gleaming, it nevertheless possessed a quiet charm that he grudgingly admired. But he knew it was merely a house – a place to cast his garments upon a doorpeg, a place to rest his weary body at night. And no one to share it with…
He went inside and sat at his writing table. Without thinking, he found a sheet of papyrus and picked up his stylus. He dipped the stylus in its inkwell with meticulous care, and began to write…
“TO THE GOD OF MY INNERMOST HEART, GREETINGS.
“IT IS ALMOST TOO MUCH FOR THIS AGED ONE TO BEAR. MY BELOVED HOME TRANSFORMING BEFORE MY EYES, AND NOT FOR THE BETTER, AND THE BELOVED OF MY HEART, AWAY IN HER HOME COUNTRY, WITH NOT A SINGLE WORD FROM HER IN ALL THIS TIME. I AM TROUBLED IN SPIRIT - PART OF ME BELIEVES THAT MY HEART HAS BEEN BETRAYED BY THIS HIGH PRIESTESS OF XVAETVADATHA, YET MY SOUL WHISPERS THAT SUCH DEPRESSING THOUGHTS ARE UTTERLY FALSE! I KNOW NOT WHICH VOICE I SHOULD GIVE CREDENCE TO! FOR YET STILL ANOTHER VOICE URGES ME TO DISCARD ALL I HAVE KNOWN AND SEEK HER OUT – TO CONFRONT HER – TO DEMAND TO KNOW THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER! BUT THE SLAVERING DEMONS COME FORTH EVERY TIME, TO ENTRAP ME YET AGAIN. I CANNOT LEAVE KEMET! THAT VILE WORD – DUTY! – IS CAST IN MY FACE EACH TIME I FEEL THE URGE TO DISSOLVE THIS YOKE AND UNFETTER MY SOUL’S DESIRE! SPEAK PLAINLY TO ME! WHAT MUST I DO?”
He thought he heard the wail of a hungry cat nearby. /Isis?/ He turned but of course saw nothing. /You call me from the beyond, do you not? Why?/ He felt a burning at the nape of his neck, and instinctively turned around.
At the entrance to the balcony, stood the image of his totem, Anpu (Anubis) . Glistening ebony, darker than the most stygian night, its bat-like ears pointed straight up, the Neter’s eyes emitted a dark, golden glow, seeming to burn directly into his very soul. He immediately went to his knees, offering obeisance. “Anpu!” he cried. “O Great One! What would you have me do?” The image remained silent. “Great One! Tell me your will!”
There was nothing – no spoken word, no emanated thought, no motion at all from the dark, impassive figure. Amon-hotep looked up. “Why will you not-?” The light in Anpu’s eyes faded, and the image before him dissolved into nothingness. Without warning, he was gripped with an overwhelming desire to- “Meryete! Meryete! Prepare my felucca! I have urgent business upriver!”
Two days later, at dusk, the seer made landfall near Zawty, and quickly tethered the felucca. He looked up at the entrance to the Anpu shrine and realized he had been right to come. He made obeisance to the silent sentinels, and hurried inside. He walked swiftly down the corridor, and came to the shrine itself. He was about to kneel before the low altar to recite his prayers when his senses told him what was there. He sank to his knees, astonished. For sitting on the altar was the gift of the Great Golden One to his beloved Janakh – the statue of Hat-Hor! He went to grasp it, and found the folded slip of papyrus lying next to it. Trembling, he picked it up and opened it. His heart leaped. The writing was in Janakh’s own hand! His beloved had NOT betrayed him after all! Passing his hand over the papyrus, he allowed the glyphs to sing to him:
Year 5 of the king, fifth epagomenal day
Beloved, I leave this gift in your care. Do not forget me.
My love, my heart, are yours forever.
The note fell from the Seer’s hand as his ecstasy cascaded into the depths of despair. He grasped the statue and held it to his heart. For many moments, he remained motionless, then he threw his head back and wailed: “COME BACK TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” His awful cry echoed up the shaft to the surface, and was picked up by the sacred jackals surrounding the sanctuary. Their howls echoed up and down the Nile, reverberating as far as the Valley of the Kings…..
Dudu’s sensitive ears heard the faint echo from across the Nile estuary. He got up from the table, abandoning the game of senet he had been playing with Ay, and moved towards the window at the west wall. He stared at the dark river, and beyond. “The jackals howl in the Valley of the Kings, my lord.”
“Odd, there is no moon tonight. Not even a sliver.”
“Their cry is exceedingly somber. It brings a stark chill to my bones.”
Ay went to the window and sniffed the air. “They mourn, Dudu. They mourn for Kemet, and for the policies of her king. The totem of Anpu, the Great One, calls us to awaken to danger that enshrouds this land!”
“Will you now take action, my lord?” the chamberlain asked. Ay hesitated. He had long dreaded confronting this very question. But now, with Tiy having delivered a daughter of Akhenaten’s into the world, and being pregnant yet again, he wondered if concrete action was now necessary.
At that moment, unseen by either man, a pair of presences flared into dark incandescence behind them, then settled on the backs of their skulls, funneling into their auras and possessing them. “Will you now take action? Dudu repeated, his voice suddenly deeper.
Ay stared into the darkening west, as the jackals sent up a final terrible cry. He nodded. “It is time. The gods have decreed it.”
Far to the south, in the sanctuary of Anpu, Amon-hotep collapsed under the weight of his grief, and slid into unconsciousness…